Case Study 2: NCAA Ethics and Compliance Program

NCAA Ethics and Compliance Program

Strayer University

Ethics and Advocacy for HR Professionals

May 5, 2018

Dr. Leslie Wills


Athletic scandals have become present in major universities across the country over the last few decades.Highly renowned universities such as the University of Miami, The Ohio State University, University of Arkansas, and Penn State University have been caught violating the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) ethics and compliance policies. Student-athletes, coaches, and University officials have all been to blame for the NCAA rules and regulationsinfractions, which have caused loss of scholarships, games, and various amounts of money. This paper will evaluate the NCAA ethics and compliance program, and how Universities can ensure their student-athletes, coaches, and University officials abide by NCAA rules and regulations.

NCAA Ethics and Compliance Program

The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) was established to draft a set of rules to protect collegiate student-athletes from the dangerous and exploitive athletic practices of the early 1900’s (NCAA, 2016a). Over the years the NCAA has established a strict set of rules and regulations that universities must abide by to remain in good standing with the association. The NCAA not only sets the rules and regulation, but they also determine the penalties that are handed down to a University if those rules are broken. Although the NCAA sets specific guidelines in which Universities must adhere to, it is up to the individual university officials to ensure compliance is maintained throughout their campuses. A high level of ethics is expected to be present in every collegiate institution.

Penn State University’s scandal was one that rocked the entire nation. It is hardto begin to describe the horrific unethical situation Penn State’s former assistant football coach and other campus officials put the University in. Although the former assistant football coach was the individual who sexually exploited young boys on university property, it was the knowledge that other university officials were told of the accusations without anything being done to rectify the situation from happening again that pushes and breaks the limits of responsibility.The situation is much bigger than deciding if it classified as a major or minor infraction on the program. Any violationwould be considered minor in comparison.

The NCAA expects actions such as these to be brought to the attention of authorities higher than a head football coach or athletic director. Law enforcement officials should have been notified, and provided any and all the support they needed to investigate and determine if the accusations were true or not. The NCAA impulsivelyjumped in the middle of the entire process for no other reason other than to compensate for the judgmental natureof their critics that the NCAA’s processes are not set up to address such a task. The NCAA lacked the authority in their rules and regulations to pass judgmentand hand down their sanctions before the proper authorities had a chance to investigate and present their evidence.

The Ohio State University’s scandal was immensely different in severity compared to Penn States’ situation, but OSU student-athletes’ (football players) and head coach’s decisions violated specific NCAA rules and regulations. The one major area the NCAA failed in the Ohio State situation is their inability to control third-party involvement with collegiate athletes. Rules and regulations can be drafted and enforced, but the issue is that the NCAA does not have the authority to investigate and demand the same respect the FBI or other law enforcement agencies have. Therefore, they cannot demand and receive any information from sources outside the universities if the sources do not want to devote any information.

The University of Arkansas’ situation is one that the NCAA has no bearing over. The NCAA had no jurisdiction over the fact that the head coach lied about his accident, his relationship with an employee while married, and the coach’s hiringof a former student without informing the university they were in a relationship. These infractions are issues the university had with faculty, not students. The situation had nothing to do with collegiate athletes or collegiate rules violations. The coach and University took questionable actions, although unethical and a conflict of interest, they were not subjective to the NCAA’s long arm of rules and regulations.

Each university is geared towards trying to recruit the best players from each sport. In doing so, they hope to increase wins, which increase attendance, which increase ticket sales, which ultimately increases revenue. The Penn States football program reined supreme in “Happy Valley” for many years. The football program was lead, for more than 45 years, by coach Paterno who instilled a reputation of athletic and academic excellence and integrity throughout the entire campus (Gregory,Webley, &Dodds, 2011). From the outside looking in the college sports world viewed Penn State as a standard for integrity and ethical behavior. Because the leadership of the Penn State football program had not changed, many believed the ethical standards would always be met. The NCAA had never brought any sanctions against the program or the school the entire time Joe Paterno had been the head coach, so I believe the leadership of the NCAA did not want to think the iconic head coach would have let something of this severity go unanswered.

Ohio State Universityscandal was also contributed to by another Federal regulation, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Coach Jim Tressel and the Ohio State University blocked ESPN from reporting on the scandal sooner than everyone else because of the FERPA. James Bucldey,former U.S. senator who wrote the law 35 years ago, is astonished by how the law has been twisted to benefit unethical actions at large universities (Penrose, 2012). It was originally meant to keep grade cards and transcripts private, but now the law is being usedfor methods that could potentially expose scandals quicker than they are now. Instead of using the law toblock the public from seeing student-athletes’ personal information, universities can keep the public from finding out if agents or other questionable motivated individuals’ access to student-athletes is too high. The law also prevents donors and taxpayers from knowing if all collegiate sports programs are being held to the highest standards (Penrose, 2012).

