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College Sports, Division I, Education

NCAA Secondary Case Review: Institutional Policies

The Michael L. Buckner Law Firm continues its educational series on NCAA legislation through a review of selected cases involving secondary rules-violations. Today’s post reviews a secondary case involving a violation of the following NCAA legislation:

NCAA Bylaw 13.6.1-Institutional Policies. 

An institution must have written departmental policies related to official visits that apply to prospective student-athletes, student hosts, coaches and other athletics administrators that are approved by the institution’s president or chancellor and kept on file at the institution and conference office. The institution is responsible for the development and enforcement of appropriate policies and penalties regarding specified areas, as identified by the NCAA Division I Board of Directors. The institution shall have an outside entity (e.g., conference office) evaluate its policies related to official visits once every four years. The institution may be held accountable through the NCAA enforcement program for activities that clearly demonstrate a disregard for its stated policies.  (Adopted: 8/5/04, Revised: 3/8/06)

The bylaw was cited in Secondary Case Number 48127 (decided on November 10, 2011 [Division: I Involved Sport: Football]), which is summarized below:

Facts: On several occasions during the 2010-2011 academic year, the institution’s football program disregarded the written departmental policies related to official visits. Specifically, during two official visits in October 2010, and four official visits in January 2011, the six football student-athletes allowed the prospective student-athletes to be in the presence of alcohol consumption at off-campus gatherings. While neither the prospective student-athletes nor the student-athlete hosts consumed alcohol during these occasions, the institutional official visit policy expressly prohibits prospective student-athletes to be in the presence of alcohol consumption, as well as the expenditure of student-athlete host monies to be properly accounted for and recorded. Further, the policy mandates that each student-athlete host be informed of permissible official visit activities, and each student-athlete host must sign the student-athlete host form that details the policy. However, the six student-athletes understood the policy to permit the student-athlete hosts and the prospective student-athletes to be in attendance at such gatherings as long as neither the student-athlete hosts nor the prospective student-athletes were consuming alcohol. In addition, the football operations assistant (MFB Asst) failed to follow the institutional official visit policy when he did not arrange in-person, follow-up interviews with each student-athlete host after each official visit. Specifically, the MFB Asst was to document the chronology of the official visit and where the student-athlete host had spent the host money provided by the institution. Additionally, the MFB Asst falsified information on 12 reports about the locations where the student-athlete hosts and the prospective student-athletes ate during the visits. The MFB Asst admitted he did not interview the student-athlete hosts, but that he filled in the information himself. The institution determined the student-athlete hosts typically took the prospective student-athletes to fast food restaurants that were not in violation of the institutional policy. Finally, the football recruiting operations specialist (Specialist), who was interviewed by the institution regarding this matter, failed to maintain the confidential nature and substance of the institutional interview. Specifically, the Specialist conveyed information from his interview to the football coaching staff immediately following the interview. The violations were discovered when the associate athletics director of compliance conducted a customary, random spot-check of post-campus visit documentation and conducted interviews with the student-athlete hosts.

Additional Facts: None.

Institution Action: The six involved SAs will be disciplined by the chancellor in cooperation with the institution’s AD who both determined that each of the involved SAs will be withheld from one contest during the Fall 2011 football season. Each of the involved SAs will not be allowed to travel to, dress for, stand on the sidelines or participate in this contest. In addition, none of the involved SAs will be permitted to serve as hosts for any PSA during 2011-12 academic year. Letter of reprimand issued to MFB Asst and all recruiting forms completed by the MFB Asst will be reviewed in detail by compliance. Letter of reprimand issued to Specialist. Institution will carry out review of its practices in educating staff, SAs and PSAs on the institution’s recruitment of PSAs policy, which includes the official visit summary forms. Institution will require head coach or assistant coach designee on behalf of head coach, to speak to student hosts regarding importance of adherence to institution policy, again immediately prior to beginning of the official visit period. Institution policy is updated and reviewed on an annual basis, and is reviewed with each SA as they matriculate to the institution, with rules education sessions offered each summer, reviewed again with all SAs during the first team compliance meeting with each sport program in August and again in January. SAs complete a written quiz. Institution’s FAR conducts rules education session with all sport teams throughout the year as well as with all members of the institution’s coaching staff including importance of “not in the presence of alcohol or drugs” clause. Policy is distributed to each member of the coaching staff, non-coaching staff members and sport-specific staff members to ensure everyone involved in recruiting process is fully aware of its expectations.

Enforcement Action: The enforcement staff is extremely concerned about the MFB Asst’s and Specialist’s conduct with regard to this matter and seriously considered finding each individual in violation of NCAA Bylaw 10.1. In that regard, it was determined that the case should be classified as secondary and that the institution should be required to suspend MFB Asst and the Specialist from all athletically related activities for a period of one week.

Eligibility Action: STAFF: None.

Rationale: STAFF: None.

The Michael L. Buckner Law Firm recommends institutions: (a) review the secondary report summarized above; and (b) enhance any relevant aspects of the institution’s rules-compliance program to address the issues contained in the report.

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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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