A little fictional story about what might happen if the NCAA had a hotline student-athletes could call to resolve any rules questions they might have. Any resemblance to recent events involving UNC players is purely coincidental...wink-wink.
Scene: At the house of a former college football player from a BCS school. A current player from that same school fidgets nervously with his phone before dialing a number from a card he has just taken from his wallet.
Player(dialing): Now they said to call this number if we had any questions so let's see if they can help.
Automated Voice: Thank you for call the NCAA's Compliance and Eligibility Hotline. Calls may be monitored to ensure we can make a case against you at a later date. If you think you might be in the presence of an agent or someone who could be an agent, please hang up the phone, barricade yourself in the nearest closet and call your school compliance office immediately. We are currently busy assisting other student-athletes. Please hold and one of our trained compliance representatives will be with your shortly.
Player: What? I am on hold. How many other guys could be calling them at this hour?
Automated Voice: Thank you for waiting. You eligibility is very important to us. One of our representatives will be with you short--
Compliance Representative: Thank you for calling the NCAA Compliance and Eligibility Hotline, my name is Karen, how may I assist you?
Player: Hey, yeah, my name is Jason and I play football for Big State University. I am have some questions about a trip I am taking right now.
Compliance Representative: Okay, I will be glad to help. First of all, let me ask if you are presently in contact with an agent or have been in contact with an agent recently.
Player: No, ma'am. No agents.
Compliance Representative: Okay, super. So please tell me the nature of the problem.
Player: Okay, right. So a few months back I met up with a former player from my school. We became friends and he invited me down to his house in Orlando. So I came, you know and I thought I knew all the rules so I paid for my plane ticket, brought some money for food but when I got here we decided to go to Sea World and hit a few places to eat. Anyway, I ran out of money and realized I forgot my checkbook so this dude has been picking up my expenses.
Compliance Representative: Okay
Player: Now I know he can't provide me stuff like this so I want to pay him back but I can't do it right now. I guess what I need to know is whether I can just do it later?
Compliance Representative: Okay, I can certainly help you out. First of all, what kind of items has this individual been paying for?
Player: Well, he paid for my ticket to Sea World, a meal at Outback, a couple of fast food joints.
Compliance Representative: Can you put a dollar amount on the items?
Player: Yeah, we figured it up and I think it came to like $350 total.
Compliance Representative: Okay, and you cannot pay him back for that right now?
Player: No ma'am. I don't have money with me but I would be able to pay him once I got back to campus.
Compliance Representative: Okay. I am sure that will be fine. I just need to collect a little more information. Where are you staying at while you are visiting this friend?
Player: At his house.
Compliance Representative: How many nights are you staying there?
Player: Four nights.
Compliance Representative: What kind of house is it?
Player: Um...what do you mean?
Compliance Representative: Is it a ranch, two story, palatial estate, condo or apartment?
Player: It is a two story house.
Compliance Representative: Okay, how many bedrooms does it have?
Player: I think it has four bedrooms.
Compliance Representative: Baths?
Player: Two or three, I think.
Compliance Representative: Is there a bonus room, formal dining and living room?
Player: I am not sure.
Compliance Representative: Do you know how many square feet the house is?
Player: Not really(covers mouth piece) Hey, Jimmy, how big is your house...NCAA wants to know...3200 square feet? Okay, thanks. Ma'am? Yeah, its 3200 square feet.
Compliance Representative: Have they cooked any meals for you?
Player: Two or three.
Compliance Representative: Have you used any towels, soap, toothpaste, toilet paper.
Player: I used their towels and their toilet paper.
Compliance Representative: Okay. How long have your showers been?
Player: Um...I am not really sure...maybe 10 minutes?
Compliance Representative: Okay. Hold one moment please.
The jazzy tones of Kenny G playing One Shining Moment can be heard.
Compliance Representative: Okay. Here is what you need to do. For all the items the former player has paid for, you will need to pay him back as soon as possible. Once you do that we will also need you to call your compliance office and let them know the same information you have told me. Also be sure to tell them is imperative they self report these violations right away so that can be considered as a mitigating factor.
Player: Wait a minute. Violations...I thought all I had to do is pay him back for the things he paid for and it wouldn't be a violation.
Compliance Representative: Well, not exactly. You see you have already taken money from him so paying back means we won't count that against you. Let me total up the benefits here. You said $350 for various items, plus the lodging, use of water, towels, a few meals, toilet paper....let's see...ah factor in increased HVAC costs for another person being there. One more thing, did you leave his fridge open for longer than 10 seconds while deciding what you wanted to eat?
Compliance Representative: Okay. Based on what you have told me and factoring in the other items including the lodging which is equivalent to staying at a Courtyard by Marriott, your impermissible benefits come to $1125.23.
Player: What? Are you serious? I don't have that much! I understand the other stuff but where did you get that number from?
Compliance Representative: Now please calm down. The amount comes from the value we place on every benefit provided to you that this individual that exceeds what he could have provided to you were he still a student-athlete. Now, there is no need to panic. You did the right thing by calling. This can be self reported which will allow us to launch an investigation quickly.
Player: Well how long is that going to take?
Compliance Representative: I expect the investigation team will move fairly quickly, so shouldn't be more than 2-3 months.
Player: WHAT?!?!? But the season starts in five weeks! I mean can I still practice and play while you guys figure this out?
Compliance Representative: Well, practicing shouldn't be a problem but I would not recommend playing unless you want to see any wins vacated after the fact.
Player: So you are saying I am going to be declared ineligible?
Compliance Representative: Oh yes, that much is a given. But it's okay, the investigation guys will come in, ask some questions of you, maybe some of your teammates just to get a lay of the land. After they gather their information they will report back to the NCAA enforcement division who will recommend a penalty for you...and quite possibly others.
Player: What kind of penalty? What do you mean others?
Compliance Representative: Let's see given the amount of the benefits you received you are probably looking at 30% of the season or four games and if we find out you talked to an agent or even looked at one that could go to six. Now when I say "others" that is not certain but we usually find once we get to a school and start asking questions we find all sorts of violations just bubbling right under the surface. On average we find between 5-7 other players have been taking trips and accepting all kinds of gifts they shouldn't.
Player: Oh geez...I can't believe this. I thought you people were supposed to help me but it sounds like all you want to do is screw me and my team over.
Compliance Representative:(to herself while typing)...subject became belligerent and uncooperative....
Player: Wait...what are you typing...what are you talking about? I am being cooperative. I called you guys remember? I am trying to pay this stuff back I just wanted to know if I could do it later. I didn't mean to cause a big fuss. I just wanted to make sure I was following the rules not open up a freaking inquisition.
Compliance Representative: Hmmm...okay. Well, I'm sorry. You really cannot un-ring the bell now can you? Anyway, that is all I needed for my report. I will forward this to our investigators. Now remember your school has to self report within five days or else we will file a letter of inquiry and nail all your sorry butts to the wall for trying to duck the rules. Is there anything else I can help you with?
Player:(resigned) No, I think that's it.
Compliance Representative: Great! Thank you for calling the NCAA Compliance and Eligibility Hotline. You have a good evening,