Five years ago, who would have thought that recruiting or admission practices could put you in jail? Certainly, violating NCAA rules could get you in trouble, but prison was never a possibility.
That world changed when the FBI began its college basketball investigation and the U.S. Attorney’s office went after admissions fraud.
Who would have ever thought that a college president might be incarcerated for problems in their athletics department, but that could be the case for Penn State and Michigan State.
One of the recommendations from the Rice Commission was to have Presidents and ADs attest that their programs were in full compliance with NCAA rules. Those proposals, which were passed by the NCAA, will go into effect later this year.
A few days ago, we hosted a conference call with our members to discuss athletics compliance issues and these new attestation requirements. The big takeaway from the call was a comment by a partner from Lightfoot, Franklin and White, a national law firm in Birmingham, Alabama, that suggested that an inaccurate attestation by an athletics director about their department’s state of compliance could subject the administrator to claims of mail fraud by an aggressive prosecutor. If that happens, an AD could theoretically be subject to criminal penalties.
College sports, as a big enterprise, will need to implement controls and systems that public corporations have been required to do for years since the Sarbanes-Oxley Act passed in 2002. But a new world is coming for athletics department compliance and institutional accountability…one that is needed, yet one that poses new risks to Presidents and ADs.