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5 Ideas for Revamping NCAA Enforcement

Ideas for overhauling the NCAA’s enforcement process, which are due to be circulated to member colleges in coming days, will focus on the new violation structure (i.e., most egregious, still-pretty-damn bad, not-so bad, not worth our attention), stepped-up penalties (up to a 50-percent loss of scholarships for the worst offenders), and a faster mode of processing cases (weeks rather than months).

That’s not all the NCAA’s enforcement working group has considered since taking on this gargantuan task last August. In a conversation I had this week with Edward Ray (pictured above), Oregon State’s president and chair of the group, he singled out several ideas the group has discussed for improving the way athletic departments operate. It’s unclear if any of these will make it into the draft sent out to colleges, but they’re worth thinking about. Among the suggestions:

Change reporting lines. What if compliance departments reported to provosts, presidents, or the general counsel, rather than to the athletic department? That’s already happening on some campuses, and the working group has talked about that possibility, as Ray says, “so there’s no undue influence.”

Require athletics audits. “Instead of accreditation every 10 years, our group thought maybe we need to audit athletics–not just financially, but operationally, in the same way other parts of the university get audited,” Ray said. “We need to figure out a way of providing oversight to ensure all aspects of athletics are working in the same way and up to the same standards we expect elsewhere in the university.” (This is something we’ll likely see as part of a separate revamp of the NCAA’s certification process.)

Audit the NCAA. While we’re at it, shouldn’t we be auditing the NCAA to make sure it’s being consistent in the penalties it’s applying? “Maybe we need to be asking, ‘Are they performing to a level everyone is hoping for?’” Ray says.

Require individual certification. Would programs be more likely to stay out of trouble if everyone who worked in intercollegiate athletics was required to gain some sort of certification? Then, if people stepped outside the lines, they could lose that certification, Ray suggested.

Hold individuals accountable. “One of the strong principles we’re tending toward,” Ray said, was making sure coaches and others in high leadership positions are held responsible for the actions of people employed under them. “Coaches know what assistant coaches are doing,” he said, and should be penalized when their subordinates misbehave.

The penalties might go beyond coaches, too. “We should also look at athletic directors, conference officials, presidents and chancellors, and boards of governance,” he added. “We need to make sure everyone understands they’re accountable, every case is a failure, and everyone with a role in this should be considered.”

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