Thoughts on the Freeh Report and Joe Paterno’s Legacy
By Jordan Carey
“Joe Paterno does it the right way.”
“Joe and Sue Paterno care about so much more than just Penn State football.”
“Every program would be better if they had a Joe Paterno.”
Amazingly, these three quotes would have been consistently heard only eight months ago. Joe Paterno was on his way to breaking Eddie Robinson’s wins record, had a pretty impressive 7-1 record, and the on-campus library was named after him and he had a statue in front of the football stadium. This man was larger than life. I remember seeing him on a golf cart when Penn State came to Notre Dame in 2006 and being in awe.
Turns out I was in awe of a fraud and a criminal.
Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno (Photo: AP)
The Freeh Report that was released today was an eight month investigation into the Jerry Sandusky situation at Penn State and the report did not hold back. The report concluded that Paterno, as well as other Penn State officials, were well aware of the 1998 criminal investigation involving Sandusky and the sexual assault of teen boys.In 2001, Graduate Assistant Mike McQueary reported to seeing an act “sexual in nature” between Sandusky and a child in the football showers. After discussing the issue with University executives, Paterno, Athletic Director Tim Curley, President Graham Spanier, and Vice President Gary Schultz decided to not turn Sandusky in to the proper authorities. The Freeh Report believes this was to protect the university from bad publicity.
They didn’t turn in a sexual deviant because they wanted to protect the university from bad publicity.
For the ten years following this incident, Jerry Sandusky remained associated with the program. He was in a private box for a Penn State home game days before the story broke to the public. It is just inexcusable.
It should be noted that there is also a significant legal aspect to this incident that Penn State will now have to deal with. The Cleary Act requires the reporting of certain crimes on campus including those of a sexual nature. The Free Report addressed the Cleary Act by saying that Penn State’s awareness and interest in the Act was “significantly lacking.” The US Department of Education is now investigating Penn State with regard to the Cleary Act.
While being interviewed regarding his report, Louis Freeh was asked, “Could Joe Paterno have stopped this if he wanted to?” The response, “I think it’s a very strong and reasonable inference that he could have done so if he wished.”
Joe Paterno, the man who for the past twenty years was viewed as a saint of college football and would have been on the Mount Rushmore of college coaches, cared more about the perception of his football program than he did for the well being of children Jerry Sandusky had abused.
I come from a football school. Some of my best (and worst) memories from college involve football games and football-related events. However, the events that have publicly transpired at Penn State over the last 8 months and privately for the last at least 14 years have made me realize how insubstantial college football is in the grand scheme of things. The four most powerful men at the State University of Pennsylvania concealed the acts of a now convicted rapist to shield their school and football program from bad publicity. One can only hope that those now in charge at Penn State and every American can learn something from this incident and see the importance of protecting our youth.
Initial Thoughts on the Newly Announced NCAA Football Postseason
A handful of university presidents have approved what college football fans have been demanding for years: a four-team playoff to determine the NCAA football champion.
11 conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s AD presented the proposal to a board of 12 university presidents who approved the new postseason format.
The four-team playoff will not go into place until the 2014 season, which means there is plenty of time for “analysis” from fans and critics alike.
The new deal will run through the 2025 season and according to ESPN:
The four teams will be chosen by a selection committee, the semifinals will be held at current bowl sites and the national championship game will be awarded to the highest bidder.
On paper this seems like what the fans have been asking for, and I think it’s a great start (even though 12 years is a long time for a trial period), but here’s where things get a little murky in my opinion. According to ESPN, a selection committee will be created to:
[R]ank the teams to play in the playoff, “giving all the teams an equal opportunity to participate.” The committee will [also] consider win-loss record, strength of schedule, head-to-head results and whether a team is a conference champion.
I think it will be very interesting to see who makes up the selection committee, especially as far as some of the “mid-major” conferences are concerned.
There will no doubt be a committee to create the committee and I’m sure there will be plenty of conversation and even more controversy as plans and details roll out in the coming months. I’m looking forward to learning about how the conference commissioners plan to share the revenue and if that is a plan that the smaller conferences can get behind.
As someone who believes there is no better tradition than college football Saturdays, I am cautiously optimistic that when the dust settles, fans will be one step closer to toasting a true national champion.
As far as the critics are concerned, they will remain another part of the great institution of college football. While we can all agree on the sanctity of tailgating, there are some people who will likely remain unsatisfied until the college football postseason resembles NCAA March Madness, and in my opinion, that’s bracket I’m not anxious to fill out.
Shelby Nathans is a rising 3L and 2012-2013 UM ESLS President. Agree with Shelby? Have your own thoughts on the new four-team playoff? We welcome your comments below.
The NCAA Division I Board of Directors approved several rules changes last Thursday that will change the landscape of collegiate athletics. Going forward, Division I institutions must achieve higher Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores in order to participate in NCAA championships – including FBS bowl games. Additionally, new rules – for men’s basketball only – demonstrate an effort to keep up with the fast-paced style of communication upon which young adults now rely. The following is a discussion of the newly adopted rules and potential effects.
Several of these rules changes apply to all sports. NCAA President, Mark Emmert, said these changes are “historic in the NCAA’s progress in supporting student-athletes and making sure we have integrity in our games.” The first change is that institutions now have the choice of providing an additional $2,000 in athletic scholarship money to cover miscellaneous costs of attendance. This increase is the first change to the scholarship value structure in a long time. It also means, in all likelihood, that public outcry for student-athletes to share in revenues from the games they play will go unanswered. The Board believes the extra $2,000 is sufficient to cover the true cost of attendance. The Board’s view may or may not be accurate, but it is more efficient and equitable than allowing individual universities to assess how much to pay a student-athlete in excess of a full scholarship. Such a system would greatly favor large, public universities with enormous athletics budgets.
