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Division I Board of Directors endorses sweeping changes to enforcement model

The Division I Board of Directors on Thursday endorsed sweeping recommendations to change the NCAA’s enforcement model.

The Board stopped short of a binding vote, allowing the membership until its October meeting to voice final feedback on the recommendations.

 The working group outlined its final recommendations for the Board of Directors.

The Committee on Infractions will follow this basic process when reviewing a case.

The working group outlined a set of standard penalties for certain violations.

Proposed changes to Bylaw 11.

Proposed changes to Bylaw 19.

“Our intention is to make this real in October,” said Chair Ed Ray, president at Oregon State and chair of the working group which made the recommended changes. “We want the membership to have a final review. We will listen to compelling arguments for additional changes, but this is the recommendation with all the feedback we’ve gathered since our first report in January and second detailed report in April.”

The recommendations, which would take effect August 1, 2013, would dramatically change how the NCAA handles enforcement cases. Among the changes:

  • Switching from the current two-tier violation structure to four tiers, to provide more flexibility.
  • Increasing the size of the Committee on Infractions, which hears all the cases, from 10 up to 24.  This would allow panels formed from this larger pool to hear cases on a more regular basis and allow cases to be resolved more efficiently.
  • Expanding the make-up of the committee members to include current or former university presidents, vice presidents or other senior administrators, current and former directors of athletics, former NCAA coaches, conference officials, faculty, athletics administrators with compliance experience and members of the general public with a legal background.
  • Creating new penalty guidelines to hold those who step outside the accepted code of conduct more accountable for their actions. The new guidelines would allow the Committee some discretion, although limited, in prescribing penalties while also assuring stronger and consistently applied penalties.
  • Enforcing the fact that head coaches set the tone and culture for compliance within the program. When there is failure by the head coach to fulfill these expectations, the new enforcement model holds head coaches individually accountable.  

Ray told the Board coaches want change: “Coaches come to me and say, ‘I feel like a chump. I’m trying to do things the right way and I have peers who laugh at me because I don’t play the game and bend the rules the way they do.’

“That’s got to stop ... Most coaches are terrific people who love their student-athletes, try to do it the right way, try to have the right values and succeed. They’re very frustrated. This has got to stop. I think most coaches are saying it’s about time. We want a level playing field.”

Here is a breakdown of the recommendations:

Violation Structure

The Board endorsed a four-tier violation structure to more appropriately recognize the varying levels of infractions:

Level I: Severe breach of conduct

A violation which seriously undermines or threatens the integrity of the NCAA enduring values (student-athlete success, the collegiate model, amateurism as a student model, competitive equity), including any violation which provides or is intended to provide a significant recruiting or competitive advantage, or a significant impermissible benefit. Multiple violations from other categories may collectively be considered a severe breach of conduct. Individual conduct that is unethical may be classified as a severe breach of conduct, even if the underlying institutional violations are not classified in this category.

Level II: Significant breach of conduct

A violation that provides or is intended to provide minimal to significant recruiting or competitive advantage; or includes a minimal to significant impermissible benefit; or involves a pattern of systemic violations in a particular area. Multiple violations from other, less-serious categories may collectively be considered a significant breach of conduct. Some limited individual conduct that is unethical or dishonest may be classified as in this category, even if the underlying institutional violations are not classified as significant.

Level III: Breach of Conduct

A violation that is isolated or limited in nature; provides no more than a minimal recruiting, competitive or other advantage; and does not include more than a minimal impermissible benefit. Multiple Level IV violations may collectively be considered a breach of conduct.

Level IV: Incidental Issue

An incidental infraction is a minor infraction that is inadvertent and isolated, technical in nature and results in a negligible, if any, competitive advantage.  Level IV  infractions generally will not impact eligibility for intercollegiate athletics. 

Cases involving severe and significant breaches of conduct will be further categorized into three sublevels based on the presence of aggravating or mitigating factors.

Expansion of the Committee

The working group recommended a larger and more diverse infractions committee because it would strengthen the committee by bringing valuable insights from multiple perspectives. The committee chair will be selected through the governance process. For allegations involving severe or significant breaches of conduct, five to seven committee members will be randomly selected to hear the cases.

Increasing the size of the committee means more panels are available to hear cases without placing undue burden on individual members and also increasing the efficiency of the process.

Enhanced Penalties  

The new presumptive guidelines will allow the committee some discretion in prescribing penalties within the defined ranges while also assuring stronger and consistently applied penalties.  

Once the overall classification of the institution’s case is decided (i.e., severe or significant), the committee will then assess whether aggravating factors such as multiple breaches of conduct or a history of severe or significant breaches of conduct exist. If so, the seriousness of the case (or sublevel) will be elevated and the ranges from which the committee will apply penalties will likewise be stronger.  The committee will also apply reduced penalties in cases with mitigating factors such as exemplary cooperation, self-detection and self-disclosure, and it is determined that those mitigating factors outweigh any aggravating factors.

The committee will have the discretion to increase core penalties or prescribe more lenient core penalties, if the committee finds that an extenuating circumstance exists.  It is expected that any deviation from the guidelines would be rare. 

In addition to penalties from the core group, the committee will have the discretion to prescribe other penalties as appropriate, many of which are currently available to the committee in the current rulebook.

Accountability of those in charge

The new enforcement model stipulates that when there is failure by the head coach to create a culture of integrity and direct his/her staff to uphold NCAA bylaws, the head coach will be held individually accountable.  

The possible penalties available include head coach suspensions through show cause orders for severe and significant breaches of conduct committed by a member of the head coach’s staff.  There is a presumption of responsibility by the head coach for his/her staff’s actions.  If the coach cannot overcome that presumption, the penalty range includes suspensions from 10 to 100% of the season.

Further, presidents and directors of athletics (and/or other senior administrators who oversee athletics) must be held accountable for oversight of their athletics programs. The group recommends publically identifying these individuals should an “institutional control” or “failure to monitor” violations occur.

In other action, the Board:

  • Named Wake Forest President Nathan Hatch Board chair through August 2014. Hatch’s election follows the selection of Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon to lead the Executive Committee.
  • Continued its support for a miscellaneous expense allowance for student-athletes, and asked the staff to continue seeking membership input on an appropriate method to benefit student-athletes.
  • Heard an update from the Transforming Collegiate Athletics: Rules Working Group and endorsed a timeline that calls for the first vote on revised rules to come in January 2013.