It doesn't matter who is actually doling out the punishments we see (the NCAA, athletic directors, coaches, conference commissioners), the process of suspending people in college basketball is a broken mess of inconsistency. It's time for a change.
Many complain about the NFL, where the almighty Roger Goodell hands down rulings not by looking at examples from the past, but on an odd case-by-case basis that feels overtly biased. Even so, at least there's a consistent ruler in place and you know what to expect. Things in college hoops are much more muddled and confusing.
The way it works now, you've got suspensions coming from all angles. The schools and coaches are trying to self-report issues to handle things internally and avoid a broader punishment. Or in the case of BYU, they simply want to adhere to a strict moral code. And with the Bruce Pearl situation as perfect evidence, the conference commissioners are hovering around, ready to make people pay if they feel justice was not yet served.
Most of the time while this is all going on the NCAA rarely comes out of the shadows. Other than preseason eligibility issues and automatic rulings (like an ejection and one-game suspension for fighting, let's say), the governing body with the most power in this sport doesn't actually feel the need to intervene on most basketball-related issues. It's insane.
For those who saw the Cincinnati-Xavier brawl live, it was a stunning sequence to witness. After reviewing the incident on replay countless times, and hearing the comments coach Mick Cronin made after the game, it was a miracle that cheap-shot artist Yancy Gates was even allowed to stay on the Bearcats' roster. Dozens of other coaches might have booted him off the team for good.
And all the NCAA will offer here is the one-game suspension for fighting that has already been established. Because with Cronin and Chris Mack having each already doled out their own punishments for the participants, the NCAA apparently feel a need to switch off autopilot mode for this particular case.
Basketball Prospectus' John Gasaway wants to see the NCAA actively reviewing past game film to address situations exactly like this, and he's absolutely correct. Much like how pro leagues are structured, this would be the most logical way to keep tabs on a fast-paced sport where things often need to be slowed down to fully comprehend. Think about this: Let's put five or six big NCAA decision-makers in room and force them to watch the Gates punch and ensuing sequence on a loop for a few hours. Are these guys each going to walk out of that room agreeing that a one-game suspension was enough on their end? Not a chance.
That might be oddest part of this whole situation. The NCAA has the power to shut Gates down for the season if it wants to. Even merely extending his punishment by 3-4 games would have been enough of a muscle flex to prove to everyone that all these NCAA suits are actually paying attention to what happens on the court. Because with the way things work now, the difference between a season-long ban and a two-week vacation might just be a lenient coach or athletic director. And honestly, that's just not good enough.