The road to hell

When it comes to rules making and enforcement, the NCAA, like nature, abhors a vacuum.

The NCAA published its first rule book in 1952. It was 25 pages. Half a century later, the NCAA has three separate rule books of 440, 349 and 316 pages, mostly governing off-the-field activity for its three divisions. Besides that, the NCAA has game rule books for football (255 pages), basketball (212) and other sports.

The vacuum in this case seems to involve people’s wallets, no matter how logical or how small the cause.

What happens when a fight almost breaks out between a pizza delivery man and a top high school football recruit? An NCAA rules violation, of course.

It’s good for the economy, though.

… such a surge has created hundreds of new jobs and new expenses for schools, whose increased vigilance has led to more violations being discovered, according to a survey and review of hundreds of violation reports obtained through open-records requests by The San Diego Union-Tribune. More rule proposals and adjustments come up each year, which has led to double or triple the number of specialists being hired at schools to interpret them and keep track of them on campus.

… A typical example of how this has affected schools is South Carolina. In the 1990s, the university had one full-time person committed to rules compliance, plus one full-time assistant. Today, you practically can’t throw a stone in Columbia without hitting a rules staffer. The Gamecocks have five rules interpreters, plus two administrative assistants and an intern.

Almost all major schools had only one rules compliance person in the 1990s. Today it’s at least two to four, an increase of about $100,000 to $200,000 in salaries per school.

This, of course, isn’t to say that rules aren’t necessary, or that the NCAA doesn’t have a valid role to play in making sure its members operate on the up and up.  Or even that it’s all well intentioned (or at least started out that way).

It’s just that when you read this, you see the wisdom in this logic:

… Chuck Smrt, a former NCAA enforcement official, now works at a business in Kansas, The Compliance Group, which provides consulting expertise to schools and conferences on NCAA rules.

When he makes presentations, he tells clients the rule book isn’t as complicated as it might seem, in principle at least. The main concepts haven’t really changed: Athletes must pass a certain amount of classwork, no extra benefits for athletes, no recruiting enticements.

“When I make presentations to coaching groups, I say that if you know two basic pieces of legislation, you’re never going to be on probation,” Smrt said. “If you know you can’t give anything to a recruit at any time, you’ll never have recruiting violations. Once an athlete enrolls, you can’t do anything for him even though you can do it for the general student body.”

I bet Smrt never said anything like that when he was employed by the NCAA.

(h/t The Wizard of Odds

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4 Comments

Filed under The NCAA

4 responses to “The road to hell

  1. What kind of dude has no vowels in his name?

  2. I know what you mean – I thought it was a typo the first time I saw it.

    Sounds like somebody’s ancestors got shortchanged at Ellis Island getting off the boat.

  3. dean

    The reason they have so many rules is people cheat, especially in sports. For every rule there’s some one who will find a loophole thus leading to another rule. It’s a shame but the NCAA has to be very specific to what the rules are because you always have somebody looking for ways around the rules. I’m surprised none of the books are more than 500 pages. The “Mitchell Report” is 400 pages and that’s just naming ‘roid heads.

  4. “Sounds like somebody’s ancestors got shortchanged at Ellis Island getting off the boat.”

    You crack me up, Senator.