On the surface, Paul Wulff's NCAA indescretions while coach at Eastern don't seem to affect WSU all that much. After all, missing three days of fall practice and making him attend a couple of seminars -- on his own dime, which I find a hilarious stipulation -- really will have no short- or long-term impact on the team's performance or recruiitng.
But messing around with the NCAA is sticky business, and that's why AD Jim Sterk and Wulff went on the offensive today.
Rarely is the initial punishment the worst thing about violations. Despite its reputation to the contrary, the NCAA is usually pretty forgiving with institutions that have heretofore kept their noses clean. No, usually the worst thing about violations is that they tend to invite more scrutiny from the NCAA. At least one commenter over at SportsLink today said he thought this punishment was so harsh in part because of previous basketball violations, something I wholeheartedly believe.
Trust me when I tell you that no program wants to be under the NCAA's microscope, because if you turn over enough rocks, you're bound to find some snakes. Remember Probation Nation's harsh punishment in the early '90s? Everybody remembers the Billy Joe Hobert loan, but that's not what got the Huskies in big trouble. Hobert's individual violation was small potatoes compared to the stuff the NCAA started to find -- like players being paid for jobs they weren't doing -- when they started looking around.
I'm not saying the Cougs have blatant violations going on behind closed doors, because I don't think that's the case. But every program has its stuff that it doesn't want to come to light -- even WSU -- because it's simply not possible to watch everyone all the time, nor is it possible for every coach to know every little rule.
It was with this in mind that Sterk and Wulff decided to so forcefully lay the blame for these violations at EWU's feet. Essentially what they were saying to the NCAA was, "Unlike that underfunded little school up the road, we've got our crap together. Our coach is a good guy who was put in a bad position by a school that didn't give him the support he needed. We're giving him that support. There's absolutely no reason for you to come poking around here."
It's unfortunate that Sterk and Wulff had to go to such lengths with their words, but that's the way the game is played. Because of this, the WSU football program is now on the NCAA's radar, and anything they can do to deflect that attention is going to be done.
Additionally, Wulff is now going to have to be extra careful to do things right from here on out, because even small violations will cause exponential problems. The margin for error is gone.