Behind the Blue Disk

Publish date: Jun 21, 2011

NCAA Rules Enforcement: For the Good of the Game

Why does the NCAA have a rules enforcement process? The rules enforcement process is designed to ensure integrity and fair play among NCAA schools. Schools that abide by the rules should not be competitively disadvantaged.

How does the NCAA find out that schools are breaking the rules? Some of the more common sources of information are credible tips from the public and schools self-reporting violations.

What are secondary violations? Secondary violations are isolated or inadvertent and provide only minimal recruiting, competitive or other advantages. They do not involve significant impermissible recruiting inducements or extra benefits. If a school commits multiple secondary violations, the violations may be collectively considered a major infraction. Secondary violations are usually resolved administratively, occur frequently and are not typically made public.

What is a major violation? Major violations usually provide an extensive recruiting or competitive advantage. These infractions are investigated by NCAA enforcement staff and can lead to significant penalties against the school and involved individuals.

Does the NCAA have subpoena power? No. The NCAA constitution obligates schools to cooperate fully during investigations, but the lack of subpoena power normally associated with law enforcement agencies can present investigative challenges.

What happens during an investigation? Preliminary information is reviewed by the investigator(s) assigned to the case. The investigator first tries to speak with the source who reported the potential violation. Usually, the enforcement staff conducts interviews both on and off campus. To protect the integrity of the case, the staff will often gather as much information as possible before contacting those directly involved in an alleged violation. In addition to conducting interviews, the enforcement staff usually obtains significant supporting documentation such as recruiting logs, phone records, compliance files, academic records, emails, bank statements and credit card receipts.

Why does it seem to take so long for the process to work? It’s a complicated process that must be done correctly to ensure it is fair. It takes time to conduct interviews, collect supporting documentation, research leads and compile the actual report. If there are multiple violations, each violation must be thoroughly investigated. The uncovering of additional information can lead to more possible infractions that must be investigated. The involved schools may request additional time to respond to allegations. In the end, a standard of proof must be met before alleging a rules violation. There can be no rush to judgment.

How are the penalties decided? If the enforcement staff concludes its investigation and believes major violations occurred, the case is then considered by the committee on infractions during a hearing or, when all parties agree on the violations, through a written summary disposition report. The committee then writes a report that documents its specific findings, the penalties and supporting rationale for each. The penalties are intended to deter schools from breaking the rules and to eliminate any competitive advantage.

Can penalties be appealed? Yes. An infractions appeals committee, independent of the infractions committee, hears any appeals from either the institution or the involved individual on the findings, the penalties or both.