Brendan Shanahan has been on the phone all morning to Larry Scott begging for a chance, just one chance, to show that as the NHL’s deportment cop, he is just the guy to mete out shame to the Stanford Cardinal and California Golden Bears.
Well, he hasn’t, but we live in hope.
Shanahan would do the discipline dance the cool new way, with video and highlights and a sterny-faced lecture, and that would be that. None of this what-will-Sandy-Barbour-and-Bernie-Muir-do handwringing, wondering whether the school will discipline its highest-paid employee or anyone in his charge. It would be frontier justice, and there would be an hour of grousing that it was too severe or not severe enough, and then we’d be done.
But no, this will fall to Scott, unless he wants to punt it back down to the school level, at which point the lesson will be lost.
And what lesson, you ask? Some fellas got involved in a cranky-up near the end of a basketball game that was pretty much already played and decided. Things happen.
[RELATED: Stanford snaps rival Cal's win streak with 83-70 win]
The lesson, children, is this: When the NCAA dies its increasingly deserved death for outrunning its supply lines and for being unnecessary to the running of the new college athletics paradigm, the conferences will be the new power brokers. They will negotiate the TV deals, they will make the tournaments, they will be what the NCAA used to be – the designated brokerage house for UnpaidEntertainers.edu.
And they will be in charge of keeping the miscreants in some sort of line. Punting the job back down the line won’t work in the new world disorder, so the conference commissioners will have the be the new Shanahans, as well as the new bankers, promoters and mythmakers.
And reprimands won’t be enough to show one’s strength. In cases like last night’s, in which two players and three assistant coaches were ejected and six more T’d up for their roles in the game-spicing brawl, time must be served, and that means Scott has to distribute it.
Now he’ll have to do it in such a way that he doesn’t come off all Goodellesque – an adjective I just made up that I hope catches on. Nobody accuses Shanahan of being high-handed or arrogant; they mostly accuse him of being too hard to their favorite players or teams, but that is unavoidable. People don’t care about justice, unless justice means “just not us.”
But he’ll have to make a point, just to show that when the NCAA finally crumbles like the rotten old Jenga tower it is, he’ll be ready to be the new mini-Emmert – a noun I just thought of that may get Scott to punch me in the face.
He’ll have to come out, audio bells and video whistles at the ready, and say, “These people get suspended, here’s why, and don’t forget that there are still good seats available for the conference tournament in Las Vegas.”
He’ll look commissionerial – another word I just . . . oh, never mind. He’ll come off as technically savvy and on the cutting edge before the edge must be revealed. He’ll look in charge, the way Mark Emmert tried to before his cops went rogue.
And he’ll have to do it again and again in the months and years to come (or until another job comes along, maybe like Governor of Missouri), because college sports is about to be a conference-centric enterprise. The NCAA is limbering up for its death-twitches, and someone’s going to have be the banker, media maven and cop. Scott may as well get used to the third job now.
Or he can contract it out to Brendan Shanahan. In these perilous times, everyone can use a second source of income, even if it is just crummy old freelance money.