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College Sports, Education

UNC Thorp’s Secondary Rules-Violation: A Reminder to “Remind” Your Presidents and Chancellors About Publicity and Recruits

According to an August 5, 2011, report by WRALSportsFan.com, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill self-reported a secondary rules-violation involving a statement made by UNC Chancellor Dr. Holden Thorp during a media interview.

In an August 4, 2011, interview with the News & Observer, Dr. Thorp was asked “about former head coach Butch Davis’ son Drew Davis being offered a scholarship to play at UNC”. According to the media report, the chancellor responded:

“Drew is a good kid, and I feel bad for him in all this. And for all I know, we would love to have him on the football team. But with everything going on, it would be good for the athletic director and the coach to talk about that and probably for all three of us to talk.”

Dr. Thorp’s comment violated NCAA Bylaw 13.10.9 (Media Releases Regarding Signing), which states:

“Publicity released by an institution concerning a prospective student-athlete’s commitment to attend the institution shall occur only after the prospective student-athlete has signed a National Letter of Intent or after the prospective student-athlete’s signed acceptance of the institution’s written offer of admission and/or financial aid. Such communications (with no limit on number or content) may be released to media outlets at the institution’s discretion except as limited by Bylaw 13.10.9.2. However, an institution is prohibited from purchasing or receiving commercial advertising (e.g., print, media or billboard) to be used to identify a prospective student-athlete by name or picture.”

A violation of Bylaw 13.10.9 is considered a secondary violation and “de minimis” in nature (and, therefore, deemed an institutional violation per NCAA Constitution 2.8.1). However, the involved prospective student-athlete’s eligibility is not be affected by the violation.

An April 23, 1986, Education Column prepared by the then NCAA Administrative Committee and Council “affirmed” NCAA legislation “limit[s] the type of public statement or announcement that may be made by a member institution about the commitment of a prospective student-athlete to attend the institution (i.e., such an announcement shall be limited to indicating the prospect’s signed acceptance of the institution’s written offer of admission as a student and shall be limited to communications in those media forms normally utilized by the institution); however, it was agreed that this bylaw does not apply to subsequent comments by the institution’s coaching staff members about the abilities of the prospect when those comments are in response to inquiries from the news media.”

The Michael L. Buckner Law Firm recommends institutions provide rules-education materials and/or include in a workshop a refresher on the restrictions imposed by NCAA Bylaw 13.10.9.

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About Michael L. Buckner, Esquire

An attorney who provides clients with internal investigation, civil litigation, estate planning and compliance services.

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