NCAA Considers Tightening Focus of College Football Recruiting Enforcement

The National Collegiate Athletic Association may create a group to focus on college football recruiting infractions, especially the funneling of money to elite players, the agency’s enforcement chief said.

Such a group, which might take more than four months to put together, would resemble the one created two years ago to address concerns with men’s basketball recruiting, according to Julie Roe Lach, the NCAA’s vice president of enforcement.

Five days after the Indianapolis-based NCAA cleared Auburn University quarterback Cam Newton of wrongdoing in an alleged pay-for-play demand organized by his father, Lach said a close look was needed at how star players are recruited, while refusing to discuss specific cases.

“We need to do some groundwork, grassroots effort to just make sure we understand what’s going on in the football recruiting environment,” Lach said in an interview in New York.

Lach, 35, said money going to top players and the rise in seven-on-seven football tournaments funded by apparel companies and other sponsors, which could be a breeding ground for potential recruiting infractions, are areas of special interest.

“How widespread is it and is this becoming a situation where recruiting violations are going to be occurring?” Lash said. “That’s an example of something we need to figure out.”

The NCAA ruled on Dec. 1 that Newton was eligible to play in the Southeastern Conference championship game after he was found to have no knowledge of a situation involving his father and the owner of a scouting service in which they demanded money to determine where the quarterback would play.

Revised Rules

Lach said some recruiting regulations may need revision, declining to specifically comment on the Newton case or any other individual infraction.

“When you look at some of our agent rules and recruiting rules, they were written at a time that didn’t contemplate all these third-party interests that are involved in the recruiting process,” she said. “Do we need to look at a penalty structure that has liability on a student athlete, even if that student athlete is not the direct actor?”

She compared the issue to changes in NCAA rules that now hold head coaches responsible for creating an “atmosphere of compliance” throughout a program’s staff, in essence holding coaches responsible for their associates’ behavior.

Auburn beat the University of South Carolina 56-17 two days ago for the conference championship and will play the University of Oregon for the Bowl Championship Series national title on Jan. 10. Newton, a leading contender for the Heisman Trophy as college football’s top player, passed for four touchdowns and ran for another two.

The six-member basketball focus group is part of an enforcement division that has a staff of 46, including 23 major- infraction investigators.

Basketball Database

The basketball group has created a database to show the relationships among specific people, programs and athletes, using sources ranging from coaches to social-media websites.

“We’ve seen some success not just in the generation of leads and potential cases, but a better understanding of what’s going on in the men’s basketball recruiting world,” said Lach, who was named to the position in October after David Price announced that he would retire this month.

The plan for a similar football group would complement NCAA President Mark Emmert’s Dec. 2 statement about Newton’s eligibility.

“I’m committed to further clarifying and strengthening our recruiting and amateurism rules so they promote appropriate behavior by students, parents, coaches and third parties,” Emmert said on the NCAA’s website. “We will work aggressively with our members to amend our bylaws so that this type of behavior is not a part of intercollegiate athletics.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Mason Levinson in New York at mlevinson@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net.

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