It's going to be tempting for college coaches to do what the University of Cincinnati and Virginia Tech have thrown out there: that is, essentially fine a player for misconduct.
The money from a fined player, as ESPN's Joe Schad reported Thursday, would come from the funds the player receives from a school that has offered a scholarship covering the so-called full-cost of attendance
There are two issues to consider: One, not every school is offering this type of scholarship. But two, even if an athlete signed such a scholarship, the school must be very careful if it wants to go down this path.
In order to avoid legal repercussions, the use of these funds for discipline must be written into the grant-in-aid agreements that are the basis for any athletic scholarship. The option must be a part of the scholarship transaction from the moment the athlete agrees to attend the university.
Unless the possibility of a fine is an express provision, there can be no withholding of such funds regardless of the conduct. Just like expulsion from the school or suspension from the team, the penalties for misconduct must be described in the agreement with specificity. If not, the school that fined a player would be subject to legal actions for breach of an agreement or for money damages as the result of tortious (wrongful) treatment of a player.
In addition, the grant-in-aid agreement must include a procedure for an appeal by the athletes just as it does for other disciplinary actions. The appeal is a bit of due process that is of benefit both to the athlete and to the school.
It appears that the University of Cincinnati has included the necessary language in its paperwork and could use the option without much worry. Schad reports that "Cincinnati senior associate director of athletics Maggie McKinley, a voting member on NCAA regulation and overseer of the school's compliance office, said the language used in players' grant-in-aids expressly gives the school the ability to reduce or terminate the financial assistance if there are violations of department policy or student code of conduct policy.
McKinley said Cincinnati players receive $5,504 to $7,018 per year in cost of attendance dollars, with the higher figure being among the highest, if not the highest, in the country.
McKinley noted that coaches will have clear and consistent policies that must be clearly communicated to their teams and that financial reduction decisions will be reviewed by an oversight committee.
Other programs wishing to use this procedure may want to look at these provisions in the Bearcat paperwork.