The line between secondary and major violations has been getting fuzzier for quite some time. No longer does a major violation mean that you did something intentionally wrong or violated a bedrock principle of the NCAAa. It’s possible to be cited for a major violation through mere sloppiness or by forgetting-albeit repeatedly-one of the NCAA Manual’s many technical and often confusing rules.
So it does seem like there needs to be a new type of infraction. Something between a protracted and stigmatizing major infractions case and a secondary violation that is often never even discovered by the outside world.
There are actually three types of violations already though. There are secondary violations, there are full-on major violation, and then there are major violations that use summary disposition. A summary disposition case comes with all the stigma of commiting a major violation, but without a hearing. They also take substantially less time and cost less as well.
Rather than distinct forms of violations, what’s needed is for the NCAA process to match what the NCAA says about cases. Each is unique and it’s hard to pigeonhole cases into categories where they can be compared against each other. While there will still be steps, cases could move more smoothly from honest mistake to the death penalty with relatively minor changes to the enforcement process.
By allowing the enforcement staff to apply the two penalties seen in virtually every major infractions case-public reprimand and censure and probation-in severe secondary cases, there would be a much greater stigma to violations generally. The biggest thing that seperates major and secondary cases is that the NCAA announces major cases. Having a penalty of public reprimand and censure for at least some secondary violations would mean a coach’s good name is at stake in any case.
If public reprimand and censure is to scare potential rulebreakers, probation would help bring some violators back to the right path. By requring schools to improve monitoring early on and report on their progress to the NCAA, perhaps some petty criminals never become felons. And it could be cheaper for schools too. Small upgrades are normally less costly than a complete overhaul.
A new enforcement process alone will not eliminate all bad behavior from college athletics. But also neither will a set of new and tougher penalties if the process is broken. The penalties and the process need to be tailored for both the type of behavior we’re looking to end and the strengths and limitations of the NCAA when it comes to rules enforcement.
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.