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October 17, 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'm sure you saw what happened with the Tulane football player who fractured his spine during a game against Tulsa. Now, the athletics department and university there are raising money on his behalf to help with medical expenses. Does the NCAA allow this? Thanks. Eric in Blacksburg.

TP: "We actually dealt with a similar situation several years ago when women's basketball player Rayna DuBose contracted meningococcal meningitis and doctors had to amputate her hands and feet. In her case, we set up a fund through the Monogram Club because it was the easiest avenue to raise money under state guidelines.

"The NCAA does allow member-schools to do this under Bylaw 16.4.1-(e). This bylaw states: 'Special individual expenses resulting from a permanent disability that precludes further athletics participation (are permissible) ... An institution or outside agency, or both, may raise money through donations, benefits or like activities to assist the student-athlete ... All funds secured shall be controlled by the institution, and the money shall be used exclusively to meet these expenses.'

"The NCAA requires each student-athlete to have health insurance, but the NCAA's Catastrophic Insurance Program covers student-athletes, student coaches, student managers, student trainers and student cheerleaders who are catastrophically injured while participating in a covered event. The policy provides benefits in excess of any other valid and collectible insurance."

Q: It seems that the NCAA is granting more transfer waivers than normal. The quarterback at UVa (Phillip Sims), for example, transferred from Alabama and got to play immediately instead of sitting out the year. Are you guys noticing this, and why is the NCAA doing this? Kevin in Blacksburg.

TP: "The NCAA is granting more transfer waivers quite simply because more student-athletes than ever before are transferring, particularly in high-profile sports such as football and men's basketball. And they are doing so for a variety of reasons (e.g. coaching changes, unhappy with playing time, homesick, family issues, etc.).

"Usually, a student-athlete transferring from one Division I school to another must sit out a season of competition to meet the NCAA's residency requirements, but student-athletes can request a waiver of that requirement. The NCAA looks at each case individually before making a decision. Most waiver requests are because of an illness to a family member or a financial hardship.

"During the five years from April 2007 to April of this year, the NCAA received 631 transfer waiver requests on behalf of undergraduate student-athletes in all sports. Of that number, 307 were granted - 19 with conditions - and 324 were denied. Those numbers are from the NCAA office.

"As for Sims, I'm not familiar with his situation - I don't even know if that ever became public knowledge - and wouldn't be comfortable commenting on it even if I were."

Q: How long does it take the NCAA to review a transcript in question? The freshman guard at N.C. State (Rodney Purvis) just got cleared in late September. Doesn't seem fair to the kid. Thanks, Amber from Christiansburg.

TP: "The short answer is - it depends. In this case, the young man was part of the first graduating class at a new academy, and after the NCAA ruled him ineligible, N.C. State submitted an initial-eligibility waiver on the young man's behalf. While NCAA staff and committee members evaluated that school's course offerings, course descriptions and syllabi, the school continued to provide more information. The initial ruling then came down that the young man could practice and attend classes with athletics financial aid, but not compete. After that ruling, N.C. State submitted another appeal, this one to the core-course subcommittee, and fortunately for the young man, a five-person, core-course subcommittee and one NCAA staff liaison ruled in his favor, thus making him eligible for competition.

"High schools, academies, boarding schools, etc., have a great deal of discretion in determining the courses at their school that are 'core courses' for NCAA eligibility purposes. However, there is a minimum academic threshold below which courses may not fall. Any course nearing this threshold is evaluated by a panel of NCAA consultants – academic professionals hired specifically to perform detailed reviews. Whenever there is a question, the process of investigating, gathering the required information, and working through the appeals procedures can take a great deal of time. Usually, these rulings get made before a university begins classes to give the student-athlete an opportunity to look at other options, but it isn't always possible."