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College Sports, Division I

NCAA Enforcement Model Update

On August 2, 2012, the NCAA Division I Board of Directors announced the board’s endorsement of    possible changes to the NCAA’s current enforcement model. Moving forward, the membership will have an opportunity for additional input on the current recommendations through October 2012. Once changes are finalized, they would be effective on August 1, 2013.

Highlights of the updated model would include the following:

  • A four-tier violation structure;
  • Altering the membership of the Committee on Infractions (including: increasing the total membership; rotating panels of members to hear cases, expanding the make-up to include current or former university presidents, vice presidents or other senior administrators, current and former directors of athletics, former NCAA coaches, conference officials, faculty, athletics administrators with compliance experience and members of the general public with a legal background.);
  • Implementation of new penalty guidelines; and
  • Higher individual accountability for head coaches.

One of the more interesting additions would be the use of penalty guidelines by the Committee on Infractions. The guidelines, which would be somewhat akin to the United States Federal Sentencing Guidelines, would have the goal of assuring stronger and consistently applied penalties for enforcement cases. According to the report, the Committee on Infractions would use the following process in determining appropriate penalties for a case:

  1. The Committee on Infractions will determine what violations of NCAA legislation have occurred;
  2. The Committee on Infractions will determine the appropriate level for each violation (i.e., Level 1 (severe), Level II (significant));
  3. The Committee on Infractions will review and apply any aggravating factors or mitigating circumstances to the proposed violation level (i.e., exemplary cooperation, self-detection and self-disclosure);
  4. The Committee on Infractions will slot the case into the penalty guidelines based on the outcome of steps 2 and 3 and will determine the appropriate penalties.

Although the purpose of the system would be to apply more consistent penalties, the report reveals the Committee on Infractions would still have discretion to “increase core penalties or prescribe more lenient core penalties.” While the report suggests any deviation from the guidelines would be “rare,” it is impossible to ascertain the actual effect this “out-clause” would have until the new system is actually implemented and tested. Should this “out-clause” be exercised consistently on a subjective basis the new model would essentially be a reformatted version of the current system.

Another interesting addition would be increased responsibility for head coaches. The new model includes penalties for a head coach that could include suspensions through show cause orders for severe and significant breaches of conduct committed by a member of the head coach’s staff. If a member of a head coach’s staff were to commit a severe or serious breach of conduct as dictated by the guidelines the burden would be on the head coach prove they were not “responsible” for the action taken by the breaching staff member. This presumption would not just include involvement in or ratification of a breaching staff member’s actions but would also include negligent supervision. This presumption essentially would render a head coach guilty, unless they could prove their own innocence.

According to the report, this presumption would only apply to head coaches and not be extended to an institution’s president, athletic director or other senior administrators. The working group recommended “public identification” of these individuals should an “institutional control” or “failure to monitor” violation occur.

The full story and report can be found here.

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About Justin P. Sievert, Esquire

Bar Admissions (North Carolina, Florida and Tennessee) Practice Area (College Sports Law)

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