News media outlets have been full of stories over the past few months about problems with the NCAA Enforcement Staff and its handling of high profile cases brought before it. Whether it is the case involving Cam Newton and allegations of a “pay for play” scheme run by his father; Jim Tressel covering up for violations involving Ohio State football players, college football players’ run-ins with sports agents, or Connecticut’s men’s basketball program infractions, people have criticized both the process and the results.
Many of the stories have focused on a seeming lack of coordination between the Enforcement Staff, which investigates allegations of wrongdoing, and the Infractions Committee, which hears cases and decides on penalties.
The NCAA staff members in Indianapolis have apparently been taking notice of the criticisms. On Tuesday, May 10, the NCAA hosted a conference for some two dozen reporters who have written pieces critical of the NCAA enforcement efforts. The purpose of this conference was to have each of the reporters participate in mock investigative meetings. Each reporter present was assigned a persona of a person with the Enforcement Staff and then guided through a meeting set up to closely resemble what members of the Enforcement Staff actually do.
This mock Enforcement Staff went through the process of building a case involving academic fraud. The “facts” of the case were researched and provided by actual Enforcement Staff members. Reporters posing as staff members were forced to go through the same process as real members do in attempting to build and evaluate cases.
NCAA President, Mark Emmert, stated that the ultimate goal of enforcement efforts by the NCAA is to install a level of concern, and even fear, among members such that the risk of being caught outweighs the potential rewards of cheating. He noted limitations such as the lack of any subpoena powers but stated the staff attempts to be fair, impartial and consistent in its work.
There are many people who will see this story and conclude that it is nothing more than a well-planned publicity stunt by the NCAA to divert attention from its real shortcomings in the handling of recent cases. Readers are urged to read the entire story for yourselves and then form your own conclusions.
Editor’s Note: This article is another in a series of articles on this blog that deal with ethics and sports. These are the important issues that any sports administrator or manager must deal with in his or her professional life. These are the types of issues regularly explored by students at the United States Sports Academy. For more information go to http://ussa.edu.