At the NCAA Convention in San Antonio yesterday, President Mark Emmert discussed specifics about two issues he expects the NCAA Membership to take up in the near future. First, how to strength the bylaws in response to the Cam Newton case:
“It’s wrong for parents to sell the athletic services of their student athletes to a university, and we need to make sure that we have rules to stop that problem,” Emmert said. “And today we don’t. We have to fix that. Student athletes trading on their standing as star student athletes for money or benefits is not acceptable, and we need to address it and make sure it doesn’t happen.”
Second, President Emmert addressed a need for greater transparency in the reinstatement process, specifically as it relates to football and bowl games.
Emmert said the NCAA needs to review and make public who gets to play in bowl games when violations occur.
Another recent case, Enes Kanter’s permanent ineligibility, raises three issues that the membership should look at as well: penalties for some amateurism violations, the responsibility toward international prospects, and the nature of case precedent.
Considering that the NCAA now permits participation with professional teams, violations where compensation exceeds expenses are likely to be more common. In addition, the violations are likely to be the only violation, not layered on top of professional participation and delayed enrollment violations like many of the current cases. So its reasonable to ask if minimal expenses should result in permanently ineligibility or even significant penalties.
Any penalty structure the Division I membership is going to come up with would not help Enes Kanter. It would say “$X and above: eligibility not reinstated” and $X will be well below $33,000. But avoiding the potential nightmare “pocket money” scenario is not only a good idea but also can be done without allowing ex-professionals a path back to Division I eligibility.
Just as it’s important to not blame the NCAA for things that it isn’t responsible for, it’s important to not give credit to the NCAA for things it didn’t intend to do. Proposal 2009-22 never intended to help international student-athletes get eligible. Proposal 2009-22 recognized that you could no longer be sure that participation on a professional team was voluntary.
The NCAA membership has zero responsibility to accommodate international youth development systems. The responsibility is to not close our eyes to international youth sports and use it as evidence of whether the assumptions the NCAA regulations are based on are valid. Nothing has shown yet that receiving money is an involuntary act and thus should not be an amateurism violation.
Finally the University of Kentucky has raised significant concerns about how case precedent is handled. Specifically, the case has raised questions about how broadly high-profile and/or difficult cases can be interpreted as controlling on future cases. The current system right now requires a sort of critical mass. One case might not good as precedent, but multiple cases with roughly the same facts eventually start controlling cases more closely.
It’s something the membership should review, but I’m not sure there’s a better solution. If all cases gain value as precedent, expect slower and more complicated rulings that punish student-athletes more harshly. The Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement will be wary about opening a bunch of Pandora’s boxes. On the other hand, no precedent means the Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement would have to republish the guidelines constantly. There would be no natural evolution of the reinstatement process, only a step-by-step process when the membership is absolutely certain it wants to take the next step.
The opinions expressed on this blog are the author’s and the author’s alone, and are not endorsed by the NCAA or any NCAA member institution or conference. This blog is not a substitute for a compliance office.