That academic misconduct often does not result in punitive action from the NCAA has always been a complicated matter for the NCAA enforcement staff and Committee on Infractions (COI). This is in part due to legitimate claims of academic freedom and the NCAA membership’s view that member institutions should have autonomy and responsibility to determine whether academic misconduct occurred. Nevertheless, the potential reputational damages and significant financial costs involved in the investigation should have schools considering how they can protect their academic integrity.
In early April, the NCAA Legislative Council approved an interpretation clarifying NCAA policy and an accompanying educational column on academic misconduct. Those will be announced by the NCAA shortly. Gene Marsh, Of Counsel with Jackson Lewis and former chair of the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions, will be speaking on this subject in June at the annual conference of the National Association of College and University Attorneys. Here are a few of those recommendations for ensuring athletic academic integrity in athletics:
- Have a written academic misconduct policy that includes procedures for adjudication. Apply standards, policies, and procedures consistently for all students, including student-athletes. Investigate all assertions of academic misconduct in accordance with established policies and procedures.
- Enforce a clear, written policy regarding contacts between athletic departments staff members and admissions office staff members. Your admissions policy and corresponding data for special admissions may become the subject of intense scrutiny.
- Enforce a clear written policy regarding communications between coaches and instructors. Make it known to coaches, instructors, and student-athletes.
- Educate your admissions staff and faculty regarding the contact policy. Don’t just educate the athletic department staff.
- Involve the FAR in all matters relating to academic integrity with a nexus to athletics. The COI expects FAR involvement. However, expand faculty involvement. Include faculty in the examination of admissions and retention policies as well as academic misconduct inquiries relating to athletes.
- Revisit your manuals that define rules and policies for the delivery of tutorial and other academic support services. Enforce the rules. Manuals should address relevant NCAA rules, standards for hiring, evaluation and dismissal of tutors, the institution’s Code of Conduct for students and other matters that have an impact on the delivery of academic support for athletes.
- Even though the NCAA has decided against bringing allegations of academic misconduct, don’t stop your inquiry until all involved are satisfied that all due diligence has occurred and document the process.