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NCAA announces enforcement rules changes

The NCAA, under fire for overzealous enforcement in the past year, voted on new changes in October, to take effect today.

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Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

Today, the NCAA announced changes to their enforcement rules structure for Division I, per press release. The changes were voted on in October by the Division I Board of Directors, and take effect today. The major changes are:

  • to create four levels of infractions - instead of "major" and "secondary";
  • to presume head coach responsibility instead of investigating whether the coach knew or should have known about the violations;
  • and to increase the size of the Committee on Infractions voting body to up to 24 from 10, with members (as before) appointed by the NCAA.

"The widespread changes to the enforcement program are an important step towards changing the dialogue and conduct of college sports so that actions align with values," said NCAA president Mark Emmert. "As our reform efforts continue, we are making important strides towards smarter rules and tougher enforcement."

The 24-member group will be able to split into smaller panels of 5-7 members - though the release does not discuss the criteria for selection of the makeup of panels. Consider, for example: will the SEC's Associate Commissioner, currently on the panel, need to recuse himself from an SEC decision, or is he more likely to be chosen for an SEC-related issue?

The change in the Committee is aimed at increasing the diversity of voices/ backgrounds and to make the group able to hear cases more quickly. The Committee currently meets 5 times per year; the new version could meet on the highest level of infractions 10 times per year, and on the second highest level of infractions monthly.

Additionally, Level II and some Level I infractions (see detail below) may be dealt with via videoconference or telephone instead of via in-person meeting.

The four levels of infractions are:

  • "Incidental issues" - those technical and isolated violations of the letter of the NCAA law that provide no competitive advantage (Level IV);
  • "Breach of Conduct" issues, which are isolated in nature and provide a minimal competitive advantage; this group can include multiple "Incidental Issue" violations (Level III);
  • "Significant Breach of Conduct" including issues of integrity, impermissible benefits, recruiting or financial violations, and can include multiple "Breach of Conduct" violations (Level II);
  • "Severe Breach of Conduct" is the designation for Level I infractions described as violations that "seriously undermine or threaten the integrity of the NCAA collegiate model as set forth in the Constitution and bylaws", including extensive recruiting benefits, failure to cooperate in an NCAA investigation, and violations by "a head coach resulting from an underlying Level I violation by an individual within the sport program."

For example, if an friend of the program should funnel money to a player, or if a coach should fraternize with an agent who is connected to a player, the head coach would also be responsible (think of Jim Calhoun and the Nate Miles-related violations).

From USA Today's piece on the NCAA enforcement changes when they were voted on in October:

...according to Oregon State president Ed Ray.... head coaches won't be penalized for assistants who "go rogue" if they make a sensible effort to ensure their staff follows rules.

"If you do a good job up front explaining to coaches what you expect them to do if they're not sure about something, you're going to have a lot less to clean up later," Ray said. "It's like preventive medicine."

Another major change, Ray said, is that schools and coaches can be charged with different levels of violations within the same infractions case. If a coach changes jobs, any penalties incurred individually, such as suspensions or recruiting restrictions, would follow him to the new school.


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