The media reports concerning NCAA investigations of the athletics programs (including coaches and student-athletes within the programs) at Ohio State University, Auburn University, University of Oregon and other institutions highlight an important facet of the NCAA enforcement process. Specifically, NCAA legislation mandates that institutions (including employees and student-athletes) are obligated to cooperate with the NCAA enforcement staff during an investigation of alleged rules-violations. Two NCAA bylaws form the basis of this principal.
Bylaw 32.1.4 states:
“The cooperative principle imposes an affirmative obligation on each institution to assist the enforcement staff in developing full information to determine whether a possible violation of NCAA legislation has occurred and the details thereof. An important element of the cooperative principle requires that all individuals who are subject to NCAA rules protect the integrity of an investigation. A failure to do so may be a violation of the principles of ethical conduct. The enforcement staff will usually share information with the institution during an investigation; however, it is understood that the staff, to protect the integrity of the investigation, may not in all instances be able to share information with the institution.”
Bylaw 32.3.11 declares:
“In the event that a representative of an institution refuses to submit relevant information to the Committee on Infractions or the enforcement staff on request, a notice of inquiry may be filed with the institution alleging a violation of the cooperative principles of the NCAA bylaws and enforcement procedures. Institutional representatives and the involved individual may be requested to appear before the Committee on Infractions at the time the allegation is considered.”
One important thing to remember is that although an institution and involved parties are required to “cooperate”, the obligation does not prevent the parties from asserting a vigorous defense. Accordingly, institutions and coaches are more likely to retain law firms (such as the Michael L. Buckner Law Firm) to represent their interests and defenses during the NCAA enforcement process.