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College Sports, Division I, Education

2011 Athletics Compliance Survey Shows NCAA Division I Universities Need to Boost Compliance Staff and Monitoring Programs

The following post is an excerpt from an article that will appear in the October 31, 2011, issue of the College Athletics Best Practices newsletter, which is published by the Michael L. Buckner Law Firm.

The average NCAA Division I institution only employs two full-time compliance employees and does not rely on formal proactive monitoring programs, according to the results of the 2011 Athletics Compliance Survey, which were released today.

The Athletics Compliance Survey was conducted by the Michael L. Buckner Law Firm, which advises universities on NCAA enforcement investigations and compliance matters. The Buckner Law Firm commissioned the survey to assist Division I athletics departments with identifying NCAA rules-compliance trends, issues and best practices. The survey, which was conducted over the July 12, 2011, to August 1, 2011, period, was completed by athletics administrators and staff from 76 NCAA member institutions with at least one Division I sports program. Specifically, the following data represent the survey respondents’ divisional and sub-divisional categories:

•Division I-FBS (35)
•Division I-FCS (28)
•Division I (no football) (10)
•Division II (with at least one Division I sport) (2)
•Division III (with at least one Division I sport) (1).

Compliance Staff

According to the survey, Division I institutions employ an average of two (2) full-time administrators and staff in the athletics compliance office (or three (3) persons if the faculty athletics representative or another faculty member with compliance-related duties is counted). However, the Michael L. Buckner Law Firm recommends Division I institutions hire a minimum of three (3) full-time employees that are assigned to the athletics compliance office. Further, the law firm advises schools to increase the number of compliance staff beyond three FTE based on several institutional factors, including: number of student-athletes; number of sports programs; history of major rules-violations; number of boosters; number of high-profile athletes; and the athletics department’s mission and vision. The lack of sufficient (and experienced) compliance staff hinders institutions from maintaining institutional control and demonstrating proactive monitoring—two core NCAA membership requirements.

Interestingly, in Division I-Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), institutions hire an average of three (3) full-time administrators/staff/interns (or four (4) persons if the faculty athletics representative or another faculty member with compliance-related duties is counted) and one (1) part-time intern/volunteer in the athletics compliance office. Conversely, in Division I-Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), institutions hire an average of two (2) full-time administrators and staff (or three (3) persons if the faculty athletics representative or another faculty member with compliance-related duties is counted) in the athletics compliance office.

Lack of Monitoring Programs

The recent increase in the number of NCAA enforcement investigations involving high-profile student-athletes and third-parties (e.g., sports agents, AAU coaches, street agents, sports marketers) justifies institutions implementing proactive monitoring programs. In fact, the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions in the June 10, 2010, University of Southern California enforcement case advised schools “close monitoring and follow through on information must be employed”. The Committee on Infractions also informed institutions “to heed clear warning signs”. Division I institutions can fulfill the committee’s directives through the use of comprehensive, formal monitoring programs. Unfortunately, the survey revealed the average Division I institution does not rely on monitoring programs, processes or procedures in all crucial compliance areas. At the highest point, 71.1 percent of Division I institutions use a formal program to register and monitor the summer employment-related activities of student-athletes. However, registration and monitoring programs, processes or procedures in other areas are not as commonplace in Division I. For example, only 59.2 percent of schools have a vehicle registration program and just 57.9 percent of universities use an athlete/sports agent program. Most troubling, monitoring programs in other compliance areas are rare:

•Local merchant program (28.6%)
•Social-network monitoring program (28.6%)
•High-profile student-athlete program (14.3%).

Compliance Decision-making: Eligibility and Financial-Aid

The survey provided insight on which institutional staff member has been designated as the point person concerning decisions in core compliance processes. For example, the person or office that is most responsible for making eligibility-certification determinations (i.e., initial, transfer and continuing) at Division I institutions is either the registrar (or designee) (37.8%) or the athletics compliance staff (33.8%). Further, the person or office that is most responsible for making financial-aid determinations at Division I institutions is either the financial-aid director (or designee) (52.6%) or the athletics compliance staff (47.4%).

Rules-Education

The Michael L. Buckner Law Firm recommends using diverse methods to educate persons on NCAA legislation, including, but not limited to: workshops; newsletters; e-mails; videos; online tools; and small-group discussions. The law firm also recommends institutions maintain a high frequency (e.g., weekly, monthly) of distributing or reviewing rules-education materials to the targeted population.

The survey revealed Division I institutions use e-mail as the primary method to disseminate rules-education. Further, the survey identified the average frequency and form of rules-education to the following constituencies and groups:

•Coaches (weekly, 44.1%; e-mail)
•Athletics staff (monthly, 47.8%; e-mail)
•Athletics administrators (monthly, 44.1%; e-mail)
•University employees with athletically-related duties (quarterly, 28.4%; e-mail)
•Trustees/regents (annually, 34.3%; newsletters/memos)
•Booster/alum groups (semi-annually, 29.4%; newsletters/memos).

Compliance Manual

Written policies and procedures, which are commonly compiled in a compliance manual, are one way to demonstrate institutional control. The survey noted most Division I institutions (94.1%) possess a written athletics compliance manual. Surprisingly, 5.9 percent of persons who responded to the survey admitted that their institutions do not have a compliance manual.

Compliance Audits

NCAA Bylaw 22.2.1.2-(e) requires each institution to demonstrate that “at least once every four years, its rules-compliance program is the subject of evaluation by an authority outside the athletics department”. The survey indicates 54.4 percent of schools perform the required external audit once every four years. Moreover, according to the survey, 23.5 percent of schools conduct annual audits, 5.9 percent complete an evaluation every two years and 13.2 percent undergo a compliance review every three years. However, 2.9 percent of schools never conducted an external compliance audit.

Secondary Violations

Finally, the survey indicated Division I institutions self-report an average of 10.5 secondary rules-violations during the 2010-11 academic year.

Full Survey Results

A summary of, and raw data for, the results of the 2011 Athletics Compliance Survey can be purchased by visting our survey results purchase page (which can be visited by clicking here) or by contacting Michael L. Buckner (954-941-1844; mbuckner@michaelbucknerlaw.com).

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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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