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NCAA approves tougher sanctions for rule-breakers

NCAA approves tougher sanctions for rule-breakers

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The NCAA is demanding everyone in college sports play by the same book.

Those who deviate from it and flout the rules will soon be paying a steeper price.

On Tuesday, the NCAA's board of directors passed a package of sweeping changes that will hold coaches more accountable for rule-breaking offenses and threaten rogue programs with longer postseason bans and fines that could cost millions of dollars.

Coaches say it's about time.

``Throughout history, the only way to keep civilization and to keep things in order is to have very strong rules and enforce them,'' said Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer, who won two national titles at Florida. ``There's no other way. Clear rules with very firm and swift - it has to be a little bit more swift - punishment.''

The NCAA believes they have fixed the problem of swift justice, too, by approving an increase in the number of infractions committee voting members, from 10 up to 24.

The plan is to split the full committee into smaller panels, all of which could hear cases and allow as many as 10 meetings to take place annually instead of the five that have traditionally been held.

The board overwhelmingly supported all pieces of the legislation and voted unanimously to approve it, though it was unclear if all 13 board members participated in an unusual conference call.

Typically, members attend the Indianapolis meetings in person. But when it became clear that Superstorm Sandy could have a significant impact on travel plans, the members who were not yet in Indy were told to stay home.

Oregon State President Ed Ray, the NCAA executive committee chairman, told The Associated Press it was the first time in his 5 1/2-year tenure the board met on the phone.

But after debating these measures since August 2011, the board was not going let a storm, or anything else, derail the reform movement.

``We have sought all along to remove the `risk-reward' analysis that has tempted people - often because of the financial pressures to win at all costs - to break the rules in the hopes that either they won't be caught or that the consequences won't be very harsh if they do get caught,'' NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement posted on the governing body's web site.

So the board started by trying to strip cheaters of two of the biggest benefits - money and prestige.

Violators found to be in ``serious breach of conduct'' with aggravating circumstances could face penalties similar to those imposed on Penn State earlier this year following the Jerry Sandusky scandal - a four-year postseason ban and a $60 million fine.

Head coaches will find themselves under more scrutiny, too.

If any member of the coaching staff commits a serious infraction, the head coach must prove he or she was unaware it occurred or face a suspension ranging from 10 percent of the season to one full season. Some don't believe it is that much to ask.

``Being an assistant for so long, I still think like an assistant coach,'' Indiana football coach Kevin Wilson said. ``I think it's my responsibility, and I like to educate our staff on what to do and that you know what those guys are doing and that you make sure our guys are doing things properly.''

Committee members couldn't agree more.

``Everyone I've talked to tells me that if there's anything that coaches are, it is control freaks,'' Ray said. ``They not only know what's going on in their program, they know everything that's going on in their program - and if they don't, they should.''

Tuesday's decision is the latest chapter to update and toughen NCAA enforcement policies and procedures.

It started in August 2011 when Emmert asked dozens of school presidents and chancellors to attend a retreat during one of the most scandalous years in college sports.

Afterward, Emmert and Ray among others called on school leaders to get tougher on the most egregious rule-breakers.

The current two-tier penalty structure, for major and secondary infractions, is being scrapped for a four-level stepladder - severe breach of conduct, significant breach of conduct, breach of conduct and incidental issues. Punishment could also be impacted by charges of aggravating circumstances, or intentional violations, and mitigating circumstances that could help a school with its case.

NCAA officials believe it will help allocate more staff to the most serious cases.

But critics worry this may be just another round of tough talk and little action.

``It sounds nice in theory but until I see a big-time coach like (John) Calipari or somebody get suspended for a year, I will not believe this will do anything,'' said David Ridpath, an Ohio University professor and past president of the NCAA watchdog The Drake Group. ``I think there a lot of loopholes in there when you start reading it.''

If the policies don't clean up college sports, the NCAA could tweak the legislation, too.

``We'll continue to evaluate it and if we recognize something is not working in the right area, that's a step we will rectify,'' NCAA director of enforcement Chris Strobel said.

