Sometimes the NCAA’s rules create loopholes – or at least the appearance of loopholes – that are fun to contemplate. The speculation that maybe boosters would be able to exploit a rule allowing athletes to keep money won in lawsuit to legally pay players? That was fun. Even after the NCAA shot the idea down, it was still fun to imagine boosters brazenly trying to flout the rules anyway, making the NCAA look foolish all the while. We’re glad all that happened.
Other times, though, the rules result in consequences that are just… dumb. A skirmish between Cal and Stanford during the Cardinal’s 83-70 win last night was such a time. It started with a loose ball and an aggressive Cal player – overly so, in Stanford’s minds, to the point that some pushing and shoving began. Things heated up. More players joined in. It had some potential to get ugly. Cal and Stanford coaches did not want it to get ugly. To that end a few of them got in the middle of the scrum and tried to pull the guys off of one another. It’s not entirely clear if things would have devolved had they not tried to stop it, but they certainly didn’t make things worse. Here’s what happened:
Admirable effort, right? Putting themselves in the middle of all those large young men because they didn’t want anyone losing their cool and doing something really regrettable? Well, they all got kicked out of the game for it. The reason: the NCAA has an automatic ejection policy for anyone who leaves the bench during a fight (except head coaches), similar to the NBA’s policy of suspending players who leave the bench.
So despite what seems to be attempt to actually go easier on fight-bench-leaving than the pros do (“Any individual who leaves the bench area and enters the playing court but does not participate in a fight…shall not be assessed a CLASS B technical foul…That individual shall be ejected but is not subject to suspension“), the rule wound up punishing a few guys who were trying to keep the peace. Maybe it’s fitting that even when the NCAA tries to be forgiving it still winds up bring draconian, but any enjoyment of possible grand symbolism is tempered by how little sense those ejections made. The NCAA doesn’t do many admirable things. Changing this rule around would be a start.