Institutions also now have the ability to offer multi-year scholarships. Previously, all scholarships were granted on a one-year basis. Each summer, an institution chooses to renew a student-athlete’s scholarship, increase the amount, reduce the amount, or cancel it entirely. Reductions and cancellations could not be made due to injury or poor athletic performance. The same restriction applies to the new multi-year offers. The ability to offer multi-year scholarships shows a greater commitment to student-athletes’ welfare.
Another major change that will apply to all sports involves an increased emphasis on APR, as well as more serious penalties for inadequate APR scores. APR measures each school’s ability to retain student-athletes and keep them academically eligible. Each sport is measured separately, so that a team is only punished for inadequate scores from its own members. Every student-athlete is capable of earning four points per year – one for remaining enrolled at the same institution at the end of each semester and one for remaining academically eligible at the end of each semester. APR is calculated by dividing a team’s earned points by the total points possible and multiplying the result by 1000 – i.e. a team of 15 basketball players earns 50 out of 60 possible points (50/60 = .833 x 1000 = 833). A perfect score is obviously 1000. Through this year, the threshold to avoid potential penalties, such as a reduction of scholarships, was an average score of 925 over a four year period. A team could also be ineligible for postseason competition if its APR was below not just 925, but 900 for three consecutive years. By 2015-2016, a four year average of 930 will be the new threshold. Furthermore, the new penalty for failing to achieve a score of 930 will never simply be scholarship losses. Instead, a failure to average 930 over a four year period will result in ineligibility for NCAA championships in the following season.
A transitional period for the increase in the minimum APR score will begin next year. The next few years will be governed by the following standards:
- 2011-2012 (current academic year) à The old system is still in place – no postseason ban for inadequate APR scores, except three consecutive years with a four year average under 900
- 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 à A four year average above 900 is necessary for postseason eligibility; a two year average above 930 will also suffice for postseason eligibility
- 2014-2015 à A four year average above 930 is necessary for postseason competition; a two year average above 940 will also suffice for postseason eligibility
- 2015-2016 à A four year average above 930 is officially the threshold for postseason competition going forward
Losing a scholarship or two is a serious penalty, but it doesn’t cripple a program. Postseason ineligibility is a much bigger impediment in the recruiting process. Postseason championships are the essence of competition. Every student-athlete wants the chance to play in the best bowl game or make the NCAA tournament in his or her sport. Now, an inadequate APR score can take those dreams away. This could change the way prospective student-athletes approach the recruiting process. A team’s APR numbers are publicly accessible, so if a school is below 930 or on the verge of falling below 930, it could become very difficult to recruit.
Men’s basketball may be affected the most by this new rule. Many of the best student-athletes in men’s basketball plan to turn pro after just one year of college. These “one and done” players often stop going to class in the second semester because grades that affect their eligibility don’t come out until after the NCAA tournament has concluded. When they stop going to class, they lose a potential academic eligibility point for APR. Additionally, they lose a potential retention point if they fail to withdraw from classes by university-imposed deadlines which occur well before the NBA Draft declaration deadline. Therefore, men’s basketball coaches will have a decision to make – recruit the most talented student-athletes who can help them win a national championship, but will likely destroy their APR, jeopardizing future postseason eligibility or recruit less talented student-athletes who actually plan to be students.
The NCAA Division I Board of Directors also approved changes that only apply to men’s basketball for the time being. NCAA Bylaw 22.214.171.124.3 used to set forth the following recruiting rules in men’s basketball:
- Beginning June 15 following a prospective student-athlete’s (PSA’s) sophomore year in high school until July 31 following a PSA’s junior year in high school à one phone call per month
- Beginning August 1 following a PSA’s junior year in high school à two phone calls per week
- No contact via text messaging or social media sites
As of June 15, 2012, unlimited phone calls, text messages, and private messages via social media sites will be allowed for any PSA who has completed his sophomore year in high school. Public messages via social media sites will still be prohibited due to a rule against institutions publicizing their recruiting efforts. Current student-athletes assist in the development of NCAA legislation through representation in the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). It was SAAC members who originally decided about five years ago that text messaging should be prohibited in the recruiting process. Now, coaches and current SAAC members agreed that the prohibition should be lifted, at least in men’s basketball. Many coaches feel that PSAs don’t answer or return phone calls anymore; they only respond to text messages. Previous concerns about extra incurred costs for receiving text messages are generally gone too. Most phone plans now include unlimited text messaging. Soon, it is probable that all NCAA sports will adopt this deregulation of text messaging and transmission of private messages via social media sites.
The newly adopted rules changes stress the importance of maintaining the academic integrity of being a student-athlete. The basketball-only changes also show a willingness to adapt to an increasingly tech-savvy world. Other sports will follow suit soon enough. In regards to the higher APR standards though, these changes are refreshing. Until now, coaches could recruit the best athletes, largely ignore academics and virtually run a minor league professional team. In the future, coaches will be forced to ensure that their players are truly student-athletes – not just athletes. If they don’t, their teams will lose postseason eligibility, future recruiting efforts will suffer, and programs will collapse.
