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February 17, 2014

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 & Governance:

Q: Is it true that if a high school athlete reclassifies and repeats a year because of poor grades, then he or she is not eligible to spend a postgraduate year at a prep school? I seem to recall hearing something about that in relation to one of our football recruits. Thanks for answering, Katie in Christiansburg.

TP: “Well, anyone is always free to spend a postgraduate year at a prep school. What I think you’re getting at here is whether or not a prospect in this circumstance can utilize any additional core courses that he/she may earn during that prep school year to establish his/her NCAA Division I initial eligibility for competition. And the answer to that question will almost always be ‘no.’

“As a general rule, the period of time in which a prospective student-athlete must earn the 16 core courses required to compete as a freshman in Division I is eight semesters. After those eight semesters are completed, a prospective student-athlete may earn one additional core course if he/she has graduated on time (this is known as ‘plus-one’). Individuals with a documented, pre-existing learning disability may earn up to three additional core courses after graduating on time (this is known as ‘plus-three’).

So, if a student has reclassified and repeats a grade, he/she will not graduate on time (i.e. following eight semesters), thereby rendering any other core courses earned beyond that point as unusable. While the prospective student-athlete can continue to work to improve his/her standardized test score during this time, no impact can be made on the core-course total or core-course GPA.

“Of course, there is an appeals process. But the value of the prep school year – which I think was at the heart of your question – was greatly diminished following the adoption of the ‘plus-one’ and ‘plus-three’ limits in 2010.”

Q: What does the term “show cause” mean? I hear that phrase all the time when referring to coaches who violate NCAA rules, but no one ever explains what that exactly means. Thanks, Eric in Christiansburg.

TP: “A show-cause penalty is an order from the NCAA saying that, for a set period of time, any NCAA penalties imposed on a coach involved in major NCAA rules violations will remain in force if he or she is hired by any other NCAA member-school.

“If the school wishes to avoid the NCAA restrictions imposed on that individual, it must appear before the NCAA Committee on Infractions and ‘show cause’ as to why it should not be penalized for hiring him or her. The penalty is intended to follow a coach for violations that he or she had a role in committing. It is the most severe penalty that can be handed down to a coach.

“Contrary to popular belief, an NCAA member-school is allowed to hire a coach with a show-cause order outstanding. In practice, however, the show-cause restrictions make it prohibitively difficult for a coach with a show-cause order to get another collegiate job. As mentioned above, any school that hires a coach with a show-cause order in effect can be penalized merely for doing so. Additionally, that school can face severe penalties if a coach commits another violation during the length of the penalty. Consequently, most schools will not even consider hiring a coach with a show-cause penalty in effect.

“For this reason, a show-cause penalty usually has the effect of blackballing a coach from the collegiate ranks for the duration of the penalty. Many coaches receiving such a penalty never coach again, even after the expiration of the penalty.”

Q: When is the NCAA finally going to allow unlimited texting? Thanks, Lester in Blacksburg.

TP: “I think that day is coming soon. In October, the NCAA Rules Working Group – after much feedback from member schools and coaches’ groups – proposed lifting the restrictions on modes of electronic communication in all sports other than football, swimming/diving, and track/cross country. This proposal has received widespread support, most recently at the NCAA Convention in early January.

“Permitting texting and other more ‘immediate’ forms of communication used by teenagers today should make things more transparent for everyone. Keep in mind that all communication during the recruiting process must still be private, prior to a signed commitment (e.g. no tweets, and no communication on ‘boards’ or ‘walls’ that could be seen by the public). And remember, the NCAA rules already allow basketball coaches unlimited communication with recruits in any private format. There have been few problems or complaints.

“I would expect the restrictions on modes of electronic communications to be lifted for most sports effective August 1, 2014.”