Emmert wants NCAA violators hit harder

Published 11:12 pm Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — Mark Emmert wants to start hitting NCAA rule-breakers hard.

The governing body’s president said Tuesday he wants schools that violate the rules to pay a stiff penalty — one that’s punitive enough to make coaches and others think twice about cheating.

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“We need to make sure our penalty structure and enforcement process imposes a thoughtful level of concern, and that the cost of violating the rules costs more than not violating them,” Emmert said.

He offered no specifics, though Emmert already has taken a tough tack.

A little more than 13 months after being hired as the NCAA’s new president, Emmert acknowledged he has committed more resources to enforcement, which is now led by vice president Julie Roe Lach.

That’s not the only change.

In an effort to make the process more transparent, Emmert and Lach opened up the NCAA’s Hall of Champions for the first “Enforcement Experience” — a mock investigation into an infractions case. About two dozen reporters participated Tuesday in the daylong forum, which provided a glimpse into everything from tracking violations to infractions committee deliberations.

The goal is to make the enforcement staff more efficient.

“We’ve made the commitment to provide enforcement with more staff,” Emmert said as Lach nodded her head. “Some staff has been added. It isn’t really more investigators in the field, but it’s freeing up more people to get them out in the field.”

Lach said she has spoken to more than 100 university officials since Nov. 1, seeking input about how the process can be improved. Some of the proposed changes are already being discussed in committees. The full plan, Lach said, should be unveiled in June.

The NCAA’s future structure could have a vastly different look.

At one point, Emmert even suggested expanding the violations — from major and secondary — to as many as five different categories.

“This is my own opinion, but I do worry we have too much of a bivariate model,” he said. “I personally would like to see whether we can have two, three or five different sort of categories and maybe that would make the cases go a little more expeditiously.”

Lach and her staff also are taking an in-depth look at policing third-party influences.

They would like to create rules that will prevent a repeat of last year’s high-profile investigation into Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton and his father. The plan would also help eliminate some of the problems with agents and additional people involved in the recruitment of prep players.

“Knowing whether someone else is taking something has never been a violation,” Lach said. “But in our world, investigations encountering third parties is a daily situation.”

One thing Emmert won’t tolerate is tinkering with the NCAA’s amateurism policy, something he considers a core value of the NCAA.

Emmert believes that instead of solving problems, pay-for-play would only create more issues.

“What are you going to pay them? Are you going to pay the quarterback the same as the guy who sits on the bench? Are you going to pay a gymnast the same as a men’s basketball player?” Emmert said. “There is a model for that, it’s called professional sports, and I love them. But that’s not what college sports is about.”