Several media and others recently concluded that very different situations involving student-athlete eligibility should be considered independent of their unique circumstances or interpreted with a “one size fits all” approach.
In particular, they are comparing recent decisions involving The Ohio State University and Auburn University (and others). Some have even suggested the NCAA plays favorites in these types of situations based in part or in whole on financial considerations.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
In relation to the decision last week involving rules violations with football student-athletes at Ohio State, several current student-athletes were interviewed as part of our fact-gathering process. They indicated they were not aware there was a violation and learned of the issue based on later rules education, which was confirmed by OSU through interviews and supporting documentation.
Inadequate rules education is often cited in student-athlete reinstatement and other waiver cases (such as inaccurate or misguided academic advising), but it is just one of many factors considered in these types of situations.
As for the broader issue of a student escaping penalties based on their lack of knowledge, there also have been reports in the media that the recent ruling related to Cam Newton’s eligibility will encourage parents or third-parties to solicit benefits or money during the recruiting process while keeping the student in the dark as to their activities.
Again, this strays from the truth.
While efforts are being championed by NCAA President Mark Emmert to further clarify and strengthen recruiting and amateurism rules when benefits or money are solicited (but not received), current NCAA rules would be violated and students declared ineligible should a parent or third party receive benefits or money, regardless of the student’s knowledge.
Put simply, had Cam Newton’s father or a third party actually received money or benefits for his recruitment, Cam Newton would have been declared ineligible regardless of his lack of knowledge.
There have been questions as well since last week related to the withholding policy and student-athlete reinstatement for NCAA championships and bowl games. This policy was developed and implemented by the Division I membership, specifically the Division I Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement and approved by the Division I Academics/Eligibility/Compliance Cabinet, in 2004. It allows for suspending a reinstatement condition in specific instances involving NCAA championships or bowl games. It recognizes the unique opportunity these events provide at the end of a season, and they are evaluated differently from a withholding perspective for student-athlete reinstatement. In the Ohio State situation, the facts are consistent with the established policy.
Finally, the notion that the NCAA is selective with its eligibility decisions and rules enforcement is another myth with no basis in fact. Money is not a motivator or factor as to why one school would get a particular decision versus another. Any insinuation that revenue from bowl games in particular would influence NCAA decisions is absurd, because schools and conferences receive that revenue, not the NCAA.