The biggest one of the group didn't serve one game, rather he took advantage of a lame governing body that is hypocritically trying to protect something that doesn't exist anymore: amateurism. The NCAA clearly showed they care more about money than enforcing their own rules. That is the only justification they can have to let Pryor play in a marquee, nationally televised game and delay his suspension to the following year.
Now, I think its important to think why the NCAA let Pryor be excused from his "improper benefits" for one game before I start diving into what I think the NCAA should change for their football penalties for breach of NCAA rules. The NCAA is a business like any other, they need revenue to keep building this machine that works hand in hand with the BCS with whom they are partnered. So it makes business sense to make sure they both get paid.
This is where the conflict of interest kicks into play. The NCAA is a for profit company who governs the amateurism of athletes, meaning no monetary gain is tolerated by any means. How can a company who is worried about making money try and make sure another person doesn't get money? It doesn't work out because all the guidelines and rules they create to protect this status would conflict with them making money on marquee nationally televised games. Now the NCAA has to try and juggle how do we make money and enforce the rules we've established at the same time.
The answer they came up with was create a million different violations and codes that gives the NCAA an almost unpredictable lead way on how to punish athletes for business they never should have partaken to begin with. The shades of grey allows them to suspend players but at the schools digression, which means they will never be banned for the big game. So the poor cannon fodder D-II team that's on the schedule is when the player sits out. Is that really a suspension if he wasn't going to play more than a quarter to begin with?
This is a personal opinion of what I'd want to see the NCAA do to start penalizing schools and players (we all know its not just the players that have a part in this). I am just a fan keep in mind and by no mean an expert on the topic.
First, it has two categories and sub categories for each:
- Player improper benefits
- High Level (Major)
- Low Level (minor)
- High Level
- Low Level
For a player that receives a high level improper benefits they would be suspended for a minimum of the next five in-conference games that would be played, regardless of being a playoff or a regular season game. A player that receives a low level improper benefits would be suspended 1-4 games but the school has the right to choose which games they are to be suspended. As a note, any player that is under investigation, at any time during the year, would be considered ineligible until he is proven innocent.
For a school that is found of a major recruiting violation or booster clubs giving improper benefits they would not be allowed to participate in any conference championship for that sport for 3 years, allowed 20 less scholarships during those three years, and be fined $25 million that must be paid before the third year expires. If the school has not paid by that time the scholarship level is reinstated to normal levels but the restriction on being able to play in a conference championship is not lifted until it has been paid. A lower level (or minor) infraction would be a reduction of 10 scholarships for 2 years and a $1 million fine.
Any major violation that is investigated during the course of a season but the verdict is not issued till after the season is complete, the NCAA would have the right to go back and strip any team of the bowls and conference championships in which they participated. Also, the schools would have to pay any benefits received for playing in those games to the NCAA (I believe both schools in the national championship take almost $30 million for playing).
Obviously, the simplicity of the system is going to make people say this wont work but if a major program like Ohio State was hit with this last year they'd be paying almost $50 million (guessing around $20 million is paid out to Rose bowl participants) to the NCAA and be losing almost $20 annually on big games at the end of the season until their ban ran out so that's a possible $110 million they are forfeiting and not to mention the 60 possible top tier players they usually would recruit as well. Thats a huge hurdle to overcome, and it would take the school almost 5 years after that verdict to recover.