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December 11, 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: Did you see the case involving the San Diego State basketball player who was suspended for receiving impermissible benefits? The NCAA suspended him, but let him play in the season opener against Syracuse first before suspending him the next three games. How is that fair? He’ll probably miss three games against lousy teams, but got to play against a great team. Thanks, April in Blacksburg.

TP: “San Diego State argued successfully that the violation was minor in nature and that the event (the Syracuse game was played on an aircraft carrier) was unique, and therefore, the player should be allowed to start the suspension the following week. The NCAA agreed.

“The Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement has the flexibility to do this, but does so only in very limited circumstances to preserve the integrity of a particular event (e.g. bowl game, NCAA championship, NIT, etc.). We saw this a couple of years ago when the NCAA allowed Ohio State quarterback Terrell Pryor and others to play in the Sugar Bowl, with their suspensions to be served the following season. Keep in mind that the committee wouldn’t do this unless the student-athlete had eligibility remaining the following academic year.”

Q: Have you heard anything about Penn State’s football team going on a foreign tour in the future as a bowl substitute since they’re banned from going to a bowl for four years by the NCAA? It’s a unique idea. Thanks, Bill in Danville, Va.

TP: “Yes, I believe their coach, Bill O’Brien, mentioned that a month ago as a possibility. To be honest, I’m not sure what the thought process is at Penn State.

“Bylaw states specifically that ‘a foreign football tour shall be considered that institution’s postseason opportunity for that season, the accounting period to commence with the start of the institution’s normal beginning of fall practice.’ Penn State would need clarification on whether the fact that it has no postseason opportunities through 2015 prevents it from accessing this foreign tour option.

“To me, this is an attempt to get around the sanctions. However, it’s a tough spot for the NCAA because it wants to enforce the sanctions while limiting the impact on student-athletes. It’ll be interesting to see what transpires in the future.”

Q: So is it true that two Indiana freshmen basketball players were suspended for nine games over the amount of $185? That seems like harsh punishment, doesn’t it? Thanks, Megan in Blacksburg.

TP: “In a nutshell, yes. The two players received impermissible benefits provided by a man who operates both a foundation that brings basketball players over from Africa and the Indiana Elite AAU team. But those benefits were only impermissible because the man had given $185 over a six-year span from 1986-92 to the IU Varsity Club, which makes him a booster ‘forever’ under the NCAA’s rules. Had he not given the money, then the benefits would have been permissible. But it’s important to keep in mind that when the headlines state that the two were suspended over $185, that amount simply refers to the donations given by the booster. The amount of the impermissible benefits received by each the players was actually well in excess of $1,000.

“Has it been a public relations headache for the NCAA? Yes. The reaction to the NCAA’s ruling, which has been almost universally negative, is based on the idea that benefits the man provided should not become impermissible just because he donated a little bit of money to the school a long time ago. But the flip side is also true. Had the man or any other youth coach/international education foundation head not donated the money, allowing him to provide whatever benefits he wants and potentially steer kids to certain colleges is also not a good result.

“The challenge is to create a rule that does a good job of distinguishing between folks with good intentions and folks with bad intentions. But booster status, especially as it is currently defined, does little to help separate the two.”