NCAA enforcement wants to send message

December, 17, 2010
INDIANAPOLIS -- The new head of the NCAA's enforcement division is hoping penalties given out by the committee on infractions will be strong enough to warrant the amount of funds and hours spent in pursuing cases.

"If we're going to be spending our resources targeting key issues, then the penalty needs to be strong on these issues," said Julie Roe Lach, who was appointed by new NCAA president Mark Emmert to replace longtime enforcement director David Price. Roe Lach met with a collection of national reporters in Indianapolis earlier this week.

"The penalty needs to follow through with what kind of message we're sending," she said.

Roe Lach wouldn't get into specifics of any individual cases or current ones still pending, such as Tennessee. But she did say there has been a shift in the information flowing to and from the NCAA enforcement staff. She said that the staff gets daily calls and that most are for informational purposes. But she added that there are some, and there was one recently, for which the staff needed to send out a team of investigators immediately.

"We are scouring the records and doing our homework before we show up on campus about how they recruited," Roe Lach said. "And who are their connections. We can talk with that kind of candor, and if they're straight with us, it can serve you better in the long run."

But the NCAA doesn't have subpoena power and thus can only hold over the head of people that they must talk if they're current student-athletes or are employed by a member school. Someone who is not affiliated with the NCAA doesn't have to speak to investigators.

Roe Lach also spoke to the misconception that the NCAA is pursuing phone call violations. She said the last two phone call cases that were pursued by the NCAA were at Fresno State and Oklahoma, more than five years ago. She said the Kelvin Sampson-Indiana case was self-reported. Roe Lach said there is a larger issue as to whether the membership should update the legislation on phone calls (which allows e-mailing prospects but not text messaging) in an era when young people don't spend as much time on the phone.

"There is a larger discussion about why have a phone call rule," Roe Lach said. "We are spending so much resources focusing on other issues, like why agents are on campus and who is involved in our prospects recruiting and who is showing up on unofficial visits and how are the prospects getting their unofficial visits paid for. Those are the sorts of issues that are a part of a larger compliance discussion. But we are not actively trying to pursue phone call cases."

Roe Lach did clarify a point about the show-cause order (which could be put on Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl once the committee on infractions hears the Vols' case sometime after the school receives the notice of allegations, which is expected to be within the next month). Most of the time, a show-cause order is given to a coach who no longer is employed at the school. The NCAA cannot hire or fire a coach. But it can make it difficult for the school to continue employing the coach.

"The committee on infractions can put a show-cause order on a current coach and say that the current coach couldn't engage in any recruiting on or off campus for a year," Roe Lach said.

Tennessee already has banned Pearl from recruiting off campus for a year for misleading investigators about prospects visiting his house. The SEC also banned Pearl for the first eight SEC game days, beginning in January.

"It's called a show cause, and what it means is that if you're going to employ this coach, these are the limits on this coach," Roe Lach said. "If an institution thinks that X is not appropriate, then it must show cause why X is too much and explain what is appropriate in front of the committee. If the school objects, then it comes back to the committee and shows cause why a [different] penalty would be more appropriate."

• The MAAC council of presidents announced Friday that the July recruiting period should not be eliminated. The conference commissioners took two votes on the matter earlier in the fall. The first one was 29 in favor of elimination, two against and four abstaining. But a second vote was unanimous for the NCAA board of directors to look into another form of recruiting that could include eliminating the July period. Since then, commissioners from a number of conferences have said they don't want to see the summer eliminated after all. Emmert said earlier this week that if the summer were to be eliminated, he would want something put in its place.

Meanwhile, the MAAC offered a solution if the board wants to eliminate the current July recruiting period. The conference said it would support a 15-day summer recruiting period (it's currently 20 days with two 10-day periods and a five-day reprieve in the middle) and five additional recruiting days in April. The NCAA has requested member conferences to respond to this recruiting proposal in advance of the leadership council meeting at the NCAA convention in San Antonio in January.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer




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