The NCAA enforcement investigation of the University of Miami athletics program has generated several questions on boosters (including NCAA rules limiting booster activity). Specifically, Yahoo! Sports reported Nevin Shapiro, a former Miami booster who is serving a 20-year prison sentence for operating a $930 million Ponzi scheme, allegedly provided impermissible benefits to approximately 72 UM football student-athletes and other student-athletes between 2002 and 2010. Shapiro allegedly provided money, cars, yacht trips, jewelry, televisions, meals and other gifts to former or current UM prospective and enrolled student-athletes.
Shapiro is considered a “representative of the institution’s athletics interests” (also referred to as a “booster”). NCAA legislation regulates booster activities. This post provides the definition of a booster, as well as some of the most general NCAA-imposed prohibitions on booster activities.
NCAA Bylaw 13.02.14 (Representative of Athletics Interests) defines a “representative of the institution’s athletics interests” (“booster”) as “an individual, independent agency, corporate entity (e.g., apparel or equipment manufacturer) or other organization who is known (or who should have been known) by a member of the institution’s executive or athletics administration to:
(a) Have participated in or to be a member of an agency or organization promoting the institution’s intercollegiate athletics program;
(b) Have made financial contributions to the athletics department or to an athletics booster organization of that institution;
(c) Be assisting or to have been requested (by the athletics department staff) to assist in the recruitment of prospective student-athletes;
(d) Be assisting or to have assisted in providing benefits to enrolled student-athletes or their families; or
(e) Have been involved otherwise in promoting the institution’s athletics program.”
NCAA Constitution 6.4.1 also has a similar definition for boosters. Under NCAA Bylaw 13.02.14.1 (Duration of Status), “once an individual, independent agency, corporate entity or other organization is identified as such a representative, the person, independent agency, corporate entity or other organization retains that identity indefinitely”.
NCAA legislation limits booster involvement in the recruitment of prospective student-athletes (“recruits). For instance, NCAA Bylaw 13.2.1 (General Regulation) states:
An institution’s staff member or any representative of its athletics interests shall not be involved, directly or indirectly, in making arrangements for or giving or offering to give any financial aid or other benefits to a prospective student-athlete or his or her relatives or friends, other than expressly permitted by NCAA regulations. Receipt of a benefit by a prospective student-athlete or his or her relatives or friends is not a violation of NCAA legislation if it is determined that the same benefit is generally available to the institution’s prospective students or their relatives or friends or to a particular segment of the student body (e.g., international students, minority students) determined on a basis unrelated to athletics ability.
Also, NCAA Bylaw 184.108.40.206 (Specific Prohibitions) lists specifically-prohibited financial-aid, benefits and arrangements include that can be offered or provided to prospects:
(a) An employment arrangement for a prospective student-athlete’s relatives;
(b) Gift of clothing or equipment;
(c) Cosigning of loans;
(d) Providing loans to a prospective student-athlete’s relatives or friends;
(e) Cash or like items;
(f) Any tangible items, including merchandise;
(g) Free or reduced-cost services, rentals or purchases of any type;
(h) Free or reduced-cost housing;
(i) Use of an institution’s athletics equipment (e.g., for a high school all-star game);
(j) Sponsorship of or arrangement for an awards banquet for high school, preparatory school or two-year-college athletes by an institution, representatives of its athletics interests or its alumni groups or booster clubs; and
(k) Expenses for academic services (e.g., tutoring, test preparation) to assist in the completion of initial-eligibility or transfer-eligibility requirements or improvement of the prospective student-athlete’s academic profile in conjunction with a waiver request. (Adopted: 4/23/08)
NCAA legislation prohibits any person or entity, including boosters, from providing enrolled student-athletes with an extra-benefit. NCAA Bylaw 16.02.3 (Extra-Benefit) defines an “extra-benefit” as “any special arrangement by an institutional employee or a representative of the institution’s athletics interests to provide a student-athlete or the student-athlete’s relative or friend a benefit not expressly authorized by NCAA legislation. Receipt of a benefit by student-athletes or their relatives or friends is not a violation of NCAA legislation if it is demonstrated that the same benefit is generally available to the institution’s students or their relatives or friends or to a particular segment of the student body (e.g., international students, minority students) determined on a basis unrelated to athletics ability.” NCAA Bylaw 220.127.116.11 (General Rule) notes that the “receipt of a benefit (including otherwise prohibited extra benefits per Bylaw 16.11.2) by student-athletes, their relatives or friends is not a violation of NCAA rules if it is demonstrated that the same benefit is generally available to the institution’s students and their relatives or friends”.