A story broke a few weeks ago that former University of Memphis basketball coach, John Calipari, and his former point guard, Derrick Rose, paid $100,000 each in a settlement to avoid a 2010 lawsuit initiated by a group of Memphis lawyers who were also disgruntled season ticket holders. This story is interesting for a variety of reasons. First of all, Calipari was not found responsible for any NCAA infractions related to Derrick Rose’s one and only season as a Memphis Tiger. Secondly, Rose played the entire 2007-2008 season because the university’s compliance department cleared him to play; he was retroactively ruled ineligible by the NCAA. Furthermore, he was a student-athlete while at Memphis. He was not making any money for playing basketball; he did receive a full scholarship, but the lawyers/ticket holders did not directly provide the funds for his scholarship. Lastly, these lawyers/ticket holders actually succeeded in obtaining a six-figure settlement based on a lawsuit in which they would have claimed Calipari, Rose, and the university’s athletic director diminished the value of their season tickets by steering a team that was committing major NCAA violations.
While many college basketball fans and observers think Calipari engages in some unscrupulous activities related to recruiting, he has never personally been sanctioned by the NCAA. As he left the University of Massachusetts, the program was hit with major violations surrounding extra benefits accepted by Marcus Camby. Calipari pleaded ignorance and no evidence proved otherwise. Years later, as he left the University of Memphis to accept the head coaching job at the University of Kentucky – perhaps the premiere position in college basketball – major infractions surfaced at Memphis. Again, the major infractions were related to a star player – Derrick Rose in this instance.
The primary violation committed at Memphis was that Rose participated while he was ineligible for the only season he played. He did not have the requisite standardized test score to qualify. University of Memphis compliance officials, and certainly Calipari and his staff, were aware that Rose was at risk of not being an academic qualifier. Rose did not achieve a sufficient score during three attempts at the ACT in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Eventually, Rose switched paths and took the SAT in Detroit, Michigan; this time, he achieved a sufficient test score. The NCAA Eligibility Center certified Rose as an academic qualifier based on his core course GPA and sufficiently high SAT score.
The NCAA uses a sliding scale for a prospective student-athlete’s (PSA) “core course” GPA and correlating standardized test score. Each PSA must at least pass the following core courses: four English courses, three math courses (at a level equal or higher than Algebra I), two natural science courses, two social science courses, one additional English/math/natural science course, and four elective courses that can include any of the aforementioned subjects, philosophy, non-doctrinal religion or foreign language. The minimum core course GPA is 2.0/4.0. The correlating standardized test score for a PSA with a 2.0 core course GPA is either 1010 on the SAT or an 86 sum ACT. As the core course GPA slides up the scale, the requisite SAT or sum ACT score slides down the scale. For example, a PSA with a core course GPA of 3.55 or higher only needs to achieve a score of 400 on the SAT or a 37 sum ACT score to qualify academically.
After Rose achieved a sufficient SAT score that correlated with his core course GPA, and the Eligibility Center certified him as an academic qualifier, he enrolled at the University of Memphis. In October 2007, allegations of improprieties related to Rose’s SAT exam surfaced. As mentioned previously, Rose was from Chicago, yet he took the SAT in Detroit for some reason. Chicago Public Schools officials investigated Rose’s SAT score from Detroit and raised the question of whether or not Rose had another individual fraudulently take the test for him. The officials notified the University of Memphis athletic department, as well as ETS – the SAT testing security agency – of their concern.
The University of Memphis athletics compliance department interviewed Rose in November 2007. According to the NCAA public infractions report, the Memphis compliance department could not “substantiate the allegations of academic improprieties… and cleared him to compete during the 2007-2008 season.”
The ETS began its own investigation and eventually wrote a letter to Rose in March 2008, requesting information to prove that he personally took the SAT in Detroit. Rose never responded so the ETS sent a follow-up letter in April 2008; Rose did not respond this time either. Therefore, in May 2008 the ETS canceled Rose’s SAT score from the previous year. The NCAA Eligibility Center was notified and the NCAA retroactively ruled that Rose was ineligible for competition during the 2007-2008 season. By this time, Rose had left the University of Memphis in order to prepare for the NBA draft. He never cooperated with NCAA enforcement staff as his former school was investigated for major violations.
Calipari had also left Memphis by the time Rose’s SAT score had been canceled and the University of Memphis had been charged with major violations. Some people suspect that Calipari smelled the forthcoming danger and left Memphis for greener pastures. Still, it is important to stress that Calipari was not implicated in any wrongdoing in Rose’s enrollment process or other violations by the Memphis basketball program at large.
In addition to Rose’s questionable SAT exam – which ETS forensic handwriting investigators determined was probably not taken by Rose, based on the cursive statement and signature – the Memphis basketball team also was charged with providing impermissible benefits to Rose’s brother. During the 2007-2008 year, Rose’s brother often traveled on the team flight to away games and stayed at the same hotel. Other boosters and school officials did the same thing, but each was supposed to pay for their transportation and accommodations separately from the coaches and team roster. The NCAA determined that Rose’s brother paid for himself on several of these road trips, but was never charged by the athletics business office for a few trips. The University of Memphis’ compliance department was charged with a failure to monitor because they did not check the athletics business office’s records and team travel manifests. Overall, Rose’s brother received approximately $1,700 in impermissible benefits. Rose would have been ineligible for participation by December 14, 2007 due to his brother’s receipt of impermissible benefits had he not been ruled ineligible for the entire season due to the SAT cancellation. Calipari was not held responsible, nor should he be, for Rose’s brother’s receipt of impermissible benefits.
The NCAA vacated all records from the University of Memphis men’s basketball team’s 2007-2008 season, which included an appearance in the National Championship game. Here is where this story gets mind-boggling. A group of Memphis lawyers, who were also season ticket holders, came together out of discontent relating to the violations committed by the men’s basketball program. These lawyers began the process of a civil suit against Calipari, Rose, and the University of Memphis’ former athletic director to recover damages for a diminished value in their season tickets. They alleged that they bought tickets to the 2007-2008 season under false pretenses and that the value of tickets they purchased for future seasons is diminished due to NCAA sanctions. The group of lawyers sought at least hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages, which they would split amongst themselves and other season ticket holders that they represented.
