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Thursday, July 31, 2008
Big Ten tour: Compliance is 'not the police'

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

PARK RIDGE, Ill. -- A pile of red folders sits on Jennifer Vining-Smith's desk. They're the violations you never hear about, the ones that flow into the Big Ten office on a regular basis.

"Violations happen," said Vining-Smith, the Big Ten's assistant director of compliance. "If schools are reporting violations, that's good. It's when schools are not reporting them when we get worried."

Vining-Smith and assistant commissioner for compliance Chad Hawley address compliance questions from member schools, help determine the severity of violations and work with the league's compliance and reinstatement subcommittee, which reviews all violations and determines the further action.

NCAA violations are broken up into two levels. Level 1 violations reported by the schools go straight to the NCAA, while Level 2 violations come to the Big Ten for review. The Big Ten submits Level 2 violations [secondary] to the NCAA on a quarterly basis, usually including about 80 violations in each report. The NCAA then determines whether or not further action is needed by either the school or the conference.

"We're always checking to see if a violation should be Level 1," Vining-Smith said.

Each school has its own penalty structure for violations, but in some cases, such as those of repeat offenders, the league could step in with a letter to the athletic director or penalty recommendations.

Big Ten compliance officials conduct audits of each school every few years, examining coaches' telephone calls, lists of unofficial recruiting visits, etc. Schools also can ask for audits to be conducted. But for the most part, the league leaves its members alone.

"It's not our job to be the police," Vining-Smith said. "We trust our people in place."

The Big Ten and the Big 12 are the only conferences that require drug testing of athletes, and the league compliance office runs the program. Eight hundred tests are conducted throughout the year, both on campus and at Big Ten championship events.

Testing is random and based on the numbers of participants in each sport.

"It's a program of deterrence," said Vining-Smith, who doesn't anticipate having league-run drug tests for every athlete in every sport. "The kids know it's out there."

Most schools also conduct their own testing programs, which vary in severity.