NCAA Enhances Enforcement Structure for 2013

On Tuesday, the NCAA Board of Directors introduced a new enforcement structure for dealing with infractions committed by the member institutions.

The new structure adds additional levels to what previously existed, with the aim of expediting the review of violations that occur. By adding additional levels, incidental violations could be handled quicker, allowing enforcement to spend more time on more egregious cases.

Under the current structure, violations fall into two categories: major violations and secondary violation. According to the release on NCAA.org, the new structure features four different categories, which are (technical NCAA speak in italics):

Level IV—Incidental issues. These are minor infractions that are inadvertent and isolated, technical in nature and result in a negligible, if any, competitive advantage. Level IV violations will not affect eligibility for competition. Think of, say, Mark Richt accidentally butt dialing a recruit, or basketball coach Rick Majerus buying one of his players a bagel with cream cheese when he was head coach at Utah.

(Granted, the NCAA states that Level IV could disappear altogether, because while this new enforcement structure was announced at the end of October, the committee that is working on actually revising the NCAA manual to make it more streamlined is not done with their work yet.)

Level III—Breach of conduct. These are isolated or limited in nature; provide no more than a minimal recruiting, competitive or other advantage; and do not include more than a minimal impermissible benefit.

Level II—Significant breach of conduct. These are violations that provide or are intended to provide more than a minimal but less than a substantial or extensive recruiting, competitive or other advantage; includes more than a minimal but less than a substantial or extensive impermissible benefit; or involves conduct that may compromise the integrity of the NCAA collegiate model as set forth in the Constitution and bylaws. Repeated phone calls to recruits that go beyond the parameters set out in the NCAA manual would probably fall under this, since they would provide, theoretically, a more than minimal recruiting advantage.

Level I—Severe breach of conduct. These are violations that seriously undermine or threaten the integrity of the NCAA collegiate model as set forth in the Constitution and bylaws, including any violation that provides or is intended to provide a substantial or extensive recruiting, competitive or other advantage, or a substantial or extensive impermissible benefit. Boosters paying players to come attend their school, lavishing gifts and cars upon them and their families would most likely fall under the new level one.

There are two other changes worth noting, according to the release from the NCAA. The number of voting members of the Committee on Infractions will expand to 24 from the current number of 10. That way, smaller panels could be assembled to help speed up the review time of cases.

Also, head coaches will be held accountable for incidents that occur under their watch. Penalties for head coaches that have violations occur under them could include suspensions as long as an entire season. According to the NCAA, since 2008 there have been about a dozen cases where the head coach of a program violated NCAA Bylaw 11.1.2.1 (focused on head coach responsibility) by either not monitoring their staff and/or fostering a “culture of compliance.”

Under the new structure, the head coach does not have the stance of plausible deniability. Instead, it is presumed that the head coach has knowledge of the actions of their staff, and if the head coach cannot overcome that presumption, then they are in violation.

NCAA President Mark Emmert said, “We have sought all along to remove the ‘risk-reward’ analysis that has tempted people – often because of the financial pressures to win at all costs – to break the rules in the hopes that either they won’t be caught or that the consequences won’t be very harsh if they do get caught. The new system the Board adopted [Tuesday] is the result of a lot of hard work and membership input devoted to protecting the collegiate model.”

Oregon State president Ed Ray, chair of the Enforcement Working Group, said in the NCAA statement that the new violations structure allows for infractions to be more appropriately categorized, which will allow for penalties to be prescribed that reflect the severity of the infraction.

The new enforcement structure becomes effective August 1, 2013. Conduct breaches that occur after October 30, 2012 and are processed after August 1, 2013 will be subject to the new enforcement standards.

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