In the Spotlight

News & Features
Frequently Asked Questions about NCAA Enforcement
Source: National Collegiate Athletic Association

Q: What is the mission of the NCAA enforcement program?

It is the mission of the NCAA enforcement program to reduce violations of NCAA legislation and impose appropriate penalties if violations occurred. The program is committed to the fairness of procedures and the timely and equitable resolution of infractions cases. The achievement of these objectives is essential to the conduct of a viable and effective enforcement program. Further, an important consideration in imposing penalties is to provide fairness to uninvolved student-athletes, coaches, administrators, competitors and other institutions.

One of the fundamental principles of the enforcement process is to ensure that those institutions that are abiding by NCAA legislation are not disadvantaged by its commitment to rules compliance. The NCAA is an association of colleges and universities, and legislation is created by the members for the members. The enforcement process is an integral part of the process to ensure integrity and fair play among the members.

The specific mission of the NCAA enforcement staff is to act as a means of accountability for member institutions by seeking out and processing information relating to possible major and secondary violations of NCAA legislation in accordance with the policies and procedures enacted by the NCAA membership.


Q. How is the enforcement staff organized?

The NCAA enforcement staff is headed by the NCAA's Vice President for Enforcement and Student-Athlete Reinstatement. Four directors of enforcement and the director of student-athlete reinstatement assist the vice president. The directors of enforcement supervise 15 full-time investigators. The director of student-athlete reinstatement supervises 4 student-athlete reinstatement representatives and the gambling/agent representative.


Q. How does the process work?

The enforcement staff may initiate an investigation of a member institution's athletics program only when it has reasonable cause to believe that the institution may have violated NCAA rules. A determinatioin is made regarding whether the possible violation(s) should be reviewed by correspondence with the involved institution (or its conference) or whether the enforcement staff should conduct its own in-person inquiries. When reasonably reliable information has been obtained indicating that an intentional violation has occurred, that a significant competitive or recruiting advantage may have been gained, or that false or misleading information may have been reported to the institution or to the enforcement staff, the enforcement staff will undertake a review of the information in order to determine its credibility. At that time, the involved NCAA member institution is informed of the enforcement staff's inquiry by a letter of preliminary inquiry to the institution's chief executive officer (CEO). The review of this information generally entails the use of an enforcement representative to conduct in-person interviews.

The letter of preliminary inquiry shall advise the CEO that the enforcement staff will be undertaking a preliminary investigation and, whenever possible, shall indicate the nature of the potential violations (including the involved sport), the approximate time period in which the alleged violations occurred, the identities of the involved individuals, the approximate time frame for the investigation and an indication that other facts may be developed during the course of the investigation that may relate to additional violations. The enforcement staff does not publicly release the letter of preliminary inquiry. The member institution has the discretion to determine whether it wishes to release the preliminary letter.

The enforcement staff shall conduct the preliminary inquiry for a reasonable period of time to determine whether adequate information exists indicating that major violations of NCAA legislation occurred. If this is the case, then a letter of official inquiry, is sent to the institution's CEO. The letter of official inquiry contains specific allegations against an institution. During the period of the preliminary inquiry, the enforcement staff shall inform the involved institution of the general status of the inquiry not later than six months after the date of the preliminary letter of inquiry. If the inquiry is not processed to conclusion within one year of the date of the letter of preliminary inquiry, the enforcement staff shall review the general status of the case with the NCAA Committee on Infractions. The committee shall determine whether further investigation is warranted, and its decision shall be forwarded to the involved institution in writing. If the investigation is continued, additional status reports should be provided to the institution in writing at least every six months thereafter until the matter is concluded.

If the enforcement staff believes that the available information does not warrant further review during the preliminary inquiry, the enforcement staff will notify the institution in writing that the enforcement staff does not intend to review the information further. As indicated above, if the enforcement staff believes the information indicates that violations occurred, a letter of official inquiry is sent to the institution.

The letter of official inquiry notifies the institution and all involved parties (coaches, boosters etc) of the alleged violations of NCAA legislation uncovered during the course of the inquiry. The institution and involved parties have 90 days to respond to the allegations, but may request additional time if needed.

