There are few things that raise the ire of the NCAA in college athletics quite like the specter of “improper benefits” paid to players. Nothing gets college athletics’ governing body riled up faster than an allegation of student-athletes getting more than they’re allowed of anything (remember Pasta-Gate with the Oklahoma Sooners). Now, a formerly spotless institution, the BYU Cougars, has come into the cross-hairs for possible improper benefits. Could they be in more trouble than most?
According to Salt Lake City radio station 1280 the Zone, BYU is currently investigating allegations that former players received improper benefits. The school confirmed that they are conducting a “thorough review” and have been over the last several months. The NCAA does not confirm or deny any ongoing NCAA investigations.
Cody Hoffman, the team’s leading receiver in 2013, was apparently contacted by the school to come in and answer questions about possible improper benefits, according to his manager Sam Leaf. Hoffman refused to talk to the school to “focus on the NFL,” but Leaf was adamant Hoffman did not receive any improper benefits though he did not comment on whether or not others did.
BYU is the only school that has won an AP national championship in football and has never had a major NCAA violation or received NCAA sanctions. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall has cited the school’s strict Honor Code as a useful deterrent to potential problems. Their spotless record and the lack of a “smoking gun” in this case likely means that the NCAA will not come down hard on the program, but that may not be the end of it for the Cougars.
The school’s Honor Code, which Mendenhall cites as an aid to avoiding issues, may end up coming down harder on the football program than the NCAA. BYU has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to things like lying and cheating, so how will the school come down on the football team if it’s found there was rampant cheating in the form of improper benefits and lying to cover it all up?
Mendenhall has said that he wants BYU to be “the alternative” in college football, to be successful on the field while playing by the rules off of it. That philosophy will be tested now as the program investigates improper benefits. Will the Cougars come down harder on themselves to make sure their program stays clean?