From 1950 until the late 1990s, the growth of compliance was simply the existence of compliance as a full-time position. For most of the last decade, the growth was through the expansion of offices until today when most BCS athletic departments have four or five full-time employees. But aside from how job responsibilities are split up and the growth of technology, there really hasn’t been a fundamental change to what compliance does day-to-day.
Now three schools, all of them facing some degree of scrutiny from the NCAA, are considering or making changes that could dramatically change how compliance offices are organized. And all three changes are very different.
As part of a review of its compliance office, Ohio State is considering moving its compliance office to a central group also overseeing research and medical compliance. While many compliance offices now report outside of the athletic department (to the president or legal counsel rather than the athletic director), they’re still considered part of the athletic department. Making the compliance office part of the university’s central administration would pull them further out of the athletic department.
Oregon is adding a new position to the athletic department administration, but it is not a standard compliance position. The position asks for four years of law enforcement or investigative experience, rather than athletic administration experience. And in addition to the providing surveillance rather than monitoring, the position will liaison with law enforcement in Eugene and coordinate self-defense classes for student-athletes and staff.
Finally West Virgina has hired a new employee with experience at the NCAA, law firms, and the US government. But instead of working for the compliance office, Alex Hammond will be working for the football team. Along with traditional recruiting organization functions, Hammond will also be the liaison to the compliance office and admissions. All of those functions have been performed in the football office before, but normally not by someone whose resume does not suggest a future coaching career.
All three moves bring the potential to help ensure rules compliance. Removing compliance from the athletic department completely establishes their independence and improves their official authority. Having a law enforcement background in compliance also can help with some of the personal conduct issues that have plagued college football as much as NCAA violations have. And insert someone with a radically different background into a football staff can help break up the groupthink or rationalizations that can lead to violations.
The changes also bring challenges. You must establish a higher degree of professionalism and respect for the chain of command with an external compliance office. The image of compliance as cops or spies is likely to be heightened when you employ someone with experience as a cop or a PI. Embedding an administrator with the football team requires a keen balance of rapport with the coaches and sense of duty to the compliance office.
These experiments might fail miserably. They might become standard practice around the country. To do so though, the NCAA must allow them to run their course. While no one with a stake in these schools will want to see this type of scrutiny again soon, it could happened. If these moves contribute to violations down the road, trying something new should not cause the school to suffer worse penalties.
That’s not to say the school should avoid punishment entirely or trying something new is an excuse for lax standards and poor execution. But institutional control and monitoring are not about simply adhering to the state of the art or some minimum standard. Innovating and pushing the state of the art forward are just as important and should be promoted, not punished.
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.