Tony Barnhart of CBSSports.com has some strong words for athletic directors. The new boss might be the same as the old boss but that boss is singing a different tune, and not a happy one for schools who want to gain and edge or find a shortcut. In response, Mr. Barnhart has a couple of suggestions.
2. Search for the biggest, brightest and toughest legal mind you can find and make that person your NCAA compliance director. The compliance director has one job and that’s to protect the institution (and the athletic director). If that person is doing his/her job correctly, they will be the most disliked person in the department (next to you, of course).
Setting aside the questions marks of turning compliance into an extension of the legal profession, this is a major rethinking of the role of the compliance office. It’s not a new idea though. The Committee on Infractions has scrutinized the relationship between compliance office and coaches as compliance tries to strike the balance between cops and partners. The COI has questioned the tactic of working with coaches even during investigations, although most campus compliance staff would claim this is unworkable.
Mr. Barnhart goes one step further though with a stern message to athletic directors about the culture that needs to be the foundation for this new attitude toward compliance:
3. Meet with your coaches once a week and always end the meeting with these two statements:
“If you have a problem with the compliance director you come to me. If you do not cooperate with the compliance director you are done. If you try to intimidate the compliance director you’re done. I don’t care how much money you make or how many games you’ve won. The president of this university has my back on this.
“If you get even a whiff that a rule has been broken, walk down the hall to the compliance director and dump it in their lap. If you cover anything up, you’re done.”
Take the two suggestions together and the loyalties and function of the compliance office are clear. It’s no longer a compliance office, it’s an enforcement office. Its job is not to work with coaches, but keep them in line. It seeks to protect itself, the institution and the athletic director first, and the coaches last. Such a set up also raises the suspicion that some coaches have of compliance becoming a tool for athletic directors to force them out. In short, the relationship between this office and coaches will be more adversarial than cooperative.
So what happens to all the other parts of compliance? Who works on the waivers? Who tracks eligibility? Who fights with the NCAA and the conference to get the interp that helps the program? Who in the athletic department will ever work for a student-athlete rather than just keeping tabs on them?
The answer seems simple: to make Mr. Barnhart’s vision of the “New World Order” work, the compliance office has to break apart. What Mr. Barnhart calls a compliance office would be an enforcement office. Just like in the NCAA national office, other functions like eligibility, interpretations, and waivers would be handled by one or more different offices, all reporting to the athletic director. The enforcement office would monitor the rest of what was the compliance office just like it monitors the coaching staffs. Watchers watching the watchers if you will.
Coaches need a compliance office they can have a cooperative working relationship with. They need someone in the athletic department they can trust to help them be successful on the field. A more proactive NCAA enforcement staff may mean those people cannot be the same people who monitor those coaches. In that case, it may be time to take a page from the national office and create different offices to do different jobs.
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.