Despite the vague moniker, secondary violations are essentially what they say they are: Minor breaches of rules the NCAA enforces but hardly emphasizes in its never-ending task of maintaining amateurism in college athletics. When they happen, the typical response is muted. A school's compliance office finds out and self-reports the incidents, the NCAA says it appreciates the gesture, gently reminds the school to keep up the good work, and everyone goes back to checking Reddit all day.
On Wednesday, Louisville Courier-Journal writer Kyle Tucker obtained records outlining Kentucky athletics' 16 self-reported secondary violations committed during the 2011-12 school year. There is nothing at all damning about the violations. Indeed, the violations Tucker uncovered speak more to the NCAA's byzantine rule structure than to any malfeasance in the Kentucky athletics department. A sample from the football side:
A third violation came when Joker Phillips got a text from a number he didn’t recognize and texted back “who is this sorry” -- only to find out it was a 2012 recruit. Phillips reported himself.
The old poorly updated address book, trick, eh? Oldest one in the book! Everyone knows you have to sync your contacts between Google and the Contacts app on iOS, Coach Phillips. Busted!
You get the idea. Which brings us to the violation committed by Kentucky special assistant Rod Strickland, who, in a bold and nefarious turn, went so far as to "on one occasion … [answer] a student-athlete’s question concerning game film.” J'accuse!
The violation came to light after the Lexington Herald-Leader reported that a player said he watched film with Strickland, who is not permitted to instruct players. In compliance officer Sandy Bell’s report, the athlete said he came to meet with head coach John Calipari, but he was busy with a visitor, so he stopped by Strickland’s office. Strickland was breaking down film, which he is allowed to do, and the player asked him a question about something on the film. Strickland answered and offered some advice on how to better handle a certain play. Strickland was issued a “letter of admonishment” and was prohibited from attending practice for two days. UK compliance agreed to address the related NCAA bylaw in the March compliance meeting with coaches and to educate student-athletes and staff members on the rule.
Sinister stuff, right? This is the part of the blog post where I make fun of the NCAA for all of its insane minor rules -- heaven forbid a coach answer a recruit's question about a basketball play -- and insist that the NCAA's horde of minor and seemingly nonsensical rules only makes life more difficult for enforcers who should be spending pretty much all of their time on actual cheating.
But you know this already, and so does NCAA President Mark Emmert, who has long since made a push to eliminate "a lot of the picayune, largely irrelevant, largely unenforceable components of the rulebook." It's just that the NCAA is a democratic bureaucracy with various competing constituencies, and this sort of change takes time.
So, in the meantime, we get to enjoy the revelation that Joker Phillips texted a recruit "who is this sorry" like a teenager with a new iPhone. Say what you want about the NCAA rulebook, but at least it's entertaining.