Once all parties have responded to the allegations brought by the enforcement staff (institution, involved coaches, boosters and others) a hearing date is set before the Committee on Infractions (the NCAA administrative body charged with the task of adjudicating infractions cases). 4-6 weeks prior to the hearing date, a prehearing conference is conducted with the institution and involved staff members. During this conference, all questions regarding the allegations are discussed, so as to preclude the introduction of new information on the day of the hearing.

Prior to the hearing, the enforcement staff drafts a document called the case summary. The case summary documents the allegations, the position of the involved parties for each allegation, the remaining issues, if any, the identity of individuals involved in the case, and any other pertinent information. The case summary is distributed to the involved parties and the Committee on Infractions no later than two weeks prior to the hearing date.

The Committee on Infractions meets on approximately six occasions per year with each meeting consisting of two to three days. The number of institutions appearing at each hearing depends upon the length of each case and the amount of other business that the committee has to conduct. An institution's appearance before the committee may be all or a portion of one day or several days depending upon the complexity of the case.

At the hearing, the institution generally is represented by its chief executive officer, faculty athletics representative, director of athletics, and the current or former head coach of the involved sport. It is common for other institutional officials, such as the compliance coordinator or other athletics officials to also be present. The enforcement staff usually is represented by the enforcement representative who conducted the field work in the inquiry; the representative's supervisor; and S. David Berst, the group executive director for enforcement and eligibility appeals. Other staff members also may be present who have played a secondary role in the processing of the case or who are present for other cases before the committee. Current or former athletics department staff members (including coaching staff members) may be present with legal counsel if the individual is named in a finding. Student-athletes with current eligibility also may be present with their legal counsel.

The chair of the committee opens the hearing with general background information concerning the process to be followed during the hearing. Opening statements from the institution, the enforcement staff or other involved parties then occurs. Following the opening statements, the enforcement staff begins a presentation on specifics of an allegation. After the conclusion of the enforcement staff's presentation, the institution and other involved parties also make their presentations. The Committee on Infractions may ask questions of the enforcement staff, the institution or other involved parties. After a thorough discussion of that allegation, the next allegation is discussed.

Following a discussion of each allegation, closing statements by all involved parties are provided. After the hearing is concluded, the Committee on Infractions deliberates among themselves to determine what, if any, findings should be made and what, if any, penalties should be assessed. The information upon which violations are found must be credible, persuasive and of a nature that reasonably prudent persons would rely upon in the conduct of serious affairs. Penalties can include probationary periods, bans on post-season competition, restrictions in television appearances and reductions of athletics scholarships. Restrictions on the athletics-related duties of individual coaches may be imposed, if warranted. Infractions.

The Committee on Infractions' deliberations usually occur over the next four to six weeks via telephone conference call. An infractions report listing any specific findings and penalties usually is released to the institution and the enforcement staff no sooner than six weeks following the institution's appearance. The institution or the public affairs staff at the NCAA will notify the media a day in advance of the release of the infractions report. The chair (or other designated member) of the Committee on Infractions will conduct a telephonic press conference to announce the results of the committee's review of the summary-disposition report. A public infractions report detailing the specific findings and penalties in the case, but with the names of all involved parties redacted, is also released at that time. The Committee makes no announcements concerning the case until it issues its report.

Institutions have the option to appeal findings and penalties before the Infractions Appeals Committee. Individual coaches may appeal restrictions on athletically-related duties to the Committee on Infractions.


Q. Do all NCAA infractions cases result in an in-person hearing before the Committee on Infractions?

No. If, after an investigation has concluded, and all parties are in agreement regarding the facts surrounding allegations and appropriate penalties, there is an additional option that may be exercised. Called summary disposition, this process allows for information to be presented to the Committee on Infractions without a full hearing.

The summary disposition process is a cooperative endeavor among an institution, individuals involved in possible findings of violation and the NCAA enforcement staff. The parties prepare a report that describes the violations of NCAA legislation, and the institution and the involved individuals propose penalties. The Committee on Infractions will review this report during private deliberations and determine whether to accept the findings and the penalties or to go to a full hearing.

