Bakersfield College deserves to be punished for failing to comply with rules that its administrators and football coaching staff should have understood and accepted. Officials at the local community college should have known to keep an eye on a booster group that offered student-athletes meals, access to housing and part-time jobs -- not because that group, the Helmet Club, has a dubious history, but because that's what responsible administrators do.
But Bakersfield College isn't the only institution that deserves scrutiny here. The California Community College Athletic Association stripped the local two-year college of all its victories from the 2011 and 2012 seasons, vacated its 2012 state football championship, banned it from 2013 postseason play and placed it on probation for the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Those sanctions are over the top. It's an easy case to make, anyway, when we compare the CCCAA's approach to violations such as these to that of the NCAA, which governs the athletic programs at most four-year universities.
The BC coaching staff is accused of paying football players for work with funds raised by the booster club, helping out-of-area football players find housing, middle-managing rent payments, implying to prospective recruits that housing was available, and providing a weekly meal and a pre-game dinner before home games. Does the punishment fit?
For a comparison, look no further than today's Sports pages and new revelations about the University of Oregon's highly successful football program. Someone associated with the program cut a $25,000 check to Will Lyles, mentor to former Ducks star LaMichael James and blue-chip signee Lache Seastrunk, for recruiting service material that turns out to have never existed. The NCAA's penalty: Three years' probation, plus Oregon loses one scholarship in each of the next two years and will be allowed slightly fewer official prospect visits. Somehow, we think, the program will recover.
Consider the 1992 Syracuse University basketball program, which was found to have given players cash, free housing, meals and other benefits from boosters. The result: a one-year postseason ban, the loss of one scholarship and two years' probation.
In 2009 Eastern Washington University was found to have permitted 13 ineligible football players to play or practice with the team, among other violations, but got away with three years' probation, a one-year postseason ban and the loss of two scholarships.
And there are more, too many to list here.
Cash under the table? Ineligible players? Payoffs to agents? Suffice to say these wrongdoings are far more striking than those BC committed but the penalities far lighter.
It's true that Santa Barbara City College's 2009 football program was forced to forfeit a season's worth of games including a conference co-championship, placed on a year's probation and banned from postseason play for a year for violations similar to those in BC's case.
But that simply underscores how draconian the CCCAA has become in terms of enforcement. One could make a case for the NCAA's over-lenience; a middle ground is out there somewhere. If the CCCAA takes some of its cues from the NCAA, as we're told is the case, here's an avenue to consider.