Infractions that occur after the meeting but are not resolved before Aug. 1. 2013, will be subject to the new sanctions. Schools currently under investigation, such as Miami, also could be hit with the new penalties if their cases are not resolved before Aug. 1.

Emmert has backed every legislative piece of the reform movement.

Last fall, the governing body passed a measure calling for tougher eligibility requirements on incoming freshmen and junior college transfers; another that tied academic performance to postseason eligibility; a third that give schools flexibility to offer multiyear scholarships or stick with the standard one-year scholarships (it withstood an override attempt); and a fourth that allowed student-athletes to collect stipends of up to $2,000.

The stipend plan was shelved, though Emmert wants to put it in place. That is unlikely to happen before the board's January meeting. Another committee is trying to shrink the NCAA's massive rule book, but no formal proposal is anticipated before January.

The board is already looking toward next year's reforms. A formal proposal to shrink the massive rule book also is expected to be heard in January, and it agreed to put off any legislation for the 2013-14 academic year until after other reforms are passed.

But on Tuesday, the NCAA rewrote the book by putting a greater emphasis on the role coaches will play moving forward.

``We delegate responsibility to our head coaches, and presidents delegate to athletic directors, just like companies delegate to different levels of management,'' Kansas State athletic director John Currie said. ``Ultimately the leader is accountable.''

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Associated Press Sports Writers Larry Lage in Detroit and Dave Skretta in Kansas City, Mo., also contributed to this report.

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How to execute the ultimate D.C. sports day of the summer

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How to execute the ultimate D.C. sports day of the summer

Summertime; the time of year when you only look at your calendar to make sure you haven’t double-booked yourself for your ritual weekend brunches, or the time of year you exhaust every vacation day you’ve stored up over the course of the year to get the kids somewhere near their grandparents so you can continue to work on that ever-elusive summer dad-bod. Either one is a win in my book.

Summer also gives birth to one of the rare occasions when there can be three to four different DC-sports related activities all occurring within the same 24-hour timeframe. Thursday, June 20, is THAT day!

Who’s playing? Is there a chance I can attend the game? If not, how do you watch them all? These burning questions are about to be answered faster than you can ride down the escalator at the Pentagon City Metro Station…I think. So, let’s hurry and get started.

We’ll run through these one at a time, in chronological order!

Event 1: Soccer: 3 p.m. EST

1.       Who’s playing?

a.       The US Women’s National Team takes the pitch against Sweden as they look to continue their international dominance in the Women’s World Cup. And yes, it’s DC team because we’re the nation’s Capital.

2.       Reason to watch/attend?

a.       These women are the best Soccer players on the planet; having showcased their proficiency for many years on the world stage. Remember they put up 13 against Thailand in their first match! Don’t miss an opportunity to witness history in the making.  

3.       How to watch/attend?

a.       You can either pull up to Dulles and jump on the next flight to France, or you can be like the rest of us Super-geniuses and tune in at 3pm to watch it from the comfort of your favorite Soccer bar. Make sure to buy a round for anyone rocking a USWNT jersey; #OneNationOneTeam. USA, USA, USA!!!

Event 2: Baseball: 7 p.m. EST

1.       Who’s playing?

a.       The Washington Nationals are wrapping up a 4-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

2.       Why should I watch/attend?

a.       This is the last day of Bryce Harper in THIS city for the remainder of the season. HALLELUJAH! 

3.       How to watch/attend?

a.       First pitch is at 7:05p so you can either slide by the park and enjoy the smorgasbord of delicacies offered at Nats park, or you can tune in on the tube. I suggest hitting the park and booing Harper until you lose your voice! Tell your boss it’s my fault you’re hoarse. It won’t be the first time someone did that.

Event 3: Basketball(NBA): 8 p.m. EST

1.       Who’s playing?

a.       NOBODY, derp! But, it’s the NBA draft and frankly put, I couldn’t be more excited it’s finally here.

2.       Why should I watch/attend?

a.       This is the first official activation in the post-Grunfeld era for the Wizards. More importantly, this will be the first chance for Wiz fans to wrap their minds around the new direction the team will be taking. Optimism starts here!