The summary disposition process includes several major elements. Initially, a complete and thorough investigation must have been undertaken by the institution, the enforcement staff or both. Full cooperation by the institution and all parties must be present for the process to be utilized. Further, an agreement must exist among the institution, the enforcement staff and the involved individuals on the facts involving each acknowledged violation and that these facts constitute violations of NCAA legislation. The institution and the enforcement staff also must agree that the case is major in nature. An institution that is subject to the repeat -violator provisions (the so called "death penalty") cannot utilize the summary disposition process. The report also must contain a list of penalties proposed by the institution that are consistent with the presumptive penalties for major violations as listed in NCAA Bylaw 19.6.2.

Generally, if an involved individual (current or former coaching staff member or student-athlete) does not agree with the facts or does not believe these facts constitute a violation, the summary disposition process cannot be utilized since the premise of the report is that there is an agreement on the facts and that the facts constitute a violation of NCAA legislation.

The report generally includes a case chronology detailing important dates of the investigation; background information on the institution; an overview of the findings in the report; the overall positions of the enforcement staff, the institution and the involved individuals on the infractions case; an overview of the institution's and the enforcement staff's investigations; signed agreements by the enforcement staff, the institution and the involved parties acknowledging the facts in the case and that these facts constitute a violation; a detailed narrative for each finding of violation; and the institution's suggested corrective actions and penalties.

The Committee on Infractions generally will review the summary disposition report during its regularly scheduled meetings. The committee can accept the findings and penalties, accept the findings but not the penalties, or not accept the findings or the penalties. It is common for the Committee to request additional information of an institution upon its initial review of the report. In such cases, the Committee may refer the decision on accepting of the findings until further information is obtained, usually during the committee's next regularly scheduled meeting. The Committee also may accept the findings but not the penalty and inform the institution of the Committee's belief on what additional penalties should be imposed by the institution. In such cases, the institution generally imposes those additional penalties, and the Committee then will accept the institution's proposed penalties.

If the Committee accepts the findings but not the penalties that the institution proposed (or that the Committee recommended in response to the institution's initial penalties), an expedited in-person hearing is held. During the expedited hearing, the findings in the report have been accepted, and the hearing focuses only on the penalties that were not accepted. The hearing is not intended as an opportunity for the parties to negotiate with the committee or to discuss the findings. Rather, the purpose of this hearing is for the institution or involved individuals to further explain the rationale for the recommended penalties and for the Committee to ask questions and seek clarification. After the expedited hearing, the institution or the involved individuals may appeal the penalties to the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee.

At any point in the process, the enforcement staff could issue a letter of official inquiry if it appears that the institution and the enforcement staff cannot agree on findings or if the Committee on Infractions does not accept the findings or penalty. Similarly, the summary disposition process can be utilized after an official inquiry is issued by the enforcement staff and there is an agreement by the institution, the involved parties and the enforcement staff on findings of violation.

If the Committee accepts the findings and penalties in the report, the Committee prepares an infractions report. The issuing of the report usually takes between three and five weeks. The institution is informed of any nonsubstantive changes made in the findings by the Committee, and a release date is set for the Committee's public infractions report concerning the case. As with normally processed infractions cases, the institution or the public affairs staff at the NCAA will notify the media a day in advance of the release of the infractions report. The chair (or other designated member) of the Committee on Infractions will conduct a telephonic press conference to announce the results of the committee's review of the summary-disposition report. A public infractions report detailing the specific findings and penalties in the case also is released at that time. The Committee makes no announcements concerning the case until it issues its report.


Q. What is the difference between the enforcement staff and NCAA Committee on Infractions?

The Committee on Infractions is an independent body composed of indviduals from NCAA member institutions. Each Division (I, II, and III) has its own Committee on Infractions. The Division I Committe has eight members composed of six individuals from NCAA member institutions and two from the general public. The Division II and Division III Committees are composed of 5 individuals which include four members from the respective divisional memberships and one member from the general public. The Committees have the authority to determine what (if any) findings should be made and what (if any) penalties should be assessed upon a member institution.

It is the responsibility of the enforcement staff to collect information concerning possible violations and determine whether the available information is of sufficient credibility and seriousness to be forwarded to the Committees on Infractions for consideration. The enforcement staff does not have the authority to make findings nor impose or recommend penalties.

Similarly, the committees have the authority to review the enforcement procedures and make appropriate changes. It also is the responsibility of the Committees on Infractions to review any misconduct by the enforcement staff as it relates to a case. The Committees on Infractions has a separate staff person who assists the Committees in drafting reports, letters etc.