Rather than being dragged through legal proceedings, Calipari and Rose each settled for $100,000 with the group of lawyers. Calipari also agreed to donate his bonus for reaching the Final Four – approximately $232,000 – to the university’s general scholarship fund over a period of four years. The former athletic director also agreed to donate his bonus to the university’s general scholarship fund, and the settlement indicates that Rose will consider making a sizable donation to the scholarship fund within the next five years.
While it is understandable that Calipari and Rose would want to be rid of any potential legal battles quickly, it is surprising that they each would pay such a large sum to a group of disgruntled fans. Certainly Calipari and Rose can each afford $100,000, but agreeing to pay season ticket holders for a decrease in the value of their tickets, after they already attended and enjoyed the games is baffling. Sure, the NCAA’s record books say the games never took place. In reality, though, this group of lawyers had the pleasure of watching a future NBA Most Valuable Player participate in roughly 20 home games, and possibly some road games or tournament games. Furthermore, they sought monetary damages from Calipari, who was not accused of any wrongdoing, and Rose, who was a student-athlete at the time. It is practically an admission of cheating to settle this lawsuit. Both Calipari and Rose deny that they did anything wrong, though, so it is unbelievable that they did not fight these lawyers a little harder.
Clearly, the University of Memphis’ men’s basketball team committed serious violations in 2007-2008. Rose played while he was ineligible – due to several transgressions – and the university’s athletics compliance department failed to monitor the program. Fans were elated at the success of the team during the season. Then they were wildly disappointed when Calipari and Rose bolted, and the NCAA levied penalties against the university. Subsequently, a group of lawyers settled this seemingly frivolous lawsuit against Calipari and Rose for several hundred thousand dollars. This is an unprecedented occurrence. The U.S. is a land of “copycats” so it will be interesting to see if season ticket holders at other universities hit with NCAA penalties attempt similar proceedings. It will be even more interesting to see if other rich coaches and players cut huge checks to make everything go away or if someone fights a future lawsuit.
Last year, Auburn University declared Cam Newton ineligible on November 30 – the Tuesday leading up to the SEC Championship game versus the University of South Carolina. The next day, December 1, the NCAA reinstated Newton’s eligibility; he led Auburn to victories in the SEC Championship and then the National Championship in January 2011. In March 2011, four former football student-athletes – Raven Gray, Stanley McClover, Chaz Ramsey, and Troy Reddick – told HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel about various improprieties in their recruitment by Auburn and other universities. The NCAA investigated Newton’s case and the claims of these four former student-athletes over the last several months. Last week, the Associate Director of Enforcement for the NCAA, Jackie Thurnes, closed the investigation and declared that Auburn did not commit any major violations.
Newton’s case attracted far more scrutiny and media attention than the allegations made on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. Newton was a Heisman Trophy candidate – he did in fact win the hardware – and the allegations surrounding his recruitment were extremely serious. Disgruntled by the fact that Newton chose to attend Auburn, some individuals associated with Mississippi State University’s football program alleged that Newton’s father, Cecil, solicited approximately $180,000 in cash in order to gain his son’s commitment. Kenny Rogers, a former Mississippi State football player and current owner of a football scouting service, colluded with Cecil Newton to shop Cam Newton around to different universities. Rogers also broke the story to reporters last November because Newton didn’t end up playing at Mississippi State. Presumably, Rogers stood to make some money also if Newton went to Mississippi State. It follows that Rogers did not make any money when Newton ended up signing with Auburn. However, many drew the logical conclusion that if Mississippi State was prepared to pay $180,000 to Cecil Newton to “acquire” Cam Newton, but he ended up going to Auburn, then someone associated with Auburn paid at least $180,000. Unfortunately, this latter portion cannot be proved. Therefore, the only violation that officially occurred was Cecil Newton’s attempt to procure a payment for his son’s commitment to a university.
NCAA bylaws prohibit student-athletes from signing with an agent or marketing representative while they still intend to participate in intercollegiate athletics. It is a violation of the rules on amateurism, per NCAA Bylaw 12.3.1, if a student-athlete ever agrees “orally or in writing” to be represented by an agent “for the purpose of marketing his or her athletics ability or reputation in that sport.” Furthermore, NCAA Bylaw 12.3.3 – Athletics Scholarship Agent – states the following:
Any individual, agency or organization that represents a prospective student-athlete for compensation in placing the prospective student-athlete in a collegiate institution as a recipient of institutional financial aid shall be considered an agent or organization marketing the individual’s athletics ability or reputation.
Thus, Cecil Newton acted as an agent for his son. Even though the only evidence of a solicitation for a “pay for play” agreement was between Mississippi State and Cecil Newton, Cam Newton officially forfeited his status as an amateur at the time of that solicitation. The NCAA quickly reinstated Cam Newton’s eligibility on December 1, 2010 because enforcement staff decided that it did not have “sufficient evidence that Cam Newton or anyone from Auburn was aware of this activity.” Jackie Thurnes reiterated that position last week, agreeing that neither Cam Newton, nor anyone from Auburn knew about Cecil Newton or Kenny Rogers’ solicitation of cash in a “pay for play” scenario. Since Cam Newton was not “responsible” for his father’s actions, the NCAA decided not to punish him.
