The NCAA COI Bought Alabama Basketball’s Org-Chart Dodge

I just happened to read the NCAA COI’s November 20 Alabama decision. It’s goofy, though all press accounts suggest that Bama basketball got an appropriate 3-year probation, and $5,000 grand fine.

The decision reflects the power of the Alabama football and basketball juggernaut — and its organizational genius.

The bad guy, who arranged dinners, and payments, between a top recruit and a financial advisor, and took payments for doing it all, was an “Associate Athletic Director.” This was the specious excuse which Bama fed to the NCAA, and Gonzalez (the poor man had no idea what he was walking into), and other COI members, like former Minnesota AD Maturi.

But that ‘bad guy’ Associate AD was, in fact, no associate AD. He was the Director of Basketball Operations. Those directors have, for decades, served under the head coach. So why would Bama switch his position on the Org Chart, to suggest that head coach Avery Johnson worked under him?

Because seven years ago the NCAA rules established that the head coach would be ‘vicariously liable’ for the transgressions of those working under him.

Those guys at Bama. Just brilliant. They said to each other: hey, let’s make it so the Director of Basketball Ops looks like he does not work under head coach Avery Johnson! Nothing changed on the ground. His job was the same; only his job title changed.

Why is that important? Because Bama avoided having head coach Avery Johnson hauled in as a witness (they ditched him in 2018). And Bama also avoided having to do what any school needed to do, when accused of having an assistant, under the head coach, engaged in wrong-doing: show strict, formal procedures for record-keeping, reporting, and oversight, to show that all assistants were not in violation. Phone records, turned in every month. Expense statements, turned in every month. Affidavits, every quarter, as to spending, and bank account statements. Constant, daily monitoring of emails and other social media. These procedural and documentation factors are commonplace, in any setting where organizational vicarious liability is a threat.

By making the Director of Basketball Ops an Associate AD, Bama avoided all that. And, on the first page of its decision, in fact, the COI showed what knuckleheads they were, specifically finding that, “the violations resulted from the unethical conduct of an administrator, rather than a coach.”

The COI, and Gonzalez, bought the bullshit, hook, line, and sinker.

So did Joel Maturi, former Minnesota AD. And Jody Conradt, retired head women’s basketball coach and special assistant to athletics at Texas. Thomas Hill, senior vice president emeritus at Iowa State; Jason Leonard, executive director of athletics compliance at Oklahoma. Kay Norton, president emeritus of Northern Colorado. and Sarah Wake, associate general counsel and associate vice president for equity at Northwestern.

Knuckleheads, all of them.

The clear message, if you are a Power 5 school?: just use a different job title! Make your “Operations Directors” into “Associate AD’s”! — so that they appear not to work under the head coach. And the NCAA will fall for it.

It’s the Great Bama Org-Chart Dodge.

But that’s only, as they say in Maine, “the half of it.” The other half, tomorrow.

About brewonsouthu

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