Q. What type of background do most NCAA investigators have?

The majority of the enforcement staff has an advanced degree (about two-thirds of the staff have law degrees) and/or have coached or participated on the intercollegiate level.


Q. How do investigations begin?

Investigations begin in a variety of ways; either through proactive or reactive efforts on the part of the enforcement staff. From a reactive standpoint, high school and college coaches, often anonymously or as non-attributable sources, contact the NCAA staff to report potential violations at NCAA institutions. Investigative reports published in newspapers, magazines or on television sometimes lead to investigations. Student-athletes occasionally contact the NCAA to report violations. In many cases, institutions will discover violations and self-report them to the enforcement staff, leading to full-scale investigations. On rare occasions, an investigation will result from members of the general public contacting the NCAA to report potential violations.

Proactive efforts include interviewing highly recruited prospects and student-athletes who have transferred from member institutions, or attending high-school or 2-year college all-star games or other events where collegiate coaches may be in attendance. Upon receipt of information concerning a possible violation, the information is evaluated by a director of enforcement. If the information relates to secondary (minor) infractions, it may be forwarded to the institution or conference for review or, if of a more serious nature, assigned to an enforcement representative for follow-up.

Information relating to potential violations is received via telephone, letter, in person and, in recent years, Internet e-mail.

If you wish to report potential NCAA violations you can contact the NCAA through the following means:

    Telephone: 913/339-1906

    U.S. mail:

      Enforcement Staff
      6201 College Blvd
      Overland Park, KS 66211-2422


Q. Generally speaking, how are cases investigated?

There is no single way to investigate cases, since each has it own unique set of individuals, issues and circumstances surrounding the genesis of the case.

In general, however, there are certain common denominators in each case. Preliminary information is given to a director of enforcement who, after reviewing the available information, assigns it to one or more of the investigators under his/her charge. Of common relevance is the fact that an effort is made by the enforcement staff to tape-record all interviews.

In most instances, at the start of a case, efforts are made to speak with the source(s) who originally reported information. The enforcement staff will request that these individuals submit to a taped interview "on the record" (i.e. provide their names). If a source does not provide a name, then their information can not be used by the enforcement staff to help prove that a violation occurred. The information they provide, however, can be used to direct the enforcement staff to other individuals who may have knowledge of violations and who could be attributable sources.

Usually the enforcement staff will attempt to gather as much corroborative information from the "periphery" of a case, before attempting to interview individuals directly involved with potential violations. By doing this, the enforcement staff seeks to minimize the possibility that person(s) directly involved in potential violations could, by contacting individuals who could coaberate the occurance of violations, compromise the integrity of the case by orchestrating information reported to the enforcement staff.

When interviews are conducted on campus with enrolled student-athletes, institutional representatives are required to be present during the interviews. Depending upon the circumstances, institutional representatives may also be present for interviews of individuals other than student-athletes. Any individual interviewed by the enforcement staff has the option of having legal counsel present during the interview. All interviews are either transcribed or summarized in memorandums. In many cases, information such as long-distance telephone records, bank records and academic transcripts are reviewed during the processing of a case.

Once the enforcement staff has gathered enough information to proceed with allegations of NCAA rules violations, the process unfolds in accordance with the procedures described earlier. (see How Does the Enforcement Process Work?)


Q. Why does it appear that the NCAA is so harsh in the enforcement of its rules?

The NCAA is a voluntary membership organization of colleges and universities that participate in intercollegiate athletics. As earlier indicated, the primary purpose of the Association is to maintain intercollegiate athletics as an integral part of the educational program and the athlete as an integral part of the student body.

Through a legislative process, NCAA member colleges and universities formulate rules of play, recruiting and administration of NCAA-sponsored sports, to include provisions designed to enforce these rules and regulations.

It is the expectation of the NCAA that all student-athletes, coaches and athletic personnel will deport themselves with honesty and sportsmanship at all times so that intercollegiate athletics as a whole, their institutions and they, as individuals, shall represent the honor and dignity of fair play and the generally recognized high standards associated with wholesome competitive sports.

The enforcement process is designed to provide a timely, fair and equitable resolution of infractions cases in order to uphold the high standards set for NCAA member institutions, their student-athletes, coaches and athletic administrators in the conduct of intercollegiate athletics.


