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December 7, 2009

Keeping up with Compliance

By: Jimmy Robertson

The compliance corner answers questions concerning the governance of intercollegiate athletics and its impact on our athletics department. Have a question? Please send it to and we’ll answer it in upcoming issues.

Now, here are a couple of questions that we’ve received from Tech alums and fans over the past few months, with responses from Tim Parker, the department’s senior assistant AD for compliance:

Q: “I know that head coaches cannot talk publicly about a prospect until after that prospect signs a letter-of-intent. I was wondering what the logic was behind that particular rule? Thanks.” – Tom in Christiansburg.

TP: “Well, I would say that there are several reasons for this limitation. The main one, in my view, is to prevent an ‘arms race’ of comments by college coaches. It would be inappropriate (and, many would say, unprofessional) for college coaches to publicly use increasingly complimentary comments in reference to every single targeted prospect. No one would be well served by repeated enthusiastic praise, comparisons to established stars, etc., made in a public forum.

“There are also issues regarding the desire to minimize – to the degree possible – the pressure created by the recruiting process on the prospects themselves. There is a belief that the absence of prospect-specific comments during the recruiting process helps on this front.

“For these reasons, a college coach is limited to merely confirming that a particular prospect is actually being recruited.”

(Editor’s note: NCAA Bylaw 13.10.2 states that before the signing of a prospective student-athlete to a national letter-of-intent or an institution's written offer of admission and/or financial aid, a member institution may comment publicly only to the extent of confirming its recruitment of the prospective student-athlete. The institution may not comment generally about the prospective student-athlete's ability or the contribution that the prospective student-athlete might make to the institution's team. Further, the institution is precluded from commenting in any manner as to the likelihood of the prospective student-athlete's signing with that institution.)

Q: “With the signing period over, what can coaches do to ensure that their signees meet all the school’s and NCAA’s requirements for admission?” – Debbie in Blacksburg.

TP: “Obviously, college coaches are not permitted to take any sort of ‘hands-on’ role to assist a prospect in meeting any academic requirements related to admissions or NCAA initial-eligibility legislation. Permissible actions would include: explaining the importance of academic achievement, requesting periodic updates concerning grades and test scores, and encouragement.”

Q: “Does a signee need to do anything beforehand to receive a letter-of-intent, aside from the obvious requirement of performing well in his or her sport?” – Joe in Richmond.

TP: “Yes, all prospects must be registered online with the NCAA Eligibility Center and be identified by the college/university as a recruit through placement on the school’s institutional request list (IRL).

“Beginning next August, prospects will be required to take an additional step. He or she must also have completed the online amateurism certification questionnaire administered by the NCAA Eligibility Center.

“Unless these steps are taken, a school cannot provide a written offer of financial aid (e.g. scholarship); and without an offer of financial aid to accompany the national letter-of-intent, it is not valid.”

Q: “Can student-athletes participate in fantasy sports?” – Jack in Bristol.

TP: “Only if no entry fee is required or prizes offered. NCAA regulations do include fantasy sports as a form of sports wagering. In fact, sports wagering includes anything from the use of a bookmaker or parlay card, to internet sports wagering, to auctions in which bids are placed on teams/individuals/contests, to pools or fantasy leagues in which an entry fee is required and there is an opportunity to win a prize (Bylaw 10.2.1).

“These NCAA regulations apply to more than just the student-athletes. They also apply to coaches and all other full-time athletics department staff members, as well as any non-athletics university staff members who have responsibilities within or over the athletics department (such as the president or faculty athletics representative).”