Compliance Lessons from the University of Michigan Infractions Case
The Michael L. Buckner Law Firm Presents - Collegiate Administration Best Practices
On November 4, 2010, the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions penalized the University of Michigan for major rules-violations involving its football program. The case centered on violations of playing and practice season limitations, exceeding limits on the number of coaches, a failure to monitor by the university and head football coach, as well as unethical conduct by a former graduate assistant.
According to the committee, “from the time the head football coach began working at the university in January 2008 through September 2009, the football program exceeded playing and practice limits by approximately 65 hours. NCAA rules limiting athletically related activities are in place to safeguard student-athlete well-being while ensuring time for academic work. In this case, football staff members monitored and conducted voluntary summer workouts, conducted impermissible activities outside of the playing season, required student-athletes to participate in summer conditioning activities as a form of punishment, and exceeded time limits for athletic activities outside the playing season.”
The committee also determined the “football program ... exceeded the number of allowed coaches” and that in “this case, five quality control staff members monitored and conducted skill-development activities, and offered advice on technique during practice and film review. These activities led to the quality control staff becoming countable coaches, which led to the university exceeding its limit.” Further, the committee noted “that all five quality control staff members were on the sidelines for practice and games, traveled with the team, wore the same attire as coaches, shared office space with the football staff and attended team meetings. Student-athletes reported some confusion regarding whether the five individuals were members of the coaching staff.”
The committee’s report included the finding “that the scope and nature of the violations demonstrated that the head coach and university failed to monitor the number, duties and activities of the football coaches, as well as the time limits for countable athletically related activities.” The committee noted the “head coach failed to ascertain the extent of the activities taking place and to confirm that all activities were conducted according to NCAA rules.” Finally, the committee declared “the university failed to monitor when administrators withheld the job descriptions of the coaching staff and forms documenting the countable hours from the compliance office. The former director of athletics and senior associate director of athletics also did not insist the football staff immediately comply with the requests for the job descriptions.”
The penalties, some of which were self-imposed by the institution and adopted by the committee, in this case included the following:
· Public reprimand and censure.
· Three years of probation (November 4, 2010, to November 3, 2013).
· Reduction of 130 hours for allowed countable athletically-related activity hours in football from June 1, 2010, through the conclusion of the 2011-12 academic year (self-imposed by the university).
· The head football coach must attend the 2011 NCAA Regional Rules Seminar.
The Michael L. Buckner Law Firm recommends athletics administrators conduct a review of institutional policies and procedures to address the rules-violations identified in the University of Michigan infractions case. The following checklist includes the minimum actions an institution should pursue in light of this case:
1. Monitor the hiring and use of non-coaching personnel (e.g., “quality-control” staff, “director”) to ensure compliance with NCAA practice and coaching limitations. [Note: See also Recommendation No. 2.]
2. Conduct on-the-field spot-checks of athletically-related activities to verify compliance with NCAA practice and coaching limitations.
3. Design countable athletically-related activities (CARA) forms to accurately document student-athletes' participation in athletically-related activities. The CARA forms should include the following features: a) list of the start and end time (e.g., 3:00-5:15 pm) of each activity (rather than the total time); b) rotate (randomly) a representative sampling of student-athletes to sign-off on the forms (for teams with a large number of athletes (e.g. football, rowing)); and c) verify information on the forms through on-the-field spot-checks [Note: See also Recommendation No. 2.].
4. Schedule an “orientation” rules-education session for new employees with athletically-related duties and responsibilities.
5. Require the filing of an up-to-date job description and appointment letter/contract for all employees with athletically-related duties and responsibilities. The appointment letter/contract should include an accurate description of each position's athletically-related duties and responsibilities, as well as a statement that satisfies NCAA Bylaws 11.1.2 and 11.2.
6. Provide a comprehensive rules-education program for all university staff with athletically-related duties and responsibilities and, for each education activity, complete the following tasks: a) maintain on file a copy of the agenda, handouts, PowerPoint presentation, other materials (e.g., e-mails) and attendance sheets; and b) require all participants to certify (using the attendance sheets or some other documentation) that they read and understood the materials presented and issues discussed (or to request one-one-one follow-up from the compliance office).
7. Educate athletics administrators (especially administrators with sports oversight) regarding institutional control and monitoring responsibilities, including, but not limited to: a) following-up on compliance issues with coaching staffs; and b) implementing a progressive discipline matrix for non-compliance with requests from the compliance office.
8. Develop a written internal investigation policy and procedure to address allegations of NCAA rules-violations.
Contact Michael L. Buckner (954-941-1844; firstname.lastname@example.org) for additional compliance-related recommendations relating to this case.
Issues of Collegiate Administration Best Practices can be downloaded on the “Best Practices and Information Nuggets” page of the Michael L. Buckner Law Firm website (http://www.michaelbucknerlaw.com).
You can contact Michael L. Buckner, Esquire, P.I., (954-941-1844; email@example.com) if you have any questions on this issue or need to address a complex NCAA enforcement investigative or appellate issue.
The Michael L. Buckner Law Firm, a boutique legal and investigative firm, assists college and university presidents, general counsel and athletic directors address complex NCAA enforcement investigations and appeals. The law firm website can be found at http://www.michaelbucknerlaw.com.
Michael L. Buckner Law Firm
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Name: Michael L. Buckner
Organization: Michael L. Buckner Law Firm
Phone: (954) 941-1844
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