My buddy Peach posed an interesting question after the Montana Grizzlies were penalized by the NCAA late last week.
Does his brother owe him $200?
The answer to that question is tricky. It is also an important one because it could set precedence for bet disputes as old as the NCAA itself.
Peach bet $100 that the Montana State Bobcats would beat the Grizzlies in November 2011. When the teams left the field at Bobcat Stadium in Bozeman that day, the scoreboard read Grizzlies 36, Bobcats 10.
But did the Grizzlies really win that game?
The NCAA says no.
The agency concluded an 18-month investigation into the university last week and hit the Grizzlies with a three-year probation.
The school loses four scholarships per year for the three years, and it must donate $3,000 — less than what the school’s share of the split-the-pot drawing will be at this year’s home opener — to local charities because the NCAA ruled that former head coach Robin Pflugrad is a boob.
Well, technically the NCAA officially ruled that Pflugrad failed to monitor his program, but we can read through the lines.
The team must also “vacate” five wins in which current St. Louis Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson and backup quarterback Gerald Kemp competed late in the season.
Johnson and Kemp were ruled ineligible because a couple of unnamed female boosters paid their bail after the duo found themselves tased by police after a noise complaint at a party following an Oct. 22 Grizzly victory at Northern Arizona.
So, from the moment the bail money was paid, the two players were no longer eligible to play NCAA-sanctioned sports.
On Nov. 19, 2011, Jordan Johnson threw for 164 yards and two touchdowns, while Peter Nguyen and Dan Moore each rushed for more than 100 yards as the Grizzlies ended MSU’s nine-game winning streak. It was a crushing loss and a huge victory.
Before the game, Peach — or maybe it was his brother — did some smack talking that resulted in a $100 bet with his brother. Peach, who made a $200 donation to my 2009 New York City Marathon run for Mariah’s Challenge within seconds of learning about it, is the kind of guy who pays his bets. He is good like that.
Peach’s brother accepted the money, and it is long gone.
However, the Grizzlies used the two ineligible players, so that is one game that the Grizzlies had to “vacate.”
So, the question is, does Peach’s brother owe him $200 — the $100 refund plus the $100 lost bet? It is certainly not fair to tack on interest just yet because the brother is not to blame for the tardiness of the payment, but you probably will not be able to explain that to your average collector.
Peach’s brother says he will pay up as soon as Las Vegas pays everyone else, and I am sure my buddy Stanny will say the same thing to his bookie.
The word “vacate” is the key. The NCAA did not say that the Grizzlies lost those games.
Is it now considered a win for the Bobcats, or does their all-time record remain unchanged? They never tell us important details like that.
The official websites of both the Bobcats and the Grizzlies, by the way, still have the game listed as a 36-10 Montana win. So, at best, we can assume the schools involved do not know the answer to that question either.
The answer to the Peach question has to also interest people who bet on or against the Michigan basketball team and Penn State football team.
The Nittany Lions had to vacate a boatload of wins under disgraced coach Joe Paterno. The Wolverines had to vacate wins by the “Fab Five” because they, too, had a dirty/moronic booster.
Again, the NCAA did not necessarily say the teams lost those games. If vacate equals loss, then there must be an amazing amount of money in back bets that has to re-exchange hands.
Of course, all of this just leads to the stupidity of the NCAA for “vacating” wins by teams in the first place. There is simply no way to erase the memory of a game that was played in front of a packed house at Bobcat Stadium and broadcast on live television.
It did not work when Ming tried to erase Dr. Zarkov’s memory on Flash Gordon, and it certainly will not work on football fans.
The dilemma presented by Peach simply illustrates the absurdity of most of the punishments handed down by the NCAA.
Remember when the NCAA punished the players at USC while we all watched world-renowned weasel Pete Carroll run off to make millions with the Seahawks?
The men who played under JoePa while he was turning a blind eye to a child molester had no idea such a thing was going on. You would have to assume that 99.9 percent would have certainly done something about it if they had.
Still, the NCAA takes away all of their wins? That is not fair.
Likewise, it is not fair to make the Grizzly players, past and present, pay for the stupidity of a couple of players and some boosters.
While four more players will now have to pay for school while helping a football program turn a hefty profit, Johnson will collect an exorbitant salary in the NFL without so much as receiving a dirty look.
While Peach’s brother has to worry about continuing to come up with solid excuses as to why he is keeping the money, Pflugrad will get to call the plays for Weber State after sitting out a one-game suspension.
That’s right, one game.
At least Grizzly fans have the satisfaction of knowing that this mess cost Pflugrad his job at UM. At least they can hope that is why he was fired — along with athletic director Jim O’Day — last year.
We can only hope that the school used the Ace Rothstein method of removing the former coach from the school.
“I want you to exit this guy off the premises. I want you to exit him off his feet and I want you to use his head to open the (expletive deleted) door.”
That, by the way, might be the same exit you get if you try to tell your bookie he actually owes you money because you bet on the Bobcats in November 2011.
The same exit from Missoula and the state of Montana should be in store for the boosters who helped create that mess. The names of the anonymous boosters should be known, and signs should be posted to let those boosters know they are no longer welcome in this state.
(Of course, there is a good chance Bozeman could make an exception.)
It should also go for the two former Grizzly football players involved.
That sure makes a lot more sense than punishing student-athletes who have never been tased by the police.
It certainly makes a lot more sense than putting Peach’s brother through all of this.
— Sportswriter Bill Foley, who has been thrown out of places Ace Rothstein style, writes a column that appears on ButteSports.com on Tuesdays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74.
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