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Publish date: Feb 21, 2011

Enforcement to give football a closer look

By Michelle Brutlag Hosick

The NCAA enforcement staff will focus on football recruiting in a new way in the coming months, a project Vice President of Enforcement Julie Roe Lach has discussed with member institutions and the media since assuming her new position last fall.

Julie Roe Lach.

The initiative – which is not guaranteed to lead to a football-focused, dedicated staff like the Basketball Focus Group – is part of a collaboration between the major-enforcement and agents, gambling and amateurism staff. The latter group made headlines last summer for uncovering various agent-related violations among football student-athletes at several Division I institutions.

Five investigators from major-enforcement and two from the agents, gambling and amateurism staff will spend the next several months building relationships in the football recruiting world (both scholastic and non-scholastic) and gathering information about what is happening in that sport. AGA Director Rachel Newman Baker will lead the group. The intent is to make sure the enforcement staff becomes as knowledgeable about football recruiting as it has grown to be about basketball recruiting.

“We have an idea of what’s going on, but we don’t want to assume anything,” Lach said. “We are trying to find out what the issues are that we need to be tackling. The idea is just to get more information.”

That process, still in its infancy, is designed to help the enforcement staff be as efficient and effective as possible. The investigators are learning as much as they can about the recruiting environment and are making contacts in both the scholastic and non-scholastic worlds. With the non-scholastic environment in the sport beginning to rise in importance, the enforcement staff hopes to be as involved as early as possible to head off potential problems.

“We want to build up the sense that we know what’s going on and people trust that we know what’s going on,” Newman Baker said.

Newman Baker and Jason Montgomery, assistant director of enforcement, agree that the linkage of the major-enforcement and agents, gambling and amateurism staffs is important. The two groups have worked together on several recent cases, and the staff expects that trend to continue.

The AGA staff’s recent success in uncovering violations related to extra benefits from agents will provide a good foundation for the investigators from major-enforcement who are focusing on football.

“What’s great about Rachel leading the group is the credibility she’s already developed with agents and the educational efforts her group has already started,” Montgomery said. “They have resources that we can use.”

Newman Baker said she hopes that the enforcement staff can become a resource for athletics administrators and coaches with questions about the recruiting environment in football. But first the group will spend time gathering information and building contacts. Then, it will take what it was learned to college coaches and ask if it is on the right track.

“If we are, what can we do about it?” Newman Baker said. “Is it legislation that needs to be changed? Do we need a stronger enforcement presence? We will take it from there.”