Secondary violations appear to be on rise
Published: Friday, July 16, 2010 at 11:30 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, July 16, 2010 at 11:30 p.m.
A coach takes part in a television interview unaware that a star recruit is playing in the background.
A smoke machine is used to simulate pre-game introductions during a prospective athlete’s visit.
A recruit is reimbursed 55 cents per mile for a trip to campus, five cents above the government standard.
The above are examples of NCAA secondary violations. The NCAA defines secondary violations as isolated or inadvertent, which do not represent a competitive advantage.
A big deal? Perhaps not. But statistics show secondary violations are on the rise. Schools in all NCAA divisions committed 4,107 secondary violations in 2009, up 49 percent from 2005 (2,776).
In Division I, secondary violations are up close to 38 percent (2,133 in 2005 to 2,939 in 2009) during the same time span.
“There are a number of ways you can look at it,” Southeastern Conference associate commissioner for compliance Greg Sankey said. “Obviously, people are breaking rules. But schools in Division I have probably more people in place (to monitor the rules) and are drawing more attention to the issues because the stakes are so high.”
In other words, because the majority of secondary violations are self-reported by schools, there’s stricter policing going on.
“Schools are paying attention to more now than they did maybe five, 10 years ago,” Sankey said.
Florida revealed this week through a public records request that its football program committed four secondary violations from June 1, 2009 to June 15, 2010. Two of the violations involved Facebook. One, last Aug. 7 was self-reported. Another Aug. 5 was spotted by a rival school. In both cases, assistant coaches posted messages on the walls of recruits. Under NCAA rules, Facebook walls are considered a public forum.
UF’s other two secondary football violations were self-reported. One last Sept. 11 involved impermissible protective gear and another last Oct. 29 was for two assistant coaches calling a recruit twice in the same week on Oct. 29.
In comparison, Georgia reported nine secondary violations from January-June of 2010. Just one of the nine involved the football program.
Punishments for secondary violations generally fit the crime. They can be imposed by the NCAA, the conference a school plays in or even a member school. In Florida’s case, the school dealt with its Oct. 29 violation by imposing a two-week ban on contacting the recruit.
The NCAA can impose penalties for secondary violations as strict as banning a coach or staff from off-campus recruiting for up to a year, withholding financial aid and forfeiting or vacating wins.
Sankey said the SEC reviews each secondary violation on a case-by-case basis. There are more than 400 pages dedicated to secondary violations in the NCAA rules manual, with thousands of interpretations.
Sankey admitted it’s difficult for coaches to have thorough knowledge of all the rules. But he also pointed out secondary violations shouldn’t be joked about or written off as completely minor. Former Tennessee and current Southern Cal football coach Lane Kiffin made light of his repeated secondary violations last season, suggesting the publicity from the violations brought attention to the program.
Multiple secondary violations can be reclassified as a major violation by the NCAA if they represent a pattern of behavior.
“We have started communicating very strongly with our schools about secondary violations,” Sankey said. “We are aware of the risk-reward factor, I’m willing to take the risk if the reward is greater. We can strengthen our penalties to limit the advantage that’s gained.”
Sankey said some examples of SEC penalties include taking away campus visits and preventing an athlete from signing a letter of intent until an issue is resolved.
“Any time you break NCAA rules, you are not only putting yourself at risk, you are putting your program at risk as well,” Sankey said. “You can believe that it’s nothing, but when it’s reviewed it can be skewed against you. The way you can prevent that is to have a good, open relationship with your compliance staff. Ask questions. Don’t assume things.”
Sankey said the number of secondary violations that have crossed his desk have been about the same in each of his seven-plus years with the SEC.
NCAA spokesperson Stacy Osburn said despite the increase in secondary violations, there is no current movement to strengthen penalties.
“As with any change in the NCAA rules, it would have to be driven by our membership,” Osburn said in an e-mail.
Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Brockway’s blog at Gatorsports.com.