There is a good post at Connecticut Sports Law this week (“Lessons for Coaches from the Case of Jim Tressel“), but I found its’ underlying premise, and utility for Coaches, lacking. Basically, this “ignorance of the By Laws” defense which people (including the NCAA) treat with respect is silly. But because the NCAA entertains it with a straight face, coaches need some better insight as how to plan. Below is my comment:
These are good points, but the implicit and entirely false premise is: if only Tressell had known these things, he wouldn’t be in this predicament. Which is absurd. Every big-time college coach already knows every one of these factors — Pearl, Sampson, Rodriguez, Calhoun, Carroll. It’s not a question of ignorance of the rules (no matter what these coaches claim after the fact.) And the NCAA knows full well it’s not a matter of rule-ignorance (and if they thought that were the real cause, AND wanted to do something about it, they would have long ago passed a by law requiring all coaches attend a one or two week initial “certifying” seminar, with annual two day updates, at one location –thereby eliminating the charade of “in-house” training at each school– which would easily and quickly allow the NCAA to categorically reject any claim of ignorance — which would eliminate 80% of all the ersatz litigation before the NCAA, most of which is packed full of middle-aged “professionals” who’ve been in the business for 20 years saying “Gee, I really didn’t know.”)
What is needed is a pragmatic primer for these big time college coaches who have extraordinary pressure on them to win, just as a businessman needs expert advice from a good accountant as to how to avoid IRS trouble. I.e, how do I win AND minimize my chances of getting caught cutting corners or breaking rules? Which would include things which will maximize later plausible deniability, like: 1) Never use email; 2) Maintain a separate personal (and personally paid for) cell phone account, and put as much of any necessary communication (text, tweet, email, web) on that account; 3) Never use paper memos; 4) Hire people around you to do things for which you give them only oral, or even just implicit instruction. 5)Make sure you have one aide between you and the college’s Compliance office, so that all communication with Compliance is through him; 6) Carefully examine and re-think all compliance related practices if a new AD is hired.
These are real points. There are many others. And this kind of list is valuable even for the entirely honest and forthright coach (ie, not Tressell) — merely because the NCAA regs are so zany, ever-changing, and oftentimes vague or self-contradictory that any such coach needs to carefully craft his practices with good prophylactic planning.