I've said it before - I think the concept of vacating wins is stupid. The NCAA's system of punishment leaves much to be desired, and I have a proposal that will allow more fitting punishments to be meted out.
For programs that have infractions, scholarship reductions are warranted. But for personal offenses (e.g., cheating on exams, contact with an agent, etc.), it's not fair to punish the coaches, players, and fans who had nothing to do with the situation - particularly when the actual perpetrators often get away with little or no punishment. Forfeits, or the currently popular vacating of wins, should be reserved for situations where coaches knowingly used ineligible players. However, if a coach is unaware of an infraction, how can s/he be expected to sit the "ineligible" player? It makes no sense.
Instead, let's put the punishment more fully on the perpetrators. Suspensions work to a point, but what about infractions uncovered after a player leaves campus? Those players are rarely affected by their misdeeds. Therefore, I propose that the NCAA allow athletic scholarships to be reclassified as scholarship/loans. As long as athletes fulfill certain criteria/conditions, the educational funding awarded for their athletic participation is classified as a scholarship. If, however, athletes fail to meet the outlined conditions, their funding reverts to a student loan. All the laws applicable to student loans and their collections would then apply to some or all of the funds the athlete received. This would hold the athletes personally responsible for their own actions.
Say an athlete graduates, and it is later discovered that s/he cheated on an exam (or committed some other infraction that would affect eligibility) at the start of his/her junior year. Instead of the team "vacating" any wins in which this athlete participated, the athlete's funding in his/her junior AND senior seasons would revert to student loan status (i.e., for the period during which s/he was ineligible). The university would likely still receive a scholarship reduction, but the largest consequences for this athlete's actions would fall mostly on him/her.
The conditions would need to be carefully expressed, of course - transferring, leaving school early, etc. should not cause the funding to revert to loan status. But, actions that currently cause programs to be put on probation should initiate the reclassification. Let's punish the perpetrators, and not the universities that have given them the opportunity to receive a college education.
I am still formulating this idea, so suggestions and feedback would be appreciated.