A couple of weeks ago, the Stanford University Athletic Department was hit with its first major NCAA sanctions ever, as the result of two separate incidents involving the softball and football teams. Both took place in 2014 and both were reported promptly by Stanford to the NCAA.
To provide some context here, as of 2011, there were only four Division I schools playing in BCS conferences who had not been hit with major NCAA sanctions (Level I or II). The teams were Stanford, Boston College, Northwestern and, um, Penn State. The field narrowed to three later that year after the unearthing of the reprehensible events at Penn State. After Stanford’s recent sanctions, that list now stands at two.
Stanford’s NCAA Sanctions
Stanford’s softball team violated the rule that dictates the maximum number of allowable practice hours. Stanford released a statement describing the corrective measures it took in the wake of this incident:
“As a result of the inquiry, the head coach was asked to resign and did so, and the contracts for the assistant coaches were not renewed. The university also self-imposed a penalty of significant limitations on softball practice hours under the new coaching staff. The university also added an additional full-time compliance staff member to Stanford Athletics to increase monitoring and verification of practice hours for all student-athletes, including reviewing practice logs and unannounced observations of practices.”
Obviously this is a big deal — practicing for more hours than is sanctioned gives the team a competitive advantage over opponents. This is certainly worthy of a Level II violation, and I am happy to see that Stanford is taking this incident seriously. Unfortunately, the softball program hasn’t been the same since this series of events.
The second violation involved a football player, former wide receiver Devon Cajuste, who is currently a member of the Green Bay Packers practice squad.
The backstory here is that Stanford football players often live with local families over the summer so that they can be near campus for academic and football-related activities. Cajuste received improper benefits from his host family, also a Level II violation, and served a one-game suspension. Here are the details included in Athletic Director Bernard Muir’s statement:
“Impermissible benefits valued at under $400 included restaurant meals with the landlord’s family, movie tickets with the family and the use of a local vacation home. Another impermissible benefit was a loan to purchase a bicycle which, at the time of the review, had already been repaid.”
Are you serious? Cajuste’s landlord took him to $400 worth of dinner and movies, which if you live in the Bay Area, you’ll know is approximately 2.5 dinners and one movie with no popcorn, Coke or Red Vines. It’s also worth noting that the football violation occupies twice as much real estate in Muir’s statement, and includes an apology from Cajuste himself. Yes, I know, Cajuste should not have engaged in these activities, but the fact that the NCAA sees this as being an equal infraction to violating practice hour limits is completely absurd. But then again, no one ever accused the NCAA of making sense.
The part that made me laugh most is that Stanford’s football infraction is as mundane as it’s play calls while up 30 points in the fourth quarter. Maybe there are some more interesting things Stanford could get sanctioned for? Here are my suggestions:
- Animal cruelty: For much of the last decade, Stanford football has been beating up on defenseless Golden Bears, Bruins, and Beavers. Specifically, those from the University of California, UCLA, and Oregon State University, respectively.
- Assault with a deadly weapon: You’ve seen the Stanford defense. Need I say more?
- Obliterating stereotypes: Stanford’s offensive line is comprised of five young men majoring in science, technology and society, biomechanical engineering, Japanese, earth systems, and philosophy. Wide receiver Michael Rector is majoring in human biology and would like to be a cardiothoracic surgeon. I don’t need to go on.
- Possession of soooo much hardware: In the past few years, Stanford has won two PAC-12 championship trophies, two Rose Bowl trophies, an Orange Bowl trophy, and a Foster Farms bowl trophy. Probably should get one of those engineers to add some square footage to the trophy case.
- Speeding: Between Michael Rector and running backs Christian McCaffrey and Bryce Love, speed kills.
- Body Clock Phenomenon: Stanford Football winning a game is a lot like getting pregnant in that there’s a very specific window of time when success is possible. For example, Stanford wins games on Saturdays when games kick-off in the afternoon. The recipe for success is no Thursday night games, no Friday night games, and no Saturday games before noon Pacific. See the University of Washington games in 2012 and 2016 (Thursday and Friday night games), and the Wake Forest and Northwestern games in 2009 in 2015, respectively (both Saturday 9am Pacific kick-offs).
All kidding aside, as a result of the super serious actual football sanction, the program has abandoned the practice of football players living with local families in the summer months. Instead, they will reside on campus, so please donate your boxes of Red Vines to: Stanford Athletic Department, 641 East Campus Drive, Stanford, CA 94305. Kidding. That’s probably a Level I violation.