The language of the NCAA enforcement staff’s position on Newton’s case has been troubling all along. They say that Cecil Newton and Kenny Rogers worked together to “actively market” Cam Newton’s abilities during his recruitment. Yet, the enforcement staff maintains that Cam Newton knew absolutely nothing of his father’s dealings. Not many individuals are as talented at their sport as Cam Newton. Not many individuals are recruited as heavily as Cam Newton. Many people have gone through the recruiting process, though, with varying levels of interest from schools. At the age of 17, 18, or even 20 or 21 – as Cam Newton was at the time of this particular recruitment (from Blinn College) – it seems extremely unlikely that an individual would be ignorant to such a major dealing by his or her father that directly affects the individual’s future. Equally unbelievable is the fact that Auburn University gained Cam Newton’s commitment, but no one from the football program was aware of Cecil Newton’s marketing efforts.
The allegations made by the four former football student-athletes on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel were also investigated thoroughly. Raven Gray was the only one of the four former student-athletes that agreed to be interviewed by NCAA enforcement staff. Interviews with some of his friends and family, as well as with individuals associated with Auburn’s football program, yielded inconclusive evidence regarding his allegations. Thus, Auburn was not charged with any major violations in connection with his claims of impermissible benefits and inducements during recruiting. Since the other three former student-athletes would not comply with enforcement staff, their statements are patent examples of hearsay and were dismissed.
The NCAA is always willing to investigate claims brought to its attention, but it cannot proceed without cooperation from the claimants. Since the NCAA lacks subpoena power, the enforcement staff members are limited in their investigative abilities. Unless someone provides proper evidence, such as bank statements or phone logs showing frequent conversations between Auburn coaches and Cecil Newton or Kenny Rogers, it cannot be sufficiently proved that improprieties occurred. Likewise, the NCAA needs more evidence than simple statements by former student-athletes like Gray – especially when other individuals, including his friends and family members, do not corroborate his statements. The decision not to charge Auburn University with any major violations is still somewhat surprising. The inability to acquire sufficient evidence is not all that surprising, but at the very least, the NCAA enforcement staff misspoke when it stated that Cecil Newton actively solicited a “pay for play” scenario for his son. If the solicitation was so active, then more evidence would exist that proves wrongdoing. Instead, it appears Cecil Newton’s request for $180,000 from Mississippi State was either an isolated incident… or Auburn handled their illegal recruiting activities with much more secrecy.
Due to pop culture portrayals and remembrance of the 1970s-1980s – “Wild West” – period of recruiting, fans of collegiate athletics may get the wrong impression about what goes on during official visits. In the 1970s and 1980s, just about every team in the now distinct Southwest Conference was on probation – several for paying recruits and current student-athletes. Watch ESPN’s “30 for 30” film, Pony Excess, and get a look inside the recruiting landscape of those decades – bags of cash, new Cadillacs, girls, booze, and the works. Hollywood movies like Johnny Be Good, Blue Chips, and He Got Game perpetuate that depiction. Even the media coverage of “signing day” in college football - recruits holding press conferences to put on the hat of the university they choose – makes recruiting seem like it involves a lot of red carpets and glitz and glamour. While some improprieties certainly still take place, the fact is that recruiting is not such an exciting trip in the fast lane.
Strict rules govern the nature of official visits and recruiting in general. First, it is important to understand that an official visit is one in which an institution pays for the travel expenses, meals, and lodging for a prospective student-athlete (PSA); an unofficial visit is one in which a PSA pays for his or her own expenses while exploring an institution’s campus. A PSA is permitted a maximum of five official visits – and no more than one per institution - even if the PSA is a multi-sport athlete (NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199). A PSA may not begin taking official visits until the first day of classes in his or her senior year of high school. In NCAA Division I, each institution’s football team has a maximum allotment of 56 official visits; baseball is permitted a maximum of 25 official visits; and, basketball is permitted a maximum of 12 official visits (NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52). A football program may save up to six official visits in any given year and use them in the year that immediately follows. In the case of PSAs who are being recruited for football and another sport, their official visit counts against the limit for football.
Before an institution may host a PSA for an official visit, certain requirements must be met. First, the PSA must provide an official standardized test score (PSAT, SAT, PLAN, or ACT). The PSA must also provide a high school transcript to the institution which he or she plans to visit. Next, the PSA must register with the NCAA Eligibility Center. Signing up with the Eligibility Center currently requires a $65 fee to be paid by the PSA. The Eligibility Center certifies each PSA’s amateurism by asking pertinent questions about his or her playing history – i.e. what benefits (if any) did you receive while playing for this club team? A PSA also submits information about his or her education to the NCAA Eligibility Center, and must eventually be academically certified, as well. Lastly, an institution must add a PSA to its institutional request list (IRL) before an official visit may take place. The IRL is a place where compliance personnel and coaches can keep track of the Eligibility Center’s certification process of PSAs. These four steps must occur prior to a PSA’s official visit to an institution (NCAA Bylaw 13.6.3).
Once a PSA is on campus for an official visit, a 48-hour clock begins. The clock does not begin until the PSA actually steps foot on campus – rather than the time when the recruit arrives in town at the nearest airport. If a PSA arrives in town late in the day, lodging expenses may be paid for the PSA, but not his or her parents, without starting the 48-hour clock until the next day. Once the clock has started, the parents’ lodging expense may be paid for by the institution, but accommodations cannot be much different than the standards for normal student facilities. For example, hotel chains such as Best Western or Holiday Inn are perfectly fine, but the Ritz Carlton or Waldorf Astoria would be considered excessive. When the 48-hour clock expires, the PSA must leave the campus immediately. Transportation may be provided back to the airport, but stops for entertainment or meals are prohibited after the 48-hour clock has expired (NCAA Bylaw 184.108.40.206).
