The title of associate athletic director for compliance and it’s little sibling the assistant athletic director for compliance are not dead yet, but they are certainly an endangered species. The biggest changes have not yet trickled down toward the FCS and non-football levels, but the trend is clear in the BCS equity conferences. Associate and assistant ADs for compliance are dying.
The latest school to stop calling its highest ranking compliance professional an associate AD is Michigan, who will be replacing Judy Van Horn in the new year. But rather than replacing the exact same position, the new head of Michigan’s compliance office will have the title of Chief Compliance Officer.
This is not just a semantic change. Adding the prefix of assistant/associate athletic director to your title has traditionally been a big deal in most athletic departments. It means a transition from being a cog to having input in larger decisions. It means a closer working relationship with the athletic director. It signifies the beginning of the transition from working for the athletic department to running it.
It also has meant additional duties outside of your normal job. In addition to the normal tasks of running a compliance office, a compliance professional with the associate or assistant AD tag might also have game management responsibilities or be required to supervise one of the department’s sport programs. An associate AD of compliance might be the Senior Woman Administrator (SWA) or also be in charge of the academic support department.
It’s getting harder to argue that even broad oversight of a compliance office for an FBS department is not a full time job. To meet the demands placed on a compliance office in the current environment, either the additional duties or work/life balance are increasingly being forced to give way.
Work/life balance can only give so much. There are only 24 hours in a day and you can only do that for so many days before it becomes a work/sleep balance that always tips in the favor of sleep. It is inevitable that additional duties will have to give way.
In the short term, this will be a negative for the compliance industry. Currently, a lack of qualified entry-level candidates and consistent growth means compliance is attractive as a place for aspiring athletic directors to get a foot in the door. Remove that carrot and there is the potential for the quality of talent available at the entry level to plummet. (Only the potential though. This is still the sports industry after all.)
In the medium to long term though it will be beneficial—if not critical—for compliance offices to make this transition to a more separate entity. It will not be without growing pains. Dealing with coaches at arms length and ending the culture of “get out there”, where compliance officers are forced to watch practices or travel with teams in the name of doing their job will be painful. But it will help establish compliance as a destination job with the stature, clout, and of course pay that destination jobs carry.
Until compliance is a destination job, the refinement of what it means to do compliance right will be hindered. Qualifications will continue to be inconsistent. Best practices will continue to be difficult to spread. And compliance will struggle to keep up (sub. req’d) with the rest of the athletic department.
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.