How much cheating are we willing to tolerate?

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New NCAA president Mark Emmert supports tougher penalties for schools who break the rules. It’s sure to be a popular statement among fans and pundits, who’ve watched as the summer months turned into a bit of a dramatic mess.

Forget the notable arrests and just focus on the NCAA issues: UConn and Tennessee self-imposed penalties due to violations, while some star recruits have had transcript issues. And that’s just for hoops. I don’t even want to get into football’s problems.

“It’s very complicated, a highly dynamic environment,” Emmert said Tuesday. “Around elite athletes, there are always people who see an opportunity to make money in the future, so the opportunities for those things are sort of omnipresent and what the university president and athletic directors have to do is be as rigorous as they can with what the university stands for, their values and be very attentive to it.

“And even then, sometimes, that (rules violations) happens.”

AP

So here’s the thing — if rules violations happen, how much cheating are we willing to tolerate?
 
Bruce Pearl undoubtedly stepped afoul of NCAA rules. He and his staff not only made impermissible calls to recruits, he reportedly hosted prospects when he shouldn’t have. Some might scoff at the idea that a guy should be pilloried because he didn’t break laws, only rules that may be seen as antiquated. Regardless of how you view Pearl, he’s not doing anything other coaches already do. (He just did them at what seems to be a much, much higher level and is being punished accordingly.)

A survey of 20 coaches by ESPN’s Dana O’Neil found that most don’t trust their peers. When CBSSportsline’s Gary Parrish interviewed 10 coaches after the Pearl mess, all 10 admitted they’d made impermissible calls. Some a few times; some many times.

“Any coach who tells you he hasn’t is lying,” one told Parrish. “We’ve all done it. You don’t need to interview coaches to get that answer.”

Some might argue that world view — “Rules? The rules don’t apply to me.” — is part of what makes great athletes and great coaches, well, great. They don’t always do things according to the rules. They do things how they think they should.

Even the game’s legends don’t escape that type of behavior if people associated with their program choose to ignore the rules.

But some bad behavior we choose to ignore. Some we choose to laugh about. Some we choose to vilify.

So what are we willing to tolerate?

Not the blatant cheaters. No paying players or agents. No grade changing.

Yet if we accept that some NCAA rules are silly — text messaging, for one — but still need to be followed, perhaps that’s one violation to tolerate. If coaches or programs run afoul of those rules then we can treat said rule breakers lightly. The same might apply to impermissible calls. But there’s a point where even silly rules stop being silly and start being serious. From Parrish’s article:

The only debate was whether the illegal calls are more often a sign of confusion or intentional cheating. One coach said the number of them typically tells the story.

“There’s a difference between 15 and 200,” he said. “It might be accidental if you make 15 impermissible calls over a two-year period, but you can’t accidentally make 200; that’s cheating. There’s no way the gray area leads to 200.”

To understand the gray area you must first understand that coaches are only allowed to call prospects once a month starting June 15 before their junior years, then twice a week starting August 1 after their junior years. It’s also important to note that calling a prospect’s family member is the same as calling a prospect. There are also guidelines that make it improper to call prospects while they’re at sanctioned summer events. So some impermissible calls, the coaches said, are rooted in calendar confusion and can be unavoidable.

“Let’s say there’s a kid I’m recruiting who’s scheduled to play in an AAU event, go home for a day, then play in another AAU event,” said one coach, citing just one example of how an impermissible call might get made. “I can’t call while he’s at either event, but I can call while he’s home. So on the day that he’s scheduled to be home, I call his cell phone. But what if his team decided at the last minute to go straight from the first event to the second event without going home? Now I’ve just made an impermissible call, and it was unavoidable.”

Thankfully, this is where Emmert comes in. The NCAA is supposed to examine those gray areas and decide what sort of punishment is necessary. Egregious violations call for serious consequences. When minor violations continue to mount, so should the consequences. And the small stuff? That’s where common sense applies.

We can tolerate coaches and programs who stretch the rules. If I expect a little forgiveness for jaywalking (there were no cars in either direction!) or speeding (seriously? it’s only 50 mph on the Interstate?), then I’ll probably cut a coach some slack who makes a few impermissible calls. But blatant rule breaking is out. That’s not worth tolerating, no matter how good a coach or athlete you are.

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter @BeyndArcMMiller, usually talkin’ hoops. Click here for more.

SUNDAY’S SNACKS: No. 5 Iowa, No. 12 SMU pick up road wins

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) passes around South Florida guard Jahmal McMurray (0) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)
AP Photo/Brian Blanco
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GAME OF THE DAY: James Madison 98, Hofstra 95 (OT)

The Dukes managed to fight back at home against Hofstra, with a Ron Curry three-pointer forcing overtime. From there Matt Brady’s team took control against a Hofstra team with little depth thanks to injuries throughout the course of the season. Curry scored a game-high 31 for the Dukes, who forced a three-way tie for third in the CAA with this win (Hofstra and Towson are also 8-4). Brian Bernardi scored 22 points and Juan’ya Green became just the fourth player in Division I history to score 1,000 points at two schools (Niagara being the other) in the loss for Hofstra.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

No. 5 Iowa 77, Illinois 65: The Fighting Illini got off to a slow start offensively, missing their first 11 two-point attempts, and they were unable to climb out of that hole against the Big Ten-leading Hawkeyes. Peter Jok scored 23 points and Jarrod Uthoff posted a double-double of 18 points and 12 boards for Iowa, which limited Illinois to 39.4 percent shooting from the field.