During an official visit, three complimentary admissions may be provided to PSAs to any home athletics contest – in any sport offered by the institution – so long as the facility is within a 30-mile radius of campus (NCAA Bylaw 220.127.116.11). The extra two complimentary admissions may only be used for a PSA’s spouse (if applicable) or parents. An institution cannot provide any entertainment for a PSA’s boyfriend or girlfriend, friends, or other relatives. Furthermore, boosters may not have any contact with PSAs; boosters also cannot pay for the entertainment costs. Examples of permissible entertainment venues include a bowling alley, theater, and restaurants within the 30-mile radius of campus. PSAs may not be provided entertainment by strippers – such as the University of Colorado’s football program did several years ago. Nor may PSAs be taken out on yachts, or to country clubs, or various other locations that are not generally accessible to the regular student body. A current student-athlete may serve as the host for a PSA on an official visit. Whether a current student-athlete or a coach is chaperoning a PSA, the spending limit on entertainment for the entire group is $30 per day, excluding meals and campus athletics events (NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168). Cash may never be provided directly to the PSA or his or her parents. Coaches and current student-athlete hosts provide documentation for all events during official visits to the institution’s compliance department. Compliance personnel sign off on the paperwork and keep it on file. If compliance personnel believe a rules violation occurred during the official visit, they must notify their league office and the NCAA – minor penalties are generally assessed against coaches who commit secondary violations during official visits.
Clearly, official visits involve a lot of regulations and monitoring. They generally do not involve the debauchery depicted in movies – at least not anymore. If rampant disregard for the rules is a part of an institution’s culture, it generally catches up with the school. Granted, it is very difficult to track a cash handout from a booster to a PSA, but more safeguards and rules education exists today than in the past. So while it may be entertaining to watch Hollywood’s view of official visits, the actual entertainment provided to PSAs is much milder. Therefore, institutions must sell recruits on the quality of their facilities, educational programs, and athletics programs. Boosters with deep pockets won’t get you everything – not in this day and age.
Don Henley perfectly captured the attitude of news outlets with his 1982 hit, “Dirty Laundry.” In 1982, though, there was no way to predict the effect of the internet, social media sites, and a 24 hour news cycle. As consumers, we are now inundated with so many stories that focus on negatives that we might forget to appreciate the positives that are all around us. Blame can be attributed to journalists, television news anchors or analysts, and even bloggers like me. Today, I will take a minute away from discussing rules violations and power grabs by schools and conferences. Below is a discussion of a bright spot in the world of collegiate athletics – the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).
The SAAC is an organization that is found at all levels in the collegiate athletics infrastructure – at each individual institution, at every conference, and at the national level. It is an organization that allows current student-athletes at every institution to get involved with promoting the welfare of themselves and their peers. The SAAC was created over twenty years ago at the suggestion of school officials and NCAA officials; these officials wanted input from student-athletes on the issues that affect them. All NCAA Divisions (I, II, and III) have SAAC involvement in the legislation process. Conferences and institutions also rely on input from SAAC members to improve regulations and policies.
SAAC provides a voice for all student-athletes on each campus. Every sport at each institution selects representatives; subsequently, a president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer are elected out of the pool of representatives. Therefore, whether they are directly involved in SAAC or not, student-athletes can communicate their concerns to the representative from their sport who can share it with the rest of the representatives at monthly meetings. Each institution has an athletics administrator who advises SAAC as well – sometimes this responsibility is bestowed on a compliance coordinator, but other times it can be an employee from a separate department for student services altogether. Regardless, SAAC is designed to “enhance the total student-athlete experience by promoting opportunity, protecting student-athlete welfare and fostering a positive student-athlete image,” according to its mission statement. As a result of SAAC’s work on campuses across the country, student-athletes improve their overall well-being while also fostering a sense of community between each sport.
At the conference level, SAAC representatives from each member institution work together to promote sportsmanship and policies that improve student-athlete welfare. Since conferences include schools that are often far apart, meetings are less frequent at this level, and generally there will be only two or three representatives from each school. Technology has allowed conference SAAC representatives to occasionally meet through conference calls in addition to a few in-person meetings throughout the year. The ACC, for example, has four SAAC meetings this year – two in-person and two conference calls. In Division III, athletics departments’ budgets are much smaller. A former football teammate of mine, and our team’s SAAC representative at Otterbein University, Kyle Culver recalls that “representatives from each school in the Ohio Athletic Conference were only able to meet about twice a year.” Whether dealing with Division I, II, or III conferences, SAAC remains a beneficial tool for its constituents.
The responsibilities for SAAC representatives at the national level are very important. Each conference nominates three of its SAAC representatives; the Division I Administration Cabinet then selects one representative from each conference. After representatives are chosen, they become an integral part of developing new legislation. National SAAC representatives report directly to the NCAA Division I Leadership Council. Additionally, they participate in NCAA committees and they advise several NCAA cabinets. They can bring student initiatives to the ground floor of the legislative body. The NCAA ban on text messaging as a recruiting tool is one example of legislation that SAAC representatives helped pass several years ago. Going forward, SAAC representatives at the national level will continue to augment legislative progress and assist NCAA officials with creating fair policies for all student-athletes.
Critics often slam the NCAA for disregarding the best interests of student-athletes. Some say student-athletes should be paid. Others say they should not be subjected to such strict rules. However, the existence of SAAC demonstrates that the NCAA does care about student-athletes’ welfare. The existence of SAAC proves that student-athletes have a voice and some legitimate control over the regulations and policies that affect them the most. The existence of SAAC illustrates one of the many things that are right in collegiate sports. Hopefully, the continued existence of SAAC will help student-athletes ensure a bright future for generations of student-athletes still to come.
