By Maren Angus
The morning menu session at the National Collegiate Athletic Association Convention on Jan. 19, 2017 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville focused on enforcement.
Vice President of Enforcement Jonathan Duncan and Managing Director of Enforcement (Development) Mark Hicks hosted the lecture that included an overview of their department, a walkthrough of cases, a shareholder report and a brief look forward.
The job of the Enforcement Department is to protect the game.
“We are the two books in the middle of bookends,” Duncan explained. “Literally, our work’s bookended on both sides by actions and decisions of the membership. The truth is that the Enforcement Department is just one small part of a much broader infractions process.”
The enforcement staff is compiled of a diverse committee that includes people with law degrees, student-athletes, college coaches, former membership workers and others who have worked at the NCAA for 10-plus years.
Most violations are self-reported, according to Duncan, but Hicks and his staff investigates those that aren’t.
“It’s our responsibility to connect with the people of the membership,” Hicks said. “I see firsthand how important it is to really get to know people and listen and we are really dedicated in doing that.
“The other goal is to identify issues that might otherwise go undetected,” Hicks said. “We like to think everyone does the right thing but that’s just not how it works. And lastly, is the importance in that we are serving as a bridge to the membership… We help people understand the seriousness of the infractions.”
The Enforcement Department averages 25 leads per month, but not all of them are a violation, although some do lead to some type of investigation.
Each case goes through a process of fair, accurate, collaborative and timely investigation, otherwise known as the acronym F.A.C.T.
“There are layers and layers and layers of procedural safeguard to ensure we get it right but it starts with us,” Duncan said. “We are mindful of the impact of an allegation when it’s ultimately found or not so we take the life cycle of the case very seriously.”
If there is an allegation that is found to be true, there is a formal process followed. It involves formal notice to anyone at risk. If the allegations are agreed upon, then the parties involved can skip the hearing. A disagreement leads to a formal briefing process where everyone can present information regarding the infraction.
“A lot of people think the case is over at that point,” Duncan said. “For practical purposes, for media purposes, for the institution’s purposes it probably is. But for us it’s not. We move to the next phase of the case which is to actively, intentionally seek feedback from everybody involved in the investigation.”
The enforcement staff provides a formal survey instrument to the institution so it can survey itself, which leads to a compare and contrast process. All feedback, good and bad, is welcome.
“The other thing we do at the end of a case, no exceptions, I schedule a call personally with the President, Chancellor or CEO of an institution to provide very candid feedback,” Duncan said. “It goes like this: ‘One, thank you for your time. Two, I’m really not interested in compliments; this is not a fishing expedition for flattery.’ Mostly what I’m interested in is constructive criticism about the infractions process and the enforcement staff performance.”
All of the 2016 cases received positive feedback, which is a positive for the committee, considering it was a record-setting year for number of cases (30 major, 4,500 secondary). The majority of those cases came at the Division I level with recruiting and academic integrity at the forefront.
Each year many of the infractions are similar, but the goals of the Committee on Infractions and the Enforcement Department are to remain effective, be timely in the process and to stay transparent with the membership.