Q. What is the "death penalty?"

The repeat-violator legislation (so called "death penalty") is applicable to an institution if, within a five-year period, the following conditions exist: (a) following the announcement of the major case, a major violation occurs, and (b) the infractions case involving the second violation is processed to conclusion within five years. The second major case does not have to be in the same sport as the previous case to affect the second sport.

The NCAA Committee on Infractions has the responsibility for imposing penalties in infractions cases. The minimum penalties for repeat violators of legislation, subject to exemptions authorized by the committee on the basis of specifically stated reasons, may include any or all of the following: (a) the prohibition of some or all outside competition in the sport involved in the last major violation for one or two sports seasons and the prohibition of all coaching staff members in that sport from involvement directly or indirectly in any coaching activities at the institution during that period; (b) the elimination of all initial grants-in-aid and recruiting activities in the sport involved in the last major violation in question for a two-year period; (c) the requirement that all institutional staff members serving on the NCAA Presidents Commission, Council, Executive Committee or other committees of the Association resign their positions, it being understood that all institutional representatives shall be ineligible to serve on any NCAA committee for a period of four years; and (d) the requirement that the institution relinquish its voting privilege in the Association for a four-year period.


Q. Does the NCAA enforcement process allow for due-process protection guaranteed by the Constitution in traditional legal proceedings?

NCAA enforcement regulations and eligibility procedures contain a multitude of traditional due-process protections. Some of the most important are the following:

  • The institution is formally advised of any preliminary inquiry into its athletics policies and practices.

  • The institution's representative may be present at all on-campus interviews of enrolled student-athletes or athletics department staff members.

  • Throughout the entire process, individuals and institutions are entitled to be represented by legal counsel.

  • NCAA interviews are tape-recorded unless the person interviewed objects.

  • There is, in general, a four-year statute of limitations concerning alleged violations that may be processed.

  • If, after preliminary investigation, the NCAA enforcement staff determines that an allegation or complaint warrants an official inquiry, the institution's chief executive officer is advised formally of such inquiry, including the details of each allegation.

  • The institution and involved individuals are advised of all witnesses and information upon which the staff intends to rely and has the right to interview those witnesses.

  • Institutions are required to advise potentially affected student-athletes or institutional staff members of allegations related to them, and to provide such individuals with the opportunity to submit information, to be represented by personal legal counsel and to participate in hearings.

  • Information from confidential sources may not be considered.

  • The proceedings of the Committee on Infractions and Eligibility Committee are tape-recorded, and a court reporter also records and transcribes Committee on Infractions hearings.

  • The burden of proving allegations rests with the NCAA.

  • Eligibility appeals decisions are expedited to avoid inappropriate loss of game time for affected student-athletes.

  • Actions of the Committee on Infractions and Eligibility Committee are by majority vote.

Although the United States Supreme Court determined that the NCAA is not a "state actor" and therefore is not subject to the due-process clause of the Federal Constitution, the NCAA membership believes its procedure provides a meaningful and fair opportunity for institutions and involved individuals to be involved in these processes.


Q. Why does it appear that the NCAA enforcement process and resultant penalties punishes innocent student-athletes?

The penalty structure was established based upon the NCAA being composed of member institutions rather than individuals. Accordingly, the focus of the penalties is to ensure that there is sufficient deterent so that the respective institutions will establish an environment which will preclude future violations. Unfortunatly, some sanctions, such as bans on post-season competition and television appearances, while serving as a financial penalty and a deterent for institutions, also negativly affect innocent student-athletes. In light of this, a committee was formed in 1992 with the express purpose of reviewing the penalty structure. This committee added language to the enforcement procedures which, in effect, states that the interests of innocent individuals should be taken into account when imposing penalties. In part, as a result of this committee's actions, a ban on television appearances was removed from the list of automatic penalties to be imposed in major infractions cases. However, the simple fact is that the punative nature of NCAA-imposed sanctions make it unavoidable that the penalties imposed on institutions as a result of their involvement in major infractions will have some negative impact on innocent student-athletes.


