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NCAA Unveils New Enforcement Standards

In hopes of making the enforcement process more efficient, the NCAA has adopted a new violation and enforcement structure.

Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

There have been rumblings about this going back several months but it is now officially on the books. The NCAA, in an effort to "remove the 'risk-reward' analysis that has tempted people" has adopted a new set of guidelines for violations and punishments. The sweeping changes include breaking violations down into four categories which is supposed to clarify enforcement matters.

Level I: Severe breach of conduct

Violations that seriously undermine or threaten the integrity of the NCAA collegiate model as set forth in the Constitution and bylaws, including any violation that provides or is intended to provide a substantial or extensive recruiting, competitive or other advantage, or a substantial or extensive impermissible benefit.

Level II: Significant breach of conduct

Violations that provide or are intended to provide more than a minimal but less than a substantial or extensive recruiting, competitive or other advantage; includes more than a minimal but less than a substantial or extensive impermissible benefit; or involves conduct that may compromise the integrity of the NCAA collegiate model as set forth in the Constitution and bylaws.

Level III: Breach of conduct

Violations that are isolated or limited in nature; provide no more than a minimal recruiting, competitive or other advantage; and do not include more than a minimal impermissible benefit. Multiple Level IV violations may collectively be considered a breach of conduct.

Level IV: Incidental issues

Minor infractions that are inadvertent and isolated, technical in nature and result in a negligible, if any, competitive advantage. Level IV infractions generally will not affect eligibility for intercollegiate athletics. (This level may be revised or even eliminated pending outcomes from the Rules Working Group’s efforts to streamline the Division I Manual.)

The NCAA is also adding 14 members to the Committee on Infractions to bring the total number for that body to 24. The intent is to employ smaller panels that can handle cases more quickly and efficiently. As for a new penalty structure, the NCAA does not lay that out here other than saying it will include the same penalties and be determined using "aggravating and mitigating circumstances."

In addition to the new guidelines, a special emphasis will be placed on head coach accountability when it comes to the actions of both his players and staff. If you wanted to give this a name the Calipari-Davis Rule would be a good place to start.

Enhances head coach responsibility/accountability and potential consequences for head coaches who fail to direct their staffs and student-athletes to uphold NCAA bylaws. Penalties include imposed suspensions that can range from 10 percent of the season to an entire season.

If this had been in place when UNC's NCAA troubles came to bear, Butch Davis would likely not have escaped some sort of penalty though it should be noted he was fired before UNC even faced the Committee on Infractions.

As for when this all goes into effect. It depends on when the violations occurred and when the case is processed.

Conduct breaches that occurred before Oct. 30, 2012 and are processed before Aug. 1, 2013 will be subject to the current process and penalties.

Conduct breaches that occurred before Oct. 30, 2012 but are processed after Aug. 1, 2013 would be subject to the new process but would incur the more lenient of the two penalty structures (current and revised).

Conduct breaches that occurred during a span that includes both before and after Oct. 30, 2012 and are processed after Aug. 1, 2013 will be subject to new process and the revised penalties as long as most of the violations occurred after Oct. 30, 2012.

Conduct breaches that occur after Oct. 30, 2012 and are processed after Aug. 1, 2013 will be subject to both the new process and the revised penalty structure.

This could matter to UNC depending on what former Governor Jim Martin reveals in his final report and what, if anything, the NCAA plans to do about it. If the NCAA does launch a second investigation into UNC athletics, it would fall under the first two provisions meaning UNC would face either the current process and penalties or the new process but the more lenient between the current and new penalty structure.

As with any behemoth organization crippled by its own processes and bureaucracy, I am skeptical as to whether any of this will make a huge difference. The addition of head coach accountability is a step in the right direction since, as has been seen with Butch Davis and John Calipari, head coaches are often insulated from violations by using others as scapegoats. In theory, this rule puts the onus on the head coach to ensure he knows everything rather than hiding behind plausible deniability. In short, if a coach can be punished for something a subordinate does, I imagine he will take more interest in ensuring his subordinates are acting properly.

That being said, having a rule and seeing it enforced consistently is two different things. The NCAA's biggest flaw in the area of enforcement is the inability to treat cases with a firm and even hand. The "every case is different" mantra was just an excuse for the NCAA to do whatever the heck they wanted and not be held accountable for it. In theory, this new structure establishes tiers for violations and penalties. Unfortunately, we are still talking about legalese and I imagine the subjective element of judging each case will never be completely removed or even reduced as much as we would like. The violation tiers do provide some clarity but there appears to still be ample room for wide interpretations. For example what is the guideline to determine if a violaiton is "minimal but less than [a] substantial" versus "substantial" advantage? How will "aggravating and mitigating circumstances" be applied and by whom? All it takes is for the NCAA to handle two similar cases in differing fashions to re-ignite the complaints about how enforcement works. The tiers are useless if there is still too much room for the human element to make subjective determinations.

On one hand the NCAA should be applauded for making an effort to reform the system. On the other hand, this is simply a new way of handling the same excessive and unwieldy rule book. Student-athletes and coaches are still burdened to follow countless rules that either serve little purpose or are the byproduct of bureaucratic excess. Until those are reformed, changing the enforcement system isn't really going to fix anything.