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September 18, 2012

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 know that the athletics departments pays for student-athletes’ books, but I was wondering how this worked. Does the student-athlete get a check, and can he or she buy a cheaper book online and then pocket the difference? Seems like a good way for the student-athlete to pocket some extra dough. Just wondering. Brent in Princeton, W.Va.

TP: “That might be good in theory, but student-athletes are never supposed to handle funds used to purchase textbooks. Instead, textbooks are picked up by Virginia Tech student-athletes at the on-campus bookstore and charged directly to the athletics department. In some situations, student-athletes may also buy textbooks using their own money, and then get reimbursed.

“Any school that gave cash ‘up front’ to student-athletes to be used for the purchase of books could be deemed guilty of a major infraction – and be penalized severely. Student-athletes who are found to be profiting from textbook purchases would be rendered ineligible until they repay the benefit they received.”

Q: I’m sure you’ve heard about the new stuff coming out of Chapel Hill in regards to the academic scandal there. My question is – can the NCAA investigate this again after they’ve already investigated it? It seems the NCAA didn’t do its job the first time and now it gets another bite at the apple. Thanks, Rachel in Blacksburg.

TP: “Yes, the NCAA can investigate further, if need be. The NCAA has a four-year statute of limitations in which it investigates possible violations back four years from the notice of inquiry provided to the institution.

“However, the NCAA can also waive that statute in cases where the allegations involve violations affecting the eligibility of a current student-athlete or where the allegations indicate a pattern of willful violations on the part of the institution or the individual involved, which began before, but continued into, the four-year period. An example of this is the Miami case, which involves a former booster. There have been reports that indicate the NCAA may investigate as far back as 2002.”

Q: Which NCAA rules are violated the most? Thanks, Kelly in Blacksburg.

TP: “I don’t know what the numbers are as far as the entire NCAA Division I membership, but the ACC does provide numbers of violations categorized by NCAA Bylaw. That listing consistently shows Bylaw 13 (Recruiting) as the most violated bylaw. Many of these relate to impermissible phone calls, often two to a prospect in a week by a coaching staff. Others could be inadvertent off-campus encounters with prospects or parents that occur at impermissible times/dates, or messages sent from a smartphone as a text rather than an e-mail. Following Bylaw 13 in the rankings are: Bylaw 16 (Student-Athlete Benefits), Bylaw 17 (Playing Seasons and Countable Activities) and Bylaw 15 (Financial Aid).

“Being in this business for more than 20 years now, I believe that nearly all college coaches want to do things by the book, but you have to know the rules, and the NCAA Manual is long (434 pages) and complex. The challenge for most compliance offices, including ours, is continuing to stay informed on changes and continuing to educate our coaches and student-athletes about those changes. Every year, there are new trends, new issues and new points of emphasis. So we want to maintain strong relationships with our coaches and student-athletes in hopes that they’ll ask prior to doing something they are unsure of, rather than relying on what they’ve heard that coaches or student-athletes at other schools may be doing.”