By Michelle Brutlag Hosick
The National Association for Athletics Compliance on Tuesday released a series of “reasonable standards” in three different compliance areas designed to begin setting a benchmark for Division I compliance professionals.
The initial set of standards provides guidance in the areas of countable athletically related activities, recruiting contacts and evaluations, and complimentary admissions. Kate Hickey, senior associate athletics director at Rutgers and first vice president of the NAAC, said the standards released today are just a start, and the group will tackle other areas of NCAA legislation over the coming months.
“There are a few things that the NAAC is going to do that are critical to our profession, and this is one of them,” Hickey said. “We want to give people an expectation of what they should be doing when it comes to monitoring compliance of the rules and providing education of the rules.”
The guidelines include a reference to relevant bylaws, the purpose for the standards and an outline of monitoring, education and documentation standards. For example, the group recommends that compliance personnel monitor complimentary admissions by visually confirming that student-athlete guests are required to present photo ID and are not provided hard tickets. The group recommends the checks be done at least once annually in each ticketed sport. This is just one example of a monitoring standard in the complimentary admissions area.
The NCAA enforcement staff applauded the NAAC’s efforts and agreed that a set of reasonable standards was needed to help compliance officers gauge what is happening in their industry.
In a review of recent cases in which institutional failure to monitor the athletics program was charged, NCAA Director of Enforcement Julie Roe said that if the involved institutions had developed and implemented more monitoring standards, they might have avoided the finding. Roe believes the standards will help schools benchmark existing systems with industry norms and improve systems when warranted to mitigate or avoid a failure-to-monitor allegation should major infractions occur.
But she also cautioned that having the standards in place at an institution is not a safe harbor from a failure-to-monitor charge or lack-of-institutional-control charge.
“It should go a long way to help compliance professionals understand how much is enough,” said Roe. “But we also underscore that this is one of many resources available to these compliance professionals. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.”
Hickey agreed and said that applying their standards across the board was probably not feasible.
“If you know you have a problem in a specific area, you can’t just follow these standards. You have to assess your own situation,” she said. “What we propose might not be enough, but for some schools it might be more than what is reasonable.”
The standards were developed by contacting conferences to find out what schools are performing well in specific areas and then talking with athletics directors and compliance administrators at those schools to compile some best practices. The group also sought input from NCAA staff, including the enforcement staff.
The NAAC’s efforts to get to this point began about two years ago. Hickey anticipates that future standards won’t take so long to develop. Once a system is in place for developing the guidelines, she believes the process will go quicker.