The wheels of conference realignment are turning again. Over the weekend, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) officially extended invitations to Syracuse University and the University of Pittsburgh. Syracuse and Pitt must pay an exit fee of $5 million to the Big East and they might have to wait as many as 27 months to officially join the ACC. The additions of Syracuse and Pitt bring total number of ACC member schools to 14 – at least for now. For several weeks, Texas A&M has also been trying to officially switch from the Big XII conference to the Southeastern Conference (SEC). The SEC schools’ presidents already agreed to accept Texas A&M on the condition that the nine remaining Big XII schools waive their right to pursue legal action against the SEC and Texas A&M. Several Big XII schools are not willing to do that – specifically Baylor University. The ifs and buts and maybes of this business can get confusing. However, a few things are clear in regard to conference realignment and the current landscape of NCAA Division I athletics – change is coming and media chaos will ensue until everything is settled.
The Big East has seen a lot of change over the years. The conference formed in 1979 with eight members playing men’s basketball. By 1990, several other schools had joined for basketball and other sports, but the conference did not exist in college football. In 1991, the University of Miami, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Rutgers, and Temple joined the conference – immediately making the Big East a respected football conference, in great part due to the strength of Miami’s football program. A few years later, Notre Dame joined as a non-football member; Notre Dame retains football independence. Another decade passed and the ACC decided to invite Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College (an original member) to join its conference instead, and those three schools jumped at the opportunity. The Big East did not wait long to restructure itself. Soon after it lost those three schools, the Big East added the University of Cincinnati, the University of South Florida, the University of Louisville, Marquette University, and DePaul University from Conference USA.
Until Sunday, the Big East consisted of sixteen current members, eight of which played football. Texas Christian University (TCU) is all set to join the Big East on July 1, 2012. TCU would have been the ninth football playing member, and many folks believe that Villanova University will soon jump from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and become the tenth football playing member. Instead, the Big East is scrambling to remain relevant in the college football landscape due to the departures of Syracuse and Pitt. The conference now has only six football playing members – seven once TCU joins – and this does not bode well for its ability to attain a lucrative television contract. The conference also could lose its automatic qualifier status for a Bowl Championship Series (BCS) bowl game. Therefore, the six remaining football playing member schools met Tuesday to discuss their options for the near future. The conference will likely try to add several new football playing schools.
Meanwhile, down in the southwest, members of the Big XII are again majorly involved in the realignment discussions. In the summer of 2010, the conference almost collapsed when the Pac-10 (at the time) added Colorado and pursued five other members of the Big XII. Nebraska also left the conference for the Big Ten. Texas A&M and Oklahoma University reportedly had offers in 2010 to join the SEC. They also were reported to be among the five schools courted by the Pac-10. In the end, only Colorado and Nebraska actually defected from the Big XII, but a new agreement amongst remaining members gave the University of Texas more power.
A year later, not much has changed. The Pac-12 – now Utah and Colorado are part of the mix – again had discussions with Oklahoma and Texas. According to reports, Oklahoma reached out to Pac-12 Commissioner, Larry Scott, to discuss a switch for Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Texas also got in on the conversation; Texas would have liked Texas Tech to tag along in any agreement. The Pac-12 looked like it could become the Pac-16 in the near future. Those discussions hit a road block Tuesday night when Scott said the Pac-12 will remain a 12 team conference for now. Supposedly the University of Texas will not agree to share any revenue from their newly developed Longhorn Network. Of course, the SEC said it would remain a 12 team conference for the time being in late August – and proceeded to conditionally accept Texas A&M about a week later. Only time will tell if the Big XII stays strong.
Another member of the Big XII, the University of Missouri, has been named a possible fourteenth member for the SEC once Texas A&M officially joins. As a result of the discussions between the Pac-12 and SEC and those aforementioned Big XII schools, Baylor University and Iowa State University reached out to the Big East, expressing their interest if the Big XII indeed dissolves. Supposedly, the Big East may also be interested in Kansas University and Kansas State University. Additionally, the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA reportedly may consider a merger of their leagues – and they would also likely accept any Big XII cast-offs in a heartbeat.
All of this news is highly speculative, but it is clear that all of these schools are actively engaged in conversations about their future paths. Conference realignment talks are heating up again. Syracuse and Pitt are the first official dominoes to fall this time around. Now the Big East must decide on a future course of action to ensure that it remains a relevant conference in college football – the collegiate sport that generates the most revenue. The Big XII is also at a crossroads because Texas A&M has one foot out the door and no one else in the conference is exactly happy with the current state of affairs. Some big moves will be made in the remainder of the 2011-2012 academic year, but the threat of legal action can slow down the process. Therefore, the media will keep spinning the rumor mills to create chaos in this ever-changing landscape.
While millions of Americans enjoy playing fantasy sports with groups of friends or co-workers, the NCAA prohibits such activities for student-athletes, athletics employees, and those individuals to whom athletics employees report (i.e. college presidents, registrars, financial aid advisors, and faculty athletics representatives). The prohibition of fantasy sports is nothing new for these individuals; it is part of a wide-reaching ban on gambling activities. Penalties for violations of this policy can be harsh. Even though it may be a little frivolous to prohibit participation in fantasy sports leagues for small sums of money, the ultimate goals are much more important: maintain the integrity of on-field competition and keep student-athletes away from organized crime.
The NCAA policy on gambling is fairly simple: no student-athletes, athletics personnel, or university employees that oversee athletics may engage in any sports wagering activities. These individuals may not bet on amateur athletics contests, collegiate athletics contests, or professional athletics contests for NCAA-sponsored sports. Therefore, individuals may not bet on sports like football, basketball, soccer, baseball, or any Olympic sports; it is permissible to bet on sports such as horse racing, dog racing, NASCAR, and anything else that is not sponsored by the NCAA. Additionally, student-athletes and athletics personnel may play poker, slot machines, and other typical casino games in accordance with all federal and state laws.
