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October 10, 2011

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, Associate AD for Compliance:

Q: I read recently where the NCAA is going to allow schools to provide cream cheese for the bagels that they give to student-athletes. I hope you and your staff really don’t have to waste time on issues like these, but I’m afraid I know what the answer is. Sincerely, Cassie in Champaign, Ill.

TP: “The media has given a lot of attention to this, and I can see why, as it is symbolic of the micro-managing and sometimes silly side of NCAA regulations. The bottom-line issue is: what food can be provided to student-athletes at times when they are not directly involved with practice or competition? Prior to 2009, the answer in nearly all of these situations was none.

“At that time, the ACC proposed – and the NCAA membership adopted – an amendment permitting athletics departments to provide ‘fruits, nuts, and bagels . . . at any time.’ Soon after adoption, it was determined to allow only fresh fruit, actual nuts, and spread-less naked bagels. You see, the ACC’s proposal failed to anticipate the desire for processed fruit (e.g. applesauce), processed peanuts (e.g. peanut butter), or cream cheese, jelly, etc.

“A new proposal from the Big East Conference will allow spreads for the bagels, beginning in 2012. Unfortunately, though, due to the often incremental nature of our organization, applesauce and pre-packaged fruit cups will still not be on the menu for at least another year.”

Q: When student-athletes have jobs, does the compliance office at each school monitor that? How difficult would it be for compliance offices to monitor legitimate contracts if the NCAA were to allow student-athletes to enter into marketing deals for products (and get paid for it), as Jay Bilas suggests? Bilas thinks the NCAA should go to the Olympic model (where companies pay athletes to market their products) instead of using the current model. Thanks, Chad in Christiansburg.

TP: “Roughly 15 years ago, a limit was enacted capping the annual amount that a student-athlete could earn through employment during the academic year at a combined total (athletics scholarship plus employment earnings) of $2,000 above the value of the full grant-in-aid. The rule also allowed athletics departments to help the student-athletes find jobs. There have never been limits on earnings during vacation periods.

“In 2002, the $2,000 academic-year limit was lifted. Once this limit was lifted, much of the monitoring work associated with student-athlete employment disappeared. However, we still do require a written statement signed by the student-athlete and the employer specifying that the student-athlete’s compensation is unrelated to the student-athlete's athletics fame or ability and that the student-athlete is compensated at a fair rate for work actually performed. But it’s not time-consuming for our staff because very few student-athletes take advantage of the opportunity, due to the various other demands on their time.

“As for Bilas’ model, I haven’t reviewed it in detail, but my guess is that it probably has merit. Whether that model would increase a compliance staff's workload would depend – like any other proposed modification – on the actual details and how it would be implemented. There are almost always unintended consequences.”