In the University of Arkansas scandal, the investigation showed that there were no infractions that constituted a NCAA violation. During the investigation, there was no evidence uncovered that showed any previous offenses aside from the aftermath that occurred from coachPetrino’s statements about his motorcycle accident (Weir, 2012).Although the investigation did not reveal any NCAA infractions, the university had no choice but to fire coach Petrino for his unethical behavior to prove to the sports worlds that type of behavior would not be tolerated on their campus.

Had the universities had a more effective ethics program in place each could have experienced vastly different outcomes. If Penn State’s ethics program had been maintained at a higher level through monitoring, auditing, and evaluations, then the former assistant coach involved in the sexual abuse would have been removed from the campus several years ago. Coach Joe Paterno probably would not have been fired. His statue and name on university buildings would still be standing. His legacy would have remained intact, and most importantly several other victims would have never encountered the former assistant coach’s sexual abuse.

Ohio State’s situation would have changed for the better as well. With a more stringent ethics program, the university president and athletics director would have know about the accusations several months before when coach Tressel first received an email about the situation. A better ethics program would have allowed the university to identify tattoo parlor owner Edward Rife as a potential hazard to the program due to his shady business practices. A better ethics program would have instilled in the players that selling their memorabilia for discounted tattoos and cash was ethically and morally wrong. Player’s and coach’s positions on the team would not have been cut short, which could have culminated in another national championship and more money to the university.

The University of Arkansas would not have benefited much from a more stringent ethics program. The main issue involved their coach’s personal decisions, which had nothing to do with the university’s ethics program. One area that could have improved is the coach’s decision to announce that he hadhired his mistress and for intentionally misleading the school’s athletic director about the secret relationship (Voigt, 2012).

The NCAA needs to do what they can to build trust and confidence in students and stakeholders that the association can gain control of the ethical dilemmas happening in several universities. Emphasis has to be placed on the student side of the student-athlete label. For starters, eliminate the transfer penalty for student-athletes. Currently, a student cannot transfer from a revenue-producing sport without sitting out a year before playing (NCAA, 2016b). Allowing transfers to play will allow players to maintain their playing status without losing a year of eligibility. A transfer limit should be established to ensure student-athletes do not abuse the opportunity.

The second action the NCAA should consider taking is to require that all athletic scholarships cover the complete cost for a student to attend. These costs should not only include textbooks and tuition, but transportation fees (cab fare, bus and train fees) should be included, to a specific amount. Between class, practices, games, and the community projects student-athletes are expected to attend each week, they do not have much time to earn extra money for themselves. Not having money to do what other friends are doing sometimes leads to the actions seen at Ohio State, students selling memorabilia for cash.

One aspect of preventing similar incidents from happening as it did at Penn State and Ohio State is a controversial one and has been discussed many times, pay the players. Yes, paying the players will eliminate the need for finding illegal ways to make money. Paying players would remove the amateur status of collegiate sports, but we are not talking about signing contracts like the professionals do. Each player should receive a specific amount either weekly or every two weeks during their sport’s season, or if they are participating in extended activities that relate to their sport. Each player should receive the same amount regardless of which sport they play and regardless of gender. Although this action has been discussed in the media in recent years and has failed to amount to anything, I believe this would be the best method to eliminate many of the infractions student-athletes, and their universities are hit with.

Creating child protection policies would be the second program that should be considered. The policies should address reporting procedures forchildren visiting the campus that are not enrolled. Dual-enrollment programs,college visits for high school students, and any other situations where children might be on campusshould be covered regardless of age. Prompting counselors and faculty members to accompany students, with each faculty and student is in pairs of two at all times. Any and all measures should be taken to ensure the actions that happened at Penn State never happen again on a college campus.


Gregory, S., Webley, K., &Dodds, E. (2011).PENN STATE OF MIND.Time, 178(23), 48-51. Retrieved August 8, 2016, from Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost

NCAA. (2016a). About the NCAA. Retrieved August 7, 2016, from

NCAA. (2016b). Frequently asked questions about the NCAA. Retrieved August 12, 2016, from

Penrose, M. M. (2012). Tattoos, tickets, and other tawdry behavior: How universities use federal law to hide their scandals. Cardozo Law Review, 331555. Retrieved August 8, 2016, from

Voigt, K. (2012). Arkansas fires Bobby Petrino after 4 seasons amid scandal. Retrieved August 10, 2016, from

Weir, T. (2012).Arkansas fires coach Bobby Petrino following scandal. Retrieved August 9, 2016, from