Responding to recent criticism of the effectiveness of the NCAA enforcement process, the Association’s President, Mark Emmert has defended the enforcement staff and its work.

Emmert’s response came in a memorandum to the NCAA Division I Board of Directors and all 32 Division I Commissioners.   The memo appears to have been prompted by comments made by Big XII Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, who told news media that “enforcement is broken” and that “the infractions committee hasn’t had a hearing in almost a year, and I think it’s not an understatement to say cheating pays presently.”  In his written rejoinder, Emmert stated flatly that such assertions were inaccurate, citing statistics supporting the current enforcement process:

  • The NCAA enforcement staff has approximately 100 active investigations;
  • 14 institutions have been notified of a combined 64 allegations of major violations;
  • Notices of an additional 50 allegations of significant violations will be delivered to the involved institutions by the end of 2014, most of which involve Division I schools; and
  • The Division I Committee on Infractions is expected to conduct at least one hearing a month for much of the 2014-2015 academic year;

Meanwhile, the NCAA Steering Committee on Governance will deliver to the Division I Board of Directors its final recommended Division I governance structure model for adoption at its August 7th meeting.    The proposed model does not address enforcement.  However, the enforcement process recently was significantly changed as a result of an initiative led by University Presidents beginning in 2011.  The current model became effective in August 2013 and is intended to place more emphasis on the most serious rules violations and to shorten case processing time.

Despite the data presented by Dr. Emmert and the brief time the new model has been in place, the Division I commissioners plan to initiate a comprehensive study of the enforcement process following the adoption of the new governance structure.  Given the increased influence of the five highest-revenue conferences (Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten, Big XII, the Pac-12 and the Southeastern Conference) as contemplated in the new governance model, if the commissioners conclude the recent enforcement reform is inadequate, a new model likely will be proposed.  In any event, based on the criticisms by Mr. Bowlsby and other influential leaders in college athletics,  it is clear that NCAA rules enforcement will prioritize investigating the most egregious violations and will place the heaviest penalties directly on individuals who willfully violate the rules.   

NCAA member institutions, particularly those in Division I, should ensure their compliance operations are adequately supported and are targeting the most significant issues in intercollegiate athletics today, as those are likely to be the primary focus of NCAA enforcement.  Institutions must be prepared to investigate alleged rules violations thoroughly and ensure their policies and monitoring systems demonstrate institutional control to the Committee on Infractions, if called upon to do so.

Expanding its Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice, Jackson Lewis is well-positioned to assist with matters involving NCAA enforcement, including internal investigations, the new summary disposition process and hearings before the Committee on Major Infractions. The firm works with institutions to ensure their athletics compliance programs are structured and functioning properly in order to reduce the chances of NCAA enforcement proceedings and to minimize other legal risk.