After Yahoo! Sports released its investigative report of the alleged extra benefits and recruiting scandal at Miami, former NFL agent Josh Luchs endorsed an idea that comes around every few years. Whether you house them in the athletic department or not, compliance officers are employees of the university, subject to the possibility of any number of ethical dilemmas. Luchs suggests the NCAA pay for and place compliance officers at schools. As employees of the NCAA, they cannot be fired by the school for doing their job, thus solving many of those ethical dilemmas.
Let’s assume the logistical issues could be solved. Working as an NCAA-employed compliance officer on campus would be like a State Department or FBI field office assignment. You move every couple of years until you made it to the national office in Indianapolis. Attracts a certain type of person, but that’s part of the goal here. There is still a Good, Bad, and Ugly to this type of system.
The biggest benefit would be a much simpler and more consistent major infractions process. Lack of institutional control and failure to monitor charges would not exist. The NCAA would now be in control and it would be the NCAA’s responsibility to monitor. Beyond the actual violations, the only questions would be how many people subverted the monitoring systems the on-campus staff had in place, and how severe should the show-cause orders be.
The biggest drawback is that the majority of these NCAA positions would be new positions, not replacement or reassignment of existing staff. There are some compliance responsibilities an NCAA staff member on campus cannot perform. Decisions about whether to file a waiver, arguments for mitigation in student-athlete reinstatement cases, and how the Student Assistance Fund is managed should be made by university staff.
And if the NCAA is permanently represented on campus, expect schools to “lawyer up,” so to speak, by retaining or hiring their own compliance staff. That’s great if you’re in the compliance industry. But whether this is paid for with new or existing money, it means that money is earmarked for a larger administration rather than for a better student-athlete experience.
A system of permanent on-campus NCAA staff creates a more adversarial system. One big benefit of an adversarial system is that it sets very clear motives and roles. It’s my belief you get a better compromise when two people with clear and opposing motives are forced to come to an agreement. But we’re not talking about negotiation here. We’re talking about the enforcement of rules by the authorities.
In that case you get less compromise and more argument. If coming to a compromise takes a long time, winning an argument takes longer. And while that arguing is going on, innocent student-athletes and coaches will be caught in the middle. That means longer reinstatement cases and a slower secondary infractions process.
There’s a role for a long-term presence by the NCAA on an institution’s campus when something goes wrong. Probation and parole is overseen by a probation officer, not the judge. Failing an external audit should mean having to allow the NCAA to come in for a year or two to fix the issues. At the very least, that should be the pilot program before changing the relationship between the schools and the NCAA in a way that cannot be undone if it doesn’t work.
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.