“It’s not a fine. It’s not a threat. It’s a tool.”

Okay, it turns out I was wrong about something.  NCAA rules do allow for player fines. (h/t John Infante)

Institutional financial aid based in any degree on athletics ability may be reduced or canceled during the period of the award or reduced or not renewed for the following academic year or years of the student-athlete’s five-year period of eligibility if the recipient:

… (e) Violates a nonathletically related condition outlined in the financial aid agreement or violates a documented institutional rule or policy (e.g., academics policies or standards, athletics department or team rules or policies).

So, it means that Virginia Tech and Cincinnati can pursue a course of fining players, if they so choose.

And if they’re careful to read the fine print there.

In order to avoid legal repercussions, the use of these funds for discipline must be written into the grant-in-aid agreements that are the basis for any athletic scholarship. The option must be a part of the scholarship transaction from the moment the athlete agrees to attend the university.

Unless the possibility of a fine is an express provision, there can be no withholding of such funds regardless of the conduct. Just like expulsion from the school or suspension from the team, the penalties for misconduct must be described in the agreement with specificity. If not, the school that fined a player would be subject to legal actions for breach of an agreement or for money damages as the result of tortious (wrongful) treatment of a player.

In addition, the grant-in-aid agreement must include a procedure for an appeal by the athletes just as it does for other disciplinary actions. The appeal is a bit of due process that is of benefit both to the athlete and to the school.

Munson goes on to note that it seems Cincinnati has indeed crossed all its Ts and dotted all its Is in that regard.  The Hokies, however, I’m gonna guess not so much, based on the athletic director’s comments.

Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock said he “had no idea” that football players were being assessed fines for violations like missing team meetings or being late for meals, and says the practice has been “discontinued” effective immediately.

Images from a television monitor outside the Hokies’ players’ lounge on Wednesday night listed what appeared to be a fine structure and named players who had already been assessed fines.

Now, a couple of things come to mind here.  The first is that while it may be within the NCAA rule structure to do this, following the rule is a lot different from being smart.  I can only imagine the hay waiting to be made on the recruiting trail with this news from, say, an Auburn recruiter chasing some élite prospect from the Virginia Beach area.  Indeed, now Virginia Tech is likely to face the fallout of defending a practice it no longer follows.  Have fun with that, Coach Foster.

But here’s the tough part to understand.  Munson says for the protocol to fine players to comply with NCAA rules to be permissible, it has to be clearly set forth in the financial aid agreement the school has the player sign.  Except the player isn’t allowed to have legal representation at that point.  How something like that might stand up in a court of law, I’m not sure.  And you’d think somebody like Jeffrey Kessler would want to know.

Then again, Kessler might be successful enough waiving pictures of the TV screen from the VT players lounge in support of his clients’ lawsuit that it would be a moot point.

The really funny thing is that coaches like Foster and Tuberville really don’t care if the law sees these kids as student-athletes or players getting paid, i.e., employees.  They just care that they’re allowed to have enough control over them, in whatever form or fashion works.  But I doubt their bosses see that the same way.  Which probably explains why Whit Babcock got his ass in high gear when he got the news.


Filed under Look For The Union Label, The NCAA

12 responses to ““It’s not a fine. It’s not a threat. It’s a tool.”

  1. Dog in Fla

    First, Tommy tried to put the COA on layaway (half now and half later/whenever Tommy feels like it). Next, the mandatory deducts for fines. Tommy can easily counter that by coming up with a bounty system with those reward amounts being set off against the deductions for fines so the whole plan can be revenue neutral. Therefore, Tommy is not a tool


  2. Chadwick

    All the folks involved in this shit put together couldn’t run a lemonade stand. What a bunch of dum dums.

    Kessler must be laughing his ass off that the ineptitude of these folks.


  3. Red Cup

    It’s not a tax. It’s a revenue enhancement.


  4. 3rdandGrantham

    Amazed at the shortsighted thinking here. Actually I’m not. They can go right ahead with their “fines,” but at soon as they start losing recruits to other programs who don’t levy such fines, but instead engage in something a bit more sensible like extra jumping jacks or stadium stairs before/after practice, they’ll quickly change their policy after getting their butts kicked on the recruiting trail. After all, if you dare touch someone’s money—especially someone who’s young and perhaps didn’t hail from wealthy means—you’re simply an unethical, myopic idiot.

    I swear, if UVa just had a somewhat competent football coach…maybe a Guy Morriss, a Sylvester Croom…hell even a Tommy Bowden, they would really be making waves right now in the almost competitive conference. But instead they are just sitting there floundering while surrounded by 24k gold accouterments.


  5. The Georgia Way

    Why didn’t WE think of thi$ ?


  6. DawgPhan

    guessing that mcgarity has already made sure that all student athletes on will be on the call list for donations and will be passing the hat in the lockerroom for the new IPF.


  7. AthensHomerDawg

    “Unless the possibility of a fine is an express provision, there can be no withholding of such funds regardless of the conduct.”
    Well…at least they didn’t have to sign it before they knew what was in it!” 😉


  8. I have no concern about the contract being enforceable even though signed without representation.

    I do think the market will kill this idea very quickly. Of course I also think this is a ridiculous idea. Discipline in the college and high school ranks always was extra running etc. the idea of fining players is not just moronic but completely distasteful.


  9. ASEF

    Why not a company store, too? 85 players x $4000/yr is quite the revenue opportunity. That would pay for some serious stadium WiFi.


  10. TimberRidgeDawg

    I question whether they could actually withhold COA funds. They can choose to pay or not to pay athletes but once set, the COA number is used for all students and college loans may be taken against that number if a student so chooses.

    So to my way of thinking, this COA number becomes a non-discretionary part of the funded scholarship package, along with tuition/board/etc, and could not be treated like withholding an allowance for misbehaving. Otherwise, I think it might open the taxable income door and the athletes become paid employees.

    After all, fining professional athletes is a very common. I have a hard time seeing the difference here. You can apply fines against salaries but not reimbursable expenses.