When it comes to the complexity of NCAA rules, the 400-odd page Division I Manual is not the problem. True, the Manual could use a little bit of work. It’s been getting face lifts and tummy tucks over the past couple of years as the NCAA staff has reorganized some bylaws. The Manual is due for a bit of major surgery next year as only the most important bylaws will be in the dead tree edition. Overnight, the size of the Manual and the frequency of phone book comparison could be halved.
But the Manual is just the start of the “NCAA rules”. When the book does not have the answers, compliance officers turn to the Legislative Services Database (commonly known as LSDBi). LSDBi has and will continue to have all 4005 current and future bylaws. But it also has 7138 interpretations of those bylaws issued by either the NCAA staff or the Legislative Review and Interpretations Committee. Some of those are archived, but even archived interps can be useful for the more specific questions.
Beyond interpretations, the NCAA also issues education columns, explanations of NCAA rules. They can offer critical insights into applying NCAA rules, periodic reminders of bylaws that require extra attention and Q&A’s to clear up confusion about bylaws and proposals. While they are not “law” in the way interpretations or bylaws are, they cannot be ignored. And there are 2269 of them.
Then comes the case law. Most people know about the 681 major infractions cases since 1953. And many people know that secondary infractions occur all the time. And all of the time means all of the time. Over 17,500 in Division I in the last five years alone (and the database doesn’t go back further).
In addition to the violations, there are waivers. In the database, waivers are divided into three different categories: initial eligibility, progress-toward-degree, and legislative release waivers. And a lot of those have been filed over the years:
- Almost 6,000 initial eligibility waivers;
- Close to 3,000 progress-toward-degree waivers;
- Over 3,500 legislative relief waivers (last five years only).
The end result is that when a question is asked, there are over 40,000 places to look for an answer.
The current review by the Rules Working Group is not plastic surgery. The rule book that comes out will be the Six Million Dollar Man of rule books. But the effect is bigger than shaving pages off the rule book. Each rule that ends up on the cutting room floor could mean dozens of interps and hundreds of violations and waivers can get filed away. Then comes the really hard part: keeping things that way.