When it comes to compliance in college athletics, just about every program has been caught with its hand in the metaphorical cookie jar. But some programs, both large and small, have taken the next step and have been caught robbing the Oreo factory.
Ohio State has made headlines recently with news that football coach Jim Tressel lied to the NCAA about knowing that five of his players illegally sold memorabilia. That case has followed the NCAA’s tagging of Southern California with lack of institutional control in 2010.
Because of the perennial problems involving big-name schools, Ohio University professor B. David Ridpath views the Tressel saga as a chance for the NCAA to make a statement.
“I do look at this as a watershed moment,” said Ridpath, an associate professor of sports administration. “You can either defend Ohio State or you can defend Jim Tressel. If you try to defend both, it’s going to be problematic.”
But the pair of high-profile cases is only a small sampling of the most serious violations that have taken place at college programs of all sizes nationwide. Since 2000, the NCAA has handled 176 cases involving major infractions of its rules. Only 75 of those took place at Football Bowl Subdivision schools, and 47 involved non-Division 1 programs.
“The majority of major infractions are going to be from smaller Division 1 schools that don’t have a lot of resources,” said Tricia Turley, assistant athletic director for compliance and student services for Ohio Athletics.
Besides major infractions, thousands of secondary offenses have been reported during the same time frame. Violations include Level I infractions, which can affect student eligibility, and Level II infractions, which often involve a simple letter of reprimand.
Turley and compliance director Craig Leon educate Ohio coaches about NCAA rules and encourage them to report any potential violations. All infractions reported by coaches and detected by routine internal monitoring procedures are handed over to the NCAA.
“I’d like to see between 10 and 20 secondary violations a year at minimum, because that means our coaches know what the rules are and that we’re doing a good job monitoring,” Turley said. “With a rulebook that’s almost 500 pages long, it’s impossible to be perfect.”
Since July 2009, Ohio has reported 16 secondary infractions to collegiate athletics’ governing body. Seven sports had at least one violation, with field hockey reporting four and men’s basketball reporting three. Football, volleyball and swimming and diving each had two. Softball and women’s basketball also reported violations, as did the CHAMPS/ Life Skills program.
Three of the sixteen infractions were Level I violations, including one involving a football player who kept a stipend provided for off-campus summer housing after being “academically dropped.” The NCAA allowed the player to keep the stipend because of “student-athlete welfare issues,” according to data The Post obtained from Ohio Athletics.
“We have people over there with integrity who want to do the right thing, and the stakes aren’t as high (as big-name schools), quite frankly,” Ridpath said.
“I think our athletic department here does a great job with that, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be ever-vigilant. Compliance is everybody’s responsibility.”