The main rationale behind the NCAA’s policy on gambling is to protect the integrity of NCAA sports as well as the well-being of its constituents. University officials proposed this NCAA legislation because they worried that local bookkeepers and other members of the organized crime world could influence student-athletes to “shave points” – affect the final outcome of a game by putting forth less effort in order to allow gamblers to win big. Several student-athletes and coaches have been caught up in point-shaving scandals over the years. Just last year, federal law enforcement officials indicted some former members of the University of San Diego men’s basketball team on the suspicion of shaving points. The New York Times released an article about the University of San Diego scandal and gambling by NCAA student-athletes in general. Such activity is not commonplace, but it still is a nationwide concern. Gambling can develop into a crippling addiction – just take a look at former Ohio State and NFL quarterback, Art Schlichter, who wasted his talent when he became a degenerate gambler. While most gambling problems might not become as serious as Schlichter’s, the NCAA policy is aimed at preventing sports wagering activities before the debts escalate.
If violations of NCAA Bylaw 10.3 – sports wagering activities – occur, the price that violators pay is steep. If a student-athlete violates this legislation, he or she loses one full year (365 days) of eligibility from the time the violation is discovered; a second violation by the same student-athlete results in the permanent loss of collegiate eligibility. Athletics personnel are put on NCAA probation if they violate the same legislation; a second violation results in a “show-cause” penalty. Such a penalty normally results in an individual’s dismissal from a university job. These are very strict penalties, especially considering the activities that qualify as violations of Bylaw 10.3. If an individual enters a fantasy NFL league for a $20 entry fee, for example, that is a violation. Likewise, a $5 entry fee for an office “March Madness” pool qualifies as a violation.
Fantasy sports leagues, bracket challenges for “March Madness” in NCAA men’s basketball, and numerous other sports wagering activities are fairly harmless. Millions of people enjoy these activities. However, if you plan on working in collegiate athletics, you must give these up for the greater goal of keeping big-time gambling and organized crime out of collegiate athletics and as far away from student-athletes as possible. In the end, it is simply not worth it for individuals who are involved with collegiate athletics to gamble on sports – if you gamble on sports, you’re gambling your job security or collegiate eligibility.
Fans of the University of Tennessee Volunteers have endured a year of speculation about NCAA penalties for their football and men’s basketball programs. They were outraged that Lane Kiffin rode into town in the offseason two years ago, made brash promises of returning to elite status in the world of college football, and then bolted for the USC job a year later – leaving a trail of NCAA infractions in his dust. Subsequently, they learned that their beloved men’s basketball coach, Bruce Pearl, who had taken the men’s program to previously unrealized heights, also drew the attention of NCAA investigators last summer. Pearl lied to those investigators in June 2010. He claimed he did not recognize the location in which he was pictured with recruits when it was in fact his own kitchen. The school administration originally stood by Pearl, but eventually terminated his contract in March 2011. Last week, the NCAA Committee on Infractions (COI) handed down their decision regarding the infractions committed by the University of Tennessee.
The best aspect of the COI’s decision, from Tennessee’s perspective, is that the infractions committed by Kiffin and his staff were all found to be secondary violations. Another satisfying element of the decision is that no postseason ban is placed on the men’s basketball program. Furthermore, the COI did not tack on any additional recruiting restrictions that will affect the new coaching staffs in the football and men’s basketball programs.
Tennessee did not get off scot-free, though. The COI simply accepted many of the recruiting restrictions that the institution self-imposed on Pearl and his staff during the past academic year. The institution also placed several restrictions on the new men’s basketball coach, Cuonzo Martin, and his staff that will end after November 2011. New penalties for the university, handed down by the COI, include a public reprimand and censure, and a two year probationary period for the athletics department. The athletic department’s media guides must contain a statement explaining what infractions have been committed. Furthermore, as part of the probation, the University of Tennessee must prepare comprehensive, annual reports of their increased compliance efforts – specifically detailing the new NCAA rules’ education system that the compliance department must implement. This punishment is standard for universities that are on probation for committing major infractions.
The COI issued harsher penalties for Pearl and three assistant basketball coaches. Pearl has been given a three year “show-cause” penalty. A “show-cause” tag means that a coach is prohibited from all recruiting activities. Any university that seeks to employ such an individual must provide substantive reasons documenting why the coach in question should be allowed to recruit. A university could also theoretically hire a coach with a “show-cause” tag attached to his name and not challenge the recruiting restrictions, but recruiting is obviously an integral part of coaching. The three assistant coaches have each been given a one year “show-cause” penalty. Therefore, the assistants could potentially get new coaching jobs for the 2012-2013 academic year, but Pearl probably can’t coach again until the 2014-2015 academic year. Yesterday, Pearl announced that he has spurned a coaching offer from the NBA Developmental League affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks. Instead, he will take a position as the Vice President of Marketing for H.T. Hackney Co., in Knoxville, so he can stay close to several of his older children who live in the area.
In effect, the University of Tennessee has come away from this ordeal without suffering huge penalties going forward. The university has lost several successful coaches, their athletic director, and perhaps their reputation has been somewhat tarnished. If the compliance department does a good job over the next few years, though, and their sports teams avoid future trouble, this case may be forgotten relatively quickly. As individual parties to this case, however, Pearl has suffered irreparable damage to his coaching reputation, and the three assistants carry a scarlet letter on their résumés as well. Kiffin, on the other hand, retains a poor reputation in some circles, but he has not been directly associated with a major violation. Everyone involved can move forward from a nightmarish two years.