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Want to See Inside an NCAA Investigation? Here’s Your Chance

Three years ago, the NCAA invited a group of sportswriters to participate in a mock session of the committee that selects, seeds, and brackets the field every year for the Division I men’s basketball tournament. The goal of the event, which has now become an annual fixture for journalists and conference officials, was to strip away the mystery—and controversy—that enveloped the deliberations of the 10-member Division I Men’s Basketball Committee.

Now, the association is considering taking a similar approach with another of its high-profile procedures. Taking a cue from the success of the mock-selection committee, staffers in the association’s enforcement division, as well as in its public-relations shop, plan to create a simulation of an NCAA investigation. In doing so, they hope to educate institutions and journalists on how the association builds a case against an athletics program it believes may have run afoul of its rules.

The “Enforcement Experience,” as the mock scenario would be called, is scheduled to debut some time next year—with reporters and athletics officials starring in the roles as NCAA investigators and members of the Division I Committee on Infractions, says Julie Roe Lach, the NCAA’s new vice president for enforcement.

The event would begin by imitating investigators’ research into allegations of wrongdoing by an athletics program. Next, the participants would weigh whether to bring charges against an institution. Assuming they do, a mock hearing before the Committee on Infractions would follow, and the exercise would conclude with the committee’s deliberations on appropriate penalties against the institution.

Lach says the exercise is key to one of her primary goals of bringing greater transparency to the enforcement process. But she acknowledges the difficulty of doing that in real time.

“We could never bring the public or the media into an active case. I’m not advocating that,” Lach said during an interview Wednesday. “But I think we could train people on the process and allow them to experience a scenario, as opposed to an actual case.”

“Enough,” she adds, “to get a sense of what goes on.”

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