PSU’s Compliance With Mitchell ‘Integrity Report’: Two ‘Authorized’ Adults Present When Young Recruits Visit?

I think Penn State may have been violating Senator Mitchell’s First Quarterly “Integrity Monitor” report, dated November 30, 2012, and the new Penn State policy AD 39 (adopted in June 2012), which Mitchell endorsed in that Report.

Mitchell’s Report states, at page 31, that on June 7, 2012, the University revised its’ Policy AD 39 pertaining to “Minors Involved in University-Sponsored Programs or Programs Held at the University and/or Housed in University Facilities.

It goes without saying that PSU recruits high school players who are “minors.” Pennsylvania defines a minor as anyone under the age of 18. Some other states (where Penn State actively recruits), define the age of majority as up to 21. Any of those minors recruited by Penn State are subject to – and should be protected by -, this new AD 39 Policy which was given Senator Mitchell’s stamp of approval last November.

And AD 39 requires that

“at least two Authorized Adults … be present during all interactions and activities activities with minors.”

This raises the question as to whether, since June 2012 when this new policy was adopted, PSU has had two adults present at all all times with minor recruits, but also (assuming two adults have been present as required), whether those two adults have been “Authorized” as strictly defined by the new Policy AD 39. 

The common practice at big-time campuses like Penn State’s is for the coaching staff to “assign” the responsibility for “hosting” a recruit to one or two existing players, who act as “chaperones” for that recruit.

Under the terms of new PSU Policy AD 39, any such current Penn State player who “hosts” or “chaperones” such a recruit who is a minor must qualify as an “Authorized Adult” as defined by that new policy.

(Adults who must be properly “Authorized” are defined as “Individuals, age 18 or over, paid or unpaid, who interact with, supervise, chaperone, or otherwise oversee minors in program activities, or recreational, and/or residential facilities. This includes but is not limited to faculty, staff, volunteers, graduate and undergraduate students, interns, employees of temporary employment agencies, and independent contractors/consultants. The Authorized Adults’ roles may include positions as counselors, chaperones, coaches, instructors, etc.”)

And the required “Authorization” for such adults is described in the Mitchell First Quarterly Report as follows:

“Under Policy AD39, ‘Authorized Adults’ participating in a program involving minors must attend annual, mandatory training on protecting minors from abusive treatment and on mandated reporting requirements for suspicions of child abuse. The activities of Authorized Adults are carefully restricted.”

The Mitchell First Quarterly Report also states that, amongst the changes (in required training for adults in supervision of minors) are included “background check guidelines for authorized adults; mandated reporter training obligations; self-disclosure of arrests or convictions; requirements for two or more authorized adults to be present at all times during programs, and guidelines related to communication with and transportation of monitors.”

The language here is somewhat ambiguous, but suggests that “volunteers” such as those current athletes who are assigned to chaperone recruits on “official” visits, are covered by the policy and required to have both the background check and the appropriate training, to achieve “Authorized Adult” status.

So that, if “chaperones” for PSU recruits who are still minors have not had that mandatory annual training, then Penn State has been in violation of this new policy.

The new policy also states that an Authorized Adult “may not enter a minor’s room, bathroom, or similar area without another Authorized Adult present,” and that “Authorized Adults must stay in separate accommodations.

It is not clear that Penn State has changed its’ recruiting practices to comply with these rather rigorous — and unique in the industry — standards for on-campus chaperones for minor recruits.

It’s also worth noting that an area of ambiguity is whether this “Two Adults at All Times” policy applies when Coaches are out on the road recruiting, in recruit’s homes and home towns, or at 7-on-7, AAU, and other tournaments and gatherings where top recruits are visited. My reading of the Policy is that AD 39 does, in fact, apply “out on the road”, but I have no information as to whether PSU athletics has taken steps to comply.

By undertaking this entire analysis, I am not suggesting that I support new PSU policy AD 39. I don’t.

And I am no fan of big-time college recruiting. It’s pimping. Grown men, sweet-talking minors. Gullible, often under-educated minors. Grown men, with vested, strong, compelling self-and-institutional interests – which might be in conflict with the interests of young men who are minors — making promises, vague or explicit, which are neither enforceable or, oftentimes, kept.  It’s all just plain Creepy. That creepiness is only one reason why I favor the free-market employment recruiting process, which revolves around attracting candidates by offering higher pay.

High school players should be recruited the same way any other potential employee is recruited: with competing offers of money, which can be stacked up against each other. Is it important for a player to know the personality and other intangibles associated with the people he might work with for the next four or five years? Absolutely. Let him figure that out. But let’s have the basics of this system work around the amount of money the prospective employer/college athletics operation chooses to pay the kid.

Finally, I don’t agree with the tenor or the letter of new PSU AD 39; it’s an overreaction, and I would contend that the requirement of a constant presence of two adults, when supervising minors, is appropriate and necessary only where there inheres some risk that an adult with illicit motive might take advantage: in closed-door rooms, smaller spaces, locker-rooms, bathrooms, etc. It makes no sense to require that two adults be present, for example, in a large gymnasium where eighty other kids are running around.

George Mitchell, armed with good sense and some wisdom, should have objected to the unnecessarily constraining nature of this new PD 39. (As I pointed out in an earlier Dec. 6, 2012 post, ‘How Sen.Mitchell’s Integrity Report Overlooks PSU’s Effort to ‘Gut’ a Basic Reform’, Mitchell similarly whiffed by rubber-stamping the PSU Athletics Department’s overtly under-handed implementation of the new post-Sandusky requirement that each sport have a new ‘Team Monitor’, responsible for overseeing “integrity” and compliance issues. PSU quietly let slip that the new Team Monitor for football and basketball would be the Head Coach! – creating the bizarre end-result that, if Joe Paterno were the PSU Head Football Coach today, he would also simultaneously function as his team’s own “independent” Team Monitor(!) So much for independent oversight and accountability.

Mitchell blew it, and he needs to go back and revisit these two topics.

But until Mitchell squawks, PSU is stuck with these overly restrictive rules which require coaches and recruit ‘chaperones’ to al  AD 39, and must comply.

I’d be interested in input on these issues.

About brewonsouthu

lawyer, with interest in college sports and NCAA oversight and decisions, and sports generally.
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