Every collegiate athletic director faces a similar challenge each day—the challenge of maintaining a competitive athletic program while adhering to NCAA bylaws. However, since it is impossible to monitor each coach, student-athlete, and administrator at every point in time, NCAA bylaw infractions occur at most schools. As such, the top athletic directors implement measures to prevent violations and take immediate action when a violation does occur. It is imperative for athletic directors to maintain strong communication between operations and compliance administrators to ensure the long-term success of their athletic program.
Jeremy Foley, the Athletics Director at the University of Florida, is a prime example of excellence in collegiate athletic leadership. Foley’s journey started as an intern in the UF Gator Ticket Office in 1976, and today he is the second-longest tenured athletic director among Bowl Championship Series conference schools. Undeniably, he has led one of the most successful collegiate athletic programs in the country.
Part of this success involves the efforts made to comply with NCAA bylaws. “The University of Florida Athletic Association takes pride in the culture of compliance it has built over the years,” Foley said. Even so, the University of Florida recently faced sanctioning from the NCAA Committee on Infractions for a recruiting violation by its former assistant coach. The violation involved the assistant coach’s visit to a prospect off-campus on January 23, 2014 before the NCAA bylaws allow for recruiting prospects.
The actual NCAA bylaw violated by UF is found under Article 13. It plainly states: “Off-campus recruiting contacts shall not be made with an individual before July 1 following the completion of his or her junior year in high school . . . .” See NCAA Bylaws, Art. 13, Section 126.96.36.199. UF’s infraction was a levied as a Level II violation, which is a significant breach of conduct. Level II offenses may lead to postseason restrictions, financial penalties, and scholarship reductions. See NCAA Bylaw, Art. 19, Section 19.9.5.
In this case, a University of Miami official first reported the infraction to the NCAA. Instead of making excuses, Jeremy Foley acted immediately after learning of his assistant coach’s actions. “[W]e took quick and decisive action after we learned of a recruiting contact rule violation involving one of our assistant football coaches in January 2014. We stopped recruiting the involved student-athlete, we removed the assistant coach from all recruiting activities, and later secured his resignation,” Foley explained.
The swift actions taken by athletic administrators at the University of Florida were well founded. The NCAA Committee on Infractions takes into account “mitigating factors” when determining the ultimate penalty for an infraction. Mitigating factors are circumstances that warrant a lower range of penalties for a particular party. These factors include: prompt self-detection and self-disclosure of the violation; prompt acknowledgement of the violation, acceptance of responsibility and imposition by an institution of meaningful corrective measures; affirmative steps to expedite final resolution of the matter; and exemplary cooperation with NCAA enforcement. See NCAA Bylaws, Art. 19, Section 19.9.4.
In this case, the NCAA Committee on Infractions agreed with the actions taken by the University of Florida and did not hand down any additional sanctions outside of those already imposed by the university. Ultimately, communication in this case between UF athletic directors, football operations’ officials, and compliance officers led to an efficient remedy to a potentially toxic situation.
In the end, the purpose of the NCAA bylaws is to uphold the integrity of collegiate athletics and student-athlete amateurism. To maintain a relevant and competitive collegiate athletic program, athletic directors and compliance officers must strictly enforce the NCAA bylaws to ensure the long-term success of their athletic program.