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Baddour Discusses Player Sign Out Policy

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Alternate headline: Baddour Discusses Player Tracking Process That Is Clearly Not Working So Well.

Via the CharNews & Observer:

After losing stars Marvin Austin, Robert Quinn and Greg Little for the entire 2010 season for taking trips and accepting agent-related benefits, UNC instituted a "sign-out" policy to track the off-campus trips of its players.

But even with the new policy in place since the start of the spring semester, the NCAA questioned defensive lineman Quinton Coples this week about a trip to Washington, D.C., ESPN reported Thursday.

Baddour said he is not allowed to discuss individual cases during the NCAA investigation, but he talked about the sign-out policy in general.

"We've had our glitches, and we're working on those," Baddour said. "The important thing about the policy is it's not to keep players from going places. It's to know that if you find out about a situation, that you've educated the person in the best way possible."

The policy requires players to fill out a short written form at the Kenan Football Center before they travel anywhere off campus for longer than 24 hours. The sheet needs to be signed by an assistant coach and approved by academic advisors before being completed, UNC spokesman Kevin Best said.

There aren't any standard guidelines for what steps would be taken when the policy's rules are broken, Baddour said.

Let's be honest. Unless we are talking about embedded GPS chips that explode when they come in contact with the open air, this is more or less window dressing. Which is fine because part of the process with the NCAA is the institution taking corrective actions to address violations they may have occurred. Throughout the NCAA investigation the notion that UNC's staff "didn't know" what the players were doing in their free time has been both a defense and a curse. On one hand, it is a difficult task tracking players when they are away from the team(something the NCAA acknowledges.) On the other hand, the NCAA had a tendency to hold the leaders of the program responsible even if a player goes rogue. That creates the need to do something regardless of effectiveness

Does a sign out sheet help? I suppose it might deter some players because either not checking out with the coaches or lying about your whereabouts could result in disciplinary action for you. By and large I don't think it will matter. In Coples' case Baddour refuses to say whether he signed out or not. I think we can safely assume one of three things. Coples didn't sign out violating the rule outright. He did sign out but was vague about his true plans or he made the trip to the D.C. party and returned to Chapel Hill in less than 24 hours negating the need to sign out at all. In other words the policy, as it is presently instituted, isn't going to stop a player from doing what Coples did.

What that means is the policy is a pair of pants meant to cover any number of collective or individual posterior regions.  Play the Coples situation out in a  semi-hypothetical. Let's say the NCAA comes back and says Coples committed violations. UNC can point to the policy and say Coples knowingly broke a team rule in going to the party. In short, Coples acted on his own and in contravention of a policy which the NCAA does not even require UNC to have. The argument UNC will make is "Hey, we tried. We told the players the rules. We told them they needed to sign out. Heck we even had him surrender his passport. It didn't matter. This guy broke those rules. There is only so much we can do so try not to rip us too hard in whatever hell you decide to rain down." The hope is the NCAA would punish the individual and not consider this a general institutional issue.

Like I said, the policy is less about keeping players out of trouble because everyone knows it is impotent to do that. The policy is about doing something to show UNC is taking the NCAA seriously and attempting to institute preventive measures. The ultimate lesson here is the behavior of a program is only as good as the actions of the individuals in that program. Ensuring those individuals don't screw the program over is a long process from evaluating the character/values of players in recruitment to rules education to instilling team first or program loyalty values in them. Oh and somehow getting 18-22 year olds to stop making a dumb decisions out of a sense of invincibility we all had at that age.. I am not sure whether UNC has issues in the former but there is no policy conceived or drug on the market that will solve the latter. And if there were, I am sure it would be against NCAA rules.