Coaches react to new NCAA legislation

October, 31, 2012
10/31/12
11:52
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A while back, Oregon State president Ed Ray met with his coaches and discussed the possibility of the NCAA pinning more penalties on head coaches if there were violations on the staff.

He said they applauded.

"They told me that they feel like a sucker if they don't dance around the rules,'' said Ray, a former NCAA executive committee chair and head of the Enforcement Working Group. "They said that the risk-reward was that you could come out ahead if you played fast and loose. They told me they were frustrated and treated like chumps by doing things the right way.

"It galls them to see some coaches get away with stuff without consequences.''

Well, that won't happen anymore.

Or at least it shouldn't after a four-tier penalty structure was approved Tuesday that will go into effect beginning in August. (Details can be found here.)

"[Head coaches] have the privilege of coaching and need to bear the responsibility,'' said Wake Forest president Nathan Hatch, who chairs the NCAA board of directors, which approved the legislation. "We're trying to streamline our process.''

Hatch said this will put the behavior of assistant coaches onto the head coaches. The burden is now on the head coaches to put the operations in place for their assistants to follow.

"In the past, it was too easy for those at the top to say we didn't know about that,'' Hatch said.

The new violation structures are labeled a severe breach of conduct, a significant breach of conduct, a breach of conduct and incidental issues.

Head coaches, even if not named, can be dinged with game suspensions and season-long suspensions in the most severe cases.

Some coaches have been hit with game penalties lately -- from Bruce Pearl and Jim Calhoun to Donnie Jones and Buzz Williams -- whether they were directly named or not in a violation that occurred under their watch.

"This whole proposal was thoroughly vetted in conferences and across the NCAA,'' said Hatch.

This was hardly a scientific poll, but not one coach contacted Tuesday disagreed with the new penalty structure directed at them.

Here is a sampling:

Vanderbilt's Kevin Stallings: "I like the additional accountability. Now we can't hide and say we didn't know. It's our job to know.''

Cincinnati's Mick Cronin: "It's going to force head coaches to have compliance seminars and document meetings on compliance. You may have to pay for an outside attorney to document and sign affidavits from staff that the head coach is demanding compliance.''

Notre Dame's Mike Brey: "I totally agree with it. It will keep the heat on us, the head coaches, to manage things right.''

Saint Joseph's Phil Martelli: "The head coach can't bury his head and say I didn't know. Young assistants are taught there is a right and wrong way -- the tweaking to me must be done on what is considered worthy of a suspension. It's not clear to me.''

Villanova's Jay Wright: "I'm OK with it. If the process for determining a violation is fair.''

Baylor's Scott Drew: "It was a formality since the NCAA has already started to do this."

Texas Tech's Chris Walker: "We are ultimately responsible for our decisions and those who work for us. We need to be clear about our expectations to staff members. I'm sure it will factor into the hiring process in the future.''

And that's why the presidents felt as though they had support to go ahead and pass the legislation.

"I think there was a sense that people need to be held accountable,'' Ray said. "Head coaches by and large really run their programs well. Most run their programs quite thoroughly and very responsible. We're talking about one half of one percent who are jerks who are always looking to play the angles and give them an advantage.''

Ray said the coaches the board talked to were interested in seeing things tightened up with more penalties that were certain and severe.

"There was broad membership support,'' Ray said. "Coaches are responsible for the program and have to make it clear to the assistant coaches of what they're supposed to do and that means monitoring and doing things the way they're supposed to do.''

Ray said a coach can't be totally responsible if an assistant goes rogue after he was given all the policies and procedures, just as a department head can't be held responsible if an assistant professor does the same.

But if a coach has to sit for a game or multiple games, it will get people's attention.

"That," Ray said, "is a powerful deterrent.''

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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