Q. Are there means to punish coaches and boosters who are involved in NCAA infractions cases?

Yes. If a current or former athletics department staff member (such as a coach) or a representative of the institution's athletics interests (booster) is found by the NCAA Committee on Infractions to have violated NCAA legislation, the committee may require action through the member institution that could affect the athletically related duties or the athletics involvement of that individual at an NCAA member institution. Under the provisions of NCAA Bylaw (a show-cause order), the Committee on Infractions has the authority to request the institution to take certain action against such individuals. If the institution elects not to take any action or the action recommended by the committee, the committee has the authority to further penalize the institution.

If an athletics department staff member is found to have been involved in a significant violation, the committee could require that the institution take certain disciplinary actions against the individual that could affect the individual's athletically related duties at the institution. If the individual is employed at a second NCAA member institution, the committee may request the second member institution to take such actions, even though the second institution was not involved in the violations.

If the involved staff member no longer is employed at an NCAA member institution, the committee may require that if a member institution employs (or intends to employ) such an individual in an athletically related capacity, that institution and the individual be required to appear before the Committee on Infractions to determine what, if any, limitations should be imposed upon that individual by the member institution that is hiring the individual. The committee may elect to take no action or issue a show-cause order against the institution to take certain action against the individual it intends to employ.

A show-cause order against an individual may be imposed for a violation in a secondary or a major case.

If a representative of the institution's athletics interests (booster) is named in a violation, the committee may apply a show-cause requirement that often requires that the institution disassociate that individual from its athletics program. This disassociation may be imposed on a permanent basis, for the duration of the applicable probationary period or for another specified period. This disassociation may require that the institution refrain from accepting any assistance from the individual that would aid in the recruitment of prospects or the support of enrolled student-athletes; decline financial assistance for the institution's athletics program from the individual; ensure that no athletics benefit or privilege be provided to the individual that generally is not available to the public; and take other such actions against the individual that the institution deems to be within its authority to eliminate the involvement of the individual in the athletics program.


Q. Does the NCAA enforcement process allow for immunity for involved coaches and student-athletes?

Yes. A provision of "limited immunity" is offered to student-athletes and coaches who may have information important to the processing of an infractions case. It is essential to understand that the application of immunity very restricted. Limited immunity is not "a plea bargain" nor a quid pro quo arrangement. "Limited immunity" is offerred only when certain criteria have been met. That criteria includes the understanding that the enforcement staff did not have certain information and it was of such a nature that the enforcement could not have developed it without the cooperation of the individual for whom the immunity is being considered. Further, the individual must provide the information voluntarily and the granting of the immunity is limited to information about a particular infraction or infractions. In other words, the provision of information by an individual does not exonerate that individual from sanctions which may be imposed if he or she is later found to have been involved in other violations separate from the potential violations for which the individual is being provided immunity; hence the term "limited immunity."

In the case of student-athletes, "limited immunity" refers to exemption from penalties associated with loss of eligibility for competition. With regard to coaches, "limited immunity" refers to exemption from possible restrictions in athletics-related duties imposed by the Committee on Infractions (see earlier question relating to the punishment of coaches).

Since the NCAA does not have subpoena authority and other legal powers, its ability to obtain information is often curtailed. Limited immunity is one of the tools used by Association to compensate for this restriction.


Q. Why does it appear that NCAA investigations take so long?

There are a number of reasons for this. The standard of proof is very high for NCAA infractions cases and there must be a reasonable expectation of a finding by the Committee on Infractions in order for the enforcement staff to proceed with an allegation of NCAA rules violations. As a result, the enforcement staff must take the time to obtain complete information from not only individual(s) directly involved in the rules violation (or who have direct knowledge), but sources which can corroborate the information as well. Additionally, much time and effort is spent in evaluating both sides of a case, in order to determine which side is the most credible. The time to take to process a case is often lengthened by the fact the schedules of involved individuals (and sometimes their attorneys) must be accommodated in order for the enforcement staff to conduct an interview. Moreover, it occasionally takes a great deal of time to locate such individuals. Further, in order to properly evaluate information, it is sometimes necessary to interview individuals in a particular order. If there is a delay in interviewing a particular person, this may have a "ripple effect" and result in delaying the interviews of others. In many instances, information is developed during a case which leads to the discovery of additional possible infractions, which broadens the scope of an investigation, necessitating more time to fully explore these additional issues. Finally, institutions frequently lengthen the process by requesting additional time to respond to allegations of NCAA violations made by the enforcement staff.