3.       How to watch/attend?

a.       Unless you feel like hopping a flight to Chicago to see the Draft in person, I highly suggest you tune in to NBC Sports Washington for full draft coverage on ‘Wizards on the Clock’ at 8p. In my humble opinion, you won’t find better comprehensive coverage. You can watch on TV or via the MyTeams App while you’re at the Nats game booing Bryce if you’re slick with multi-tasking.

Event 4: Basketball(WNBA): 10 p.m. EST

1.       Who’s playing?

a.       Your Washington Mystics are out in Sin City to take on the Las Vegas Aces. Note: Bill Laimbeer sighting!

2.       Reason to watch/attend?

a.       The Aces sit atop the Western Conference with Australian native Liz Cambage (she can BALL) holding down the paint. It’s going to be a good test for the Mystics and you’ll get a chance to see how unrelentingly talented Elena Delle Donne, Natasha Cloud, and crew really are. Buckets, the Mystics get buckets!

3.       How to watch/attend?

a.       I know the temptation to hit Vegas is rising by the moment but fret not. You can save a ton of money and possibly help your best bud save his fragile relationship by staying in DC and catching the game at 10 p.m. on Monumental Sports Network/NBC Sports Washington.

Now you know how to do it while maintaining some semblance of sanity, and you can even keep a running tab on who’s been the most DC among your friends. I’m certain we’ll have another opportunity for this phenomenon when Fall comes back around, but for now, let’s all enjoy the summer and all the games therein!

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Redskins fans shouldn't forget about Colt McCoy because the coaches haven't

Redskins fans shouldn't forget about Colt McCoy because the coaches haven't

After a third surgery on his leg in April, Colt McCoy did not practice with the team during OTAs or mandatory minicamp. He was in Ashburn for many of the workouts, but did not take any team snaps.

In a normal quarterback battle, that would put McCoy at a distinct disadvantage, but the Redskins quarterback battle is not exactly normal. 

Veteran Case Keenum and rookie Dwayne Haskins got nearly all of the work at signal caller during the spring practice sessions, and both showed signs of being able to take over head coach Jay Gruden's offense. Keenum proved he can handle the huddle and has quickness when plays broke down behind the line of scrimmage. Haskins showed a rocket arm and a ton of potential, but he's also a rookie trying to learn a boatload about life in the NFL in a hurry, like calling plays, and that showed too. 

All of that is a long way to say neither Keenum nor Haskins locked up the top QB job. And that means the door is still open for McCoy.

"We would love for him to take some reps, but obviously his health is more important right now than anything, and that is the most important thing for him," Gruden said about McCoy on the first day of minicamp. "When his time comes it will come quickly. He will be ready."

Gruden's quote speaks to the biggest advantage McCoy will have once he hits the field. He's been with the Redskins since 2014, and knows Gruden's version of the West Coast offense backwards and forwards. 

Throughout the spring sessions, Haskins made clear that his number one goal for the offseason was to learn the playbook and gain mastery of calling plays in the huddle. McCoy already has that.

Speaking with reporters on the last day of minicamp, Keenum explained that Gruden's offense is the seventh or eighth new system he's learned in the NFL. Keenum said each system is like learning a new language, and that "there is no Rosetta Stone for the West Coast Offense."

If there was a translator, its name would be Colt McCoy. 

Once doctors clear the former University of Texas star, he will immediately be the Redskins quarterback with the best understanding of the offense. That will show up on the field right away.

Remember too that Gruden has tried to turn to McCoy as his quarterback at a few different turns, but injuries have always derailed those plans. If McCoy gets fully healthy in time for Richmond, which team sources believe will happen, he has a chance to finally take over this job.

Make no mistake, Haskins is the Redskins long-term future at the quarterback position. He has the talent but needs to learn the speed of the NFL, from playcalling to pass rush. Eventually though, he will be on the field for the Redskins. 

If he wins the job, it's his.

Same for Keenum, who is probably better than he showed last year in Denver but not as good as his career season with Minnesota in 2017. Keenum could certainly start Week 1 in Philadelphia and is probably ahead of Haskins right now. 

But fans would be wise not to count McCoy out of the quarterback competition. The Redskins coaching staff definitely hasn't. 

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