No. 16 Oregon 76, Utah 66: The Ducks maintained sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 with a ten-point win over the Runnin’ Utes in Eugene. The game changed in the first half when Jakob Poeltl was given his second foul, and from that point on Dana Altman’s team controlled the action. Dillon Brooks was outstanding in the win, setting new career highs in points (30) and assists (nine) while also grabbing six rebounds.

STARRED

Dillon Brooks, Oregon: 30 points, six rebounds, nine assists and two steals in the Ducks’ win over Utah.

Shake Milton, SMU: Milton shot 6-for-9 from three, scoring 22 points in the Mustangs’ 92-58 win at USF.

Ron Curry, James Madison: Curry scored 31 points and hit the game-tying three pointer late in regulation as the Dukes came back to beat Hofstra 98-95 in overtime.

Rachel Banham, Minnesota: Banham became the second woman in Division I history to score 60 points in a game, doing so in the Golden Gophers’ 112-106 double overtime win at Northwestern. Banham shot 19-for-32 from the field and 14-for-16 from the foul line.

STRUGGLED

Brandon Taylor, Utah: Taylor went scoreless in a loss at No. 16 Utah, going 0-for-4 from the field and committing four turnovers.

Nehemias Morillo, USF: Morillo scored three points on 1-for-7 shooting and committed four turnovers in the Bulls’ loss to No. 12 SMU.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 12 SMU picked up another win, as they blew out USF 92-58 in Tampa. Shake Milton led five Mustangs in double figures with 22 points, and Nic Moore finished with 17 points and eight assists.
  • No. 17 Miami moved to 7-3 in ACC play with a 75-68 win at Georgia Tech. Sheldon McClellan scored 22 points and Davon Reed 15 for the Hurricanes, who host Pittsburgh Tuesday night.

OTHER NOTABLE RESULTS

  • UConn has won each of its last three games by at least 18 points, as Sunday afternoon they handled East Carolina 85-67. Rodney Purvis and Shonn Miller scored 16 points apiece, and Daniel Hamilton chipped in with 12 points, 16 rebounds, five assists and three steals.
  • Iona remained a game behind Monmouth in the MAAC standings as they won 75-61 at Niagara. Isaiah Williams scored 21 points and Deyshonee Much 15 for the Gaels, who are 10-3 in league play.
  • Jaylen Adams’ three pointer as time expired gave St. Bonaventure a 65-62 win at home over Saint Louis. Adams scored 19 points, Marcus Posley 15 and Dion Wright 14 (along with ten boards) for the Bonnies.
  • Also in the MAAC, Marist upset Siena by the final score of 79-73 in Poughkeepsie. Brian Parker scored 24 points for the Red Foxes, who won despite Siena’s Nico Clareth scoring a career-high 26.
  • Pat Birt scored 27 points to lead Tulsa to a 77-63 win over Houston. Damyean Dotson scored 23 points for the Cougars, whose three-game win streak came to an end with the defeat.

Milton, Moore help No. 12 SMU rout South Florida 92-58

Memphis forward Dedric Lawson (1) defends as SMU guard Nic Moore (11) leaps to the basket for a shot during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Dallas. SMU won 80-68.  (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Shake Milton scored 22 points and Nic Moore added 17 as No. 12 SMU rebounded from its second loss of the season with a 92-58 rout of struggling South Florida on Sunday.

The Mustangs (20-2, 9-2 American Athletic Conference) shrugged off a three-point road loss to Houston by matching their season high with 14 3-pointers and shooting 60 percent overall. They never trailed, scoring the game’s first 11 points. SMU hit its last six shots before halftime and then opened the second half with an 8-0 run to build their lead to 30 points.

Jahmal McMurray led South Florida (5-20, 2-10) with 18 points.

SMU, which had lost two straight on the road, has matched the best 22-game start in school history. The Mustangs won 26 of their first 28 games before finishing 26-4 in 1955-56.

The conference leaders have topped 20 wins in three of four seasons under Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown, who was suspended for the first nine games of the season and will not be able to take the Mustangs to this year’s NCAA tournament because of multiple rules infractions.

Milton made 8 of 12 shots, including 6 of 9 from beyond the 3-point arc. Five of Moore’s six field goals were 3-pointers, and the senior guard finished with eight assists.

Jordan Tolbert made all five of his shots on the way 15 points and Markus Kennedy came off the bench to contribute 10 points and grab a team-high nine rebounds for SMU.

South Florida clinched its second 20-loss season in three years under coach Orlando Antigua. Jaleel Cousins scored 13 points and Angel Nunez had 12 points and nine rebounds for the Bulls, who trailed by as many as 36 points in the second half.

TIP-INS

SMU: The Mustangs improved to 2-2 following a school-best 18-0 start, stopping a two-game road skid included a nine-point setback at Temple and the three-point loss at Houston. SMU has won 27 games each of the past two seasons and its 74 wins since the start of 2013-14 are the most during a three-season span in program history.

South Florida: The Bulls haven’t beaten a ranked team since Feb. 19, 2012, when they upset No. 19 Louisville 58-51 on the road. They haven’t defeated a Top 25 opponent in the Sun Dome since a two-point win over No. 23 Seton Hall on Jan. 13, 2012. USF is 0-3 vs. ranked opponents this season, with two of the three losses to SMU. The Bulls lost to then-No. 1 Kentucky on Nov. 27.

UP NEXT

SMU hosts Tulsa on Wednesday.

South Florida is at Temple on Feb. 14.