Compliance Offices Struggle Through Possibility of Finding Multiple Interpretations of the Same Rule

June 6, 2011 – 9:45 am by Eric Schmoldt

In cases like that of Ohio State, the most recent major football program to make national headlines due to NCAA violations, it is pretty clear that rules were broken. Sometimes, however, that is not the case. In fact, a lot of times that doesn’t seem to be the case, given that the Buckeyes and Jim Tressel were able to avoid earlier problems by simply stating they had no knowledge of what was going on.

When programs think they may have broken a rule, that’s when folks like Julie Manning come in. Manning, the Associate Athletic Director for Compliance/Financial Aid at the University of Colorado, helps programs interpret NCAA bylaws. However, as she states, those 500 bylaws have 9,000 interpretations.

It all leads to a courtroom-type situation, where one side may interpret the bylaw one way while the opposing side interprets the rule a very different way. Manning is just the latest to agree that some of these rules need to be updated or changed based on present culture.

Julie Manning joined 102.3 The Ticket in Denver with CJ and Klatt to discuss what her job title means, interpreting the NCAA bylaws, how she helps the programs at Colorado, the possibilities of increasing players’ stipends to include basic needs in today’s culture, how Title IX might play into that and the need to update the NCAA rules.

On what exactly the Associate Athletic Director of Compliance job title means:

“You have that day-to-day interaction, those relationships which you so desperately need, with the coaching staff, in particular. You’re basically a member of their team, if they allow you to do that, no different than their director of operations. … But, once in a while, there is a violation that’s going to take place. Typically a sport program would have two to three violations, on the average, in a year. And now you’re on the other side, you’re investigating something that’s wrong in their program. You’re researching a mistake that they have made and it brings a different relationship. … You just hope that you have a solid foundation to begin with so that they trust you.”

When interpreting NCAA rules, is it possible that rules can be interpreted differently at different schools?:

“Unfortunately they can because it’s just like interpreting the law. Different lawyers will interpret differently, different judges will bring down different rulings. Really, it’s set up with administrative law in mind. … Just me reading one of the 500 bylaws that are part of the NCAA manual, and then there’s 9,000 interpretations of those bylaws. Sure, I might have something in the back of my mind when I’m reading that. … I might have a personal experience that I had as a coach that’s coming into play.”

On changing the way things were done once she got to Colorado:

“When I arrived here six and a half years ago, I felt there was a paranoia here in the athletics department, a somewhat understandable culture that was taking place. It took a long time to break down some of those barriers — going to the practices and going to the events where people didn’t feel like, ‘Geez, they’re spying on me’ or ‘I must be doing something wrong.’”

Should players be paid or given a larger stipend based on the fact that playing a sport rarely allows them to hold down a job and pay for other living expenses outside their current stipend?:

“The opportunity to work is pretty diminished, you’re right. Now, one thing that the federal government obviously has done is provided that Pell Grant opportunity for the young people that do need that money. It’s definitely a bona fide need.”

How many of them actually apply and get those Pell Grants?:

“I would say there are about 60 or 70 student-athletes out of 350 who are Pell eligible. That’s increased a little bit in the last couple of years just simply, unfortunately, because some parents have lost their job and businesses have really suffered. … Those people are getting Pell Grant money, a little bit more than $5,000 for the fall, spring semester.”

Given Title IX, is there any way that athletes in revenue-making sports like football and basketball might see some of that revenue?:

“I don’t think that Title IX would really be a factor one way or another here. What I personally would like to see is instead of calculating the scholarship on full grant and aid, why not calculate it on what’s the actual cost of dependence. That’s where you actually get into 3, or 4, or $5,000 more that then could go into the student-athlete’s pocket that may take care of medical issues that may come up, that may take care of buying course-related supplies. That would take care of the young man or woman to fly home on one or two occasions. That’s really what it costs to go to the University of Colorado. It’s not the full grant and aid. But I don’t think that Title IX, other than the opportunities have to be available to both men and women … I don’t think it would have much of a factor of bearing.”

But what about some who say those things should only be paid for for players in revenue-generating sports?:

“Yes, you’re right. It would be difficult to just say, football and men’s basketball, yes they are clearly revenue-generating sports for Colorado and across the country, can we compensate them differently? You would run into some barriers there unless somehow Title IX would change. I don’t think that’s going to happen. I suppose what you would do, at least here, is elevate women’s basketball and probably our volleyball or soccer program to that type of level.”

Are the rules dated and do they need to be altered?:

“I do believe that some of the rules are outdated, but I don’t think it can be different for men and women. I think that the opportunities should be there and are there, especially at your public institutions. We should not, we cannot make decisions based solely on revenue-generating programs. … Yes, I do think that the NCAA needs to take hard look, not at changing their amateurism … but just compensating the student-athlete to a greater level of comfort.”

Listen to Julie Manning on 102.3 The Ticket in Denver here

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