After the recent reports about Ohio State's self-reported secondary violations, I received several emails like this one from Justin in Plainfield, Ill.:
You have to help us put OSU's 46 secondary violations in perspective. How many did the other Big Ten schools have in the similar time frame?
Or this one from SkullSession in Ohio:
Adam, I love the blog and think you guys do an outstanding job. However, I am disappointed you decided to make Ohio State's reporting of secondary violations "news-worthy." Every school in the country reports secondary violations to the NCAA on a regular basis. Certainly, us Buckeyes are overly sensitive to negative press, especially when streaming from ESPN. But c'mon, wishing a recruit good-luck before a game, or recording a video for a recruit during his official visit while you're out of town....really! I'll be looking for the stories about the other 11 Big Ten schools and their violations.
I understand the frustration and the sensitivity from Ohio State fans who feel like their school is being picked on for something minor. Secondary violations aren't a big deal -- many are absurd in nature -- and every program has them. I also think these reports are noteworthy because Ohio State's compliance office and reporting procedures -- more than the actual secondary issues themselves -- should be monitored after what took place the last few years. This type of scrutiny comes with being a nationally relevant program.
That said, it's also important to put these issues into a larger context. Here are some numbers on secondary violations from the Big Ten, which receives all the self-reports of secondary issues (the NCAA handles all major issues with the schools):
Since Jan. 1, 2006, the league has received 1,467 self-reports of secondary violations from its members. Of those, 239 (16.3 percent) involved football and 115 (7.8 percent) involved men's basketball.
Since the start of 2012, the league has received 114 self-reports, including 22 in football.
Between 2006-2011, the Big Ten received an average of 224 self-reported violations per year, with a high of 261 (2008) and a low of 187 (2009).
Most Big Ten schools submit 15-30 secondary violations per year, although more than half have submitted more than 30 and several have eclipsed 30 on multiple occasions. The league has had multiple schools submit more than 40 violations in a year.
Ohio State acknowledged Thursday that it consistently leads the Big Ten in self-reports because it has the largest number of varsity sports (36) and the most student-athletes. Purdue has the fewest varsity sports in the Big Ten (18), and the league average outside of Ohio State is around 22 sports.
From the Big Ten's perspective, the number of self-reported violations isn't nearly as significant as the nature.
"We take more of a qualitative approach to reviewing violations than a quantitative approach," Big Ten associate commissioner for compliance Chad Hawley told ESPN.com on Friday. "Numbers necessarily aren't going to get our attention. What we're looking for is: Are there a pattern of violations committed by the same person or is there a violation of a very basic rule? ... If there's any intentionality, we will pay attention."
Hawley reiterated that Ohio State's recent self-reports are "standard" in both number and in nature.
The league office tracks secondary violations committed by particular coaches or officials. The Big Ten also has a compliance and reinstatement subcommittee made up of an athletic director, a senior woman administrator and three faculty representatives. The subcommittee meets every other month via conference call and reviews violations or patterns of violations that have been flagged.
This group sends letters to institutions, asks for reports about specific coaches or issues and can ask coaches to visit the league office for follow-up.
"It's situations where there might be a pattern on the part of a specific individual or maybe a high-profile situation we may pull out," Hawley said. "If it's a fundamental rule and there's not much excuse for that rule to be broken, we'll pull that out. And irresponsible behavior on the part of a coach."
Hawley said more violations occur in football and men's basketball because those sports have more coaches (particularly football), more sports-specific legislation and more media scrutiny, especially involving recruiting. The majority of self-reports across all sports occur because of recruiting issues, including prohibited contact with recruits.
"On one hand, you think a 'bump' or an impermissible phone call may be ticky-tack," Hawley said. "And it can be. But at the same time, if you look at it from a prospect's perspective, if it's done purposely or done enough, a coach can gain an advantage because their perception is this coach cares more about me or this person gave me a call when no one else did."
The bottom line with all of this is that the number of secondary violations don't matter much at all. But not all violations are the same, and if there's a problematic pattern emerging, the Big Ten can step in.