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Publish date: Apr 28, 2011

DI Board approves changes to clarify roles of infractions and appeals committees

By Michelle Brutlag Hosick

The Division I Board of Directors approved Thursday a series of recommendations intended to clarify the roles of the Committee on Infractions and Infractions Appeals Committee, adopting legislation and making a series of policy changes designed to enhance the infractions process.

The recommendations are the result of a task force study of the relationship between the two groups, prompted by a 2006 review of the enforcement policies and procedures that resulted in recommended changes in both the enforcement staff processes and the Committee on Infractions and Infractions Appeals Committee processes. The task force was charged with reviewing the implementation of those recommendations and drew its members from both the Committee on Infractions and the Infractions Appeals Committee as well as the Division I Board of Directors and the national office staff.

With the help of an outside consultant, the task force identified 19 areas of study that provided the backdrop for the recommendations presented to the Board Thursday. The recommendations were developed using a variety of resources, including interviews with staff, committee members, membership representative and attorneys that represented institutions in the infractions process.

The legislative changes would:

  1. Revise the duties of the coordinators of appeals to reflect the current practice of the person holding that position participating in the discussions during Committee on Infractions deliberations. The task force members said the input of the appeals coordinators is a valuable resource during deliberations. The coordinator would continue as a nonvoting member of the committee.
  2. Change the name of the NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee hearing to the NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee oral argument. The meetings are not hearings in that they do not include the submission of evidence or witness testimony. The committee hears oral presentations of the party’s position and the reasoning behind it.
  3. Clarify that the Committee on Infractions may ask, during deliberations, the academic and membership affairs staff for a ruling on facts submitted by the committee. Institutions would be advised at the conclusion of a hearing that such advice might be sought if necessary. The regular interpretive process – with the opportunity for a school to appeal an interpretation – would apply and would be completed prior to the public release of the Committee on Infractions report.

The Board also recommended the Committee on Infractions, Infractions Appeals Committee and NCAA national office take the following actions to help clarify further the roles of the two groups:

  1. Add a staff member to the national office’s Committee on Infractions’ staff. This person would assist the volunteer appeals coordinators in responding to appeals in an effort to balance the significant resources often spent on appeals by institutions and reduce the burden on the appeals coordinators, who have full-time jobs apart from their volunteer positions.
  2. Endorse the NCAA enforcement staff’s creation of a document designed to provide guidance to institutions and involved individuals regarding the responsibilities of all parties as it relates to the cooperative principle during investigations.
  3. Remind the membership in LSDBi and in committee policies and procedures that Committee on Infractions and Infractions Appeals Committee reports in prior cases are not binding in future cases. The reports do not reflect all of the facts and circumstances considered by a committee, rules may have changed, committee members have likely changed and no two set of facts are exactly the same. Those appearing before the committees should focus on the conduct involved in the actual matter pending before the committees, not on prior cases.
  4. Create the Membership Infractions Advisory Group, with athletics directors as members. The group will meet once or twice annually with both committees and the enforcement staff, providing the opportunity for the group to discuss policies and issues not specific to particular cases.
  5. Consider new factors when appointing Committee on Infractions and Infractions Appeals Committee members, including diversity of experience and background and giving weight to people who have completed their service on one o the two groups who are interested in serving on the other. These opportunities should be balanced with those who are new to either group. Infractions Appeals Committee members must understand the limited role of the appellate review.
  6. Continue educational outreach to the membership by both committees and the enforcement staff
  7. Establish regular periodic meetings between the Committee on Infractions and Infractions Appeals Committee (and chairs and vice chairs)
  8. Continue or establish orientation and ongoing continuing education of Committee on Infractions and Infractions Appeals Committee members, including allowing new members to observe hearings and oral arguments; hearing presentations from enforcement, academic and membership affairs and general counsel staffs; and reviews of relevant rules, procedures and history.
  9. Consider the concept of a penalty discussion between the committee and institutions/involved individuals at the conclusion of hearings.
  10. Review the use of the press conference in the release of infractions reports.
  11. Continue the work of a task force subgroup clarifying communication between the enforcement staff, involved institutions and at-risk individuals with the Committee on Infractions post-hearing yet prior to release of the public infractions report. A report to the Board is expected in August 2011.

The work on the recommendations is expected to continue, with the concepts being further refined over the next several months.

In other business, the Board of Directors approved assigning a senior-level national office staff member the responsibility of nurturing Olympic sports at Division I member institutions.

Additionally, all legislation adopted by the Legislative Council earlier this month is now considered adopted.