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College Sports, Education

SI and CBS News’ Investigation of Football Players’ Criminal Background: Another Reminder to Conduct Due-Diligence Reviews

Sports Illustrated and CBS News “unveiled the results of an unprecedented investigation into the backgrounds of college football players”. The media organizations, over a six-month period, “conducted criminal background checks on all 2,837 players whose names appeared on the rosters of SI’s 2010 preseason Top 25 poll on Sept. 1”. SI and CBS News “turned up 204 players (7%) who had been charged with 277 incidents or crimes. Nearly 40 percent involved serious crime.” The Michael L. Buckner Law Firm has advocated for college and universities to conduct due-diligence reviews for all high-profile prospective and enrolled student-athletes. The SI and CBS News investigation underscores the importance of due-diligence review. The following checklist represents the minimum elements of a due-diligence review program:

1. Develop (for adoption by the institution’s governing board) a high-profile student-athlete due-diligence policy.
2. Create an objective (non-discriminatory) set of criteria to identify high-profile student-athletes (prospective and enrolled).
3. Implement the following registration and monitoring activities: a) sports agent/sports marketer/financial planner/investment adviser program; b) student-athlete vehicle registration program; c) student-athlete and parental housing registration program; and d) student-athlete employment program.
4. Increase monitoring activities of (and limit access to) the following areas: a) athletics facilities (including locker-rooms and practice areas); b) sidelines or other limited-access areas during athletics contests; and c) team-chartered transportation.
5. Monitor social-network and other Internet sites (including, but not limited to, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blogs and sports media websites).
6. Create a daily Google search/alert for compliance-related news on identified high-profile student-athletes.
7. Follow-up reports of high-profile student-athletes attending parties or other social gatherings hosted or organized by professional athletes, corporations, sports agents, runners, sports marketers, financial planners or investment advisers.
8. Require student-athletes to read and sign a statement acknowledging receipt and understanding of legislation and institutional policy concerning sports agents (as well as runners, sports marketers, financial planners and investment advisers), amateurism and extra-benefits.
9. Schedule mandatory rules-education sessions for student-athlete, coaches and staff on issues relating to sports agents (as well as runners, sports marketers, financial planners and investment advisers), amateurism and extra-benefits. [Note: Maintain attendance sheets, agenda and handouts.]
10. Address issues relating to sports agents (as well as runners, sports marketers, financial planners and investment advisers), amateurism and extra-benefits during at least one student-athlete advisory committee (SAAC) meeting each academic year.
11. Include questions relating to sports agents, runners, sports marketers, financial planners and investment advisers in student-athlete exit interviews (for seniors, transferring student-athletes or student-athletes without eligibility) and annual student-athlete surveys (for returning student-athletes).
12. Develop a database (or obtain access to already-established databases) of sports agents, runners, sports marketers, financial planners and investment advisers.
13. Provide student-athletes’ parents and guardians with summary of NCAA legislation and institutional policy concerning sports agents (as well as runners, sports marketers, financial planners and investment advisers), amateurism and extra-benefits.
14. Create an anonymous hotline to receive allegations, tips, questions or other information concerning illicit activity by sports agents, runners, sports marketers, financial planners and investment advisers (or other alleged rules-violations).
15. Address sports agents, runners, sports marketers, financial planners and investment advisers in regular rules-compliance audits.

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About Michael L. Buckner, Esquire

An attorney who provides clients with internal investigation, compliance, professional development and legal services.

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