The Most Ridiculous NCAA Violations of 2014

Rules is rules even if they were made to be broken.

For years the NCAA proudly occupied the position of the sporting world’s most repugnant organizing body. But, in 2014, that designation came into question. Had the NFL, with its incompetent commissioner, misbehaving players and institutional denial of the game’s risks, sunk lower than the NCAA, which enriches itself on the backs of unpaid athletes? In a word: No. While the NFL had its share of high profile problems this year, the NCAA continued its steady pattern of behind-the-scenes idiocy. It’s a trait best illustrated by the “secondary violation,” an infraction defined as something that “provides or is intended to provide only a minimal recruiting, competitive or other advantage.” That’s such a difficult rule to parse that there are more than 4,000 secondary violations every year, many of them self-reported by schools wary of the NCAA’s wrath.

Here are this year’s most absurd.

Austin Peay State University: Last month, when the Austin Peay football team took the field for its game against Tennessee State, it did so at a distinct disadvantage. Thanks to an NCAA rule that punishes teams for violating standards regarding numbering and lettering on jerseys, the Governors had no timeouts. The problem? Instead of their names, the players’ jerseys had the names of units at Fort Campbell, which is 12 miles from the school. It was a Veteran’s Day celebration.

Mississippi State: In January, the Bulldog football program sent recruits envelopes about its “Junior Day.” Sealing those envelopes was a sticker that read “Elite Junior Day 2014 Official Invite,” and, for a reason that the NCAA feels no apparent obligation to explain, the words on that sticker constituted a violation.

Southeast Missouri State University: Former assistant coach Ben Coomes was suspended for two games for a handful of microscopic violations, including providing recruits with the password for his Netflix account. It’s not even clear from reports if they used it.

University of Connecticut: Remember Mo’ne Davis, the middle-school fireballer from Philly who made the Little League World Series worth watching? Despite her baseball prowess, Davis’ first love is basketball and she professed a desire to suit up for Geno Auriemma’s UConn squad one day. So, after Davis’ performance in the LLWS, Auriemma called to congratulate her, but only after checking with the university’s compliance office to make sure it was OK. It wasn’t OK. As Auriemma later found out, his kind gesture was actually a violation. Mo’ne Davis is 13.

University of Oklahoma: Sometimes it seems as though schools self-report violations, even though they know they’re violations, just to make the NCAA look silly. Such was the case when the Sooners reported a violation after “players were provided pasta in excess of the permissible amount allowed.” The NCAA later said there was no violation there. But not all of Oklahoma’s self-reported crimes were erased. The NCAA expressed concern that head coach Mike Stoops had terrorized a recruit by texting him, “Thanks.”

University of Oregon: Ducks? More like crooks. Oregon should consider changing its mascot to a mallard in pinstripes after the revelation that the baseball team was provided with “impermissible entertainment” in the form of free mini golf and laser tag.

University of South Carolina: One of the more talked about self-reported violations of the year was the Gamecocks’ “impermissible iced decorations on a cookie cakes (sic) given to prospects.” What would make USC think its icing was impermissible is anyone’s guess. And it turns out there was in fact no violation. The fact that USC feared there might be though is a clear sign that the NCAA’s rules are bananas.

Washington State University: When the women’s golf team at WSU reaches for performance enhancing drugs, they prefer Ensure. Not the weak stuff though; they like that Ensure High Protein. The NCAA does not. After the team’s coach served some high octane Ensure to athletes during a competition, she self reported a violation because Ensure High Protein breaks the NCAA’s ban on beverages with “more than 30 percent of its calories from protein.”

West Virginia University: If ever there was a violation that demonstrated the NCAA’s over-regulation, it’s the case the Mountaineers women’s basketball team and the oversized envelopes. According to the NCAA, recruiting materials can be sent in envelopes that are, at most, 9 inches by 12 inches. WVU was flaunting the rules with envelopes there were 10 inches by 13 inches. Talking about pushing it.

Photos by Joe Murphy / Getty Images