Chat with NCAA VP Kevin Lennon
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, we'll be chatting with the NCAA Vice President of Academic and Membership Affairs Kevin Lennon, as Week 2 of the college football season hits.
Lennon oversees student-athlete reinstatement - a process that has been at the forefront of college football with the recent Miami football, Ohio State football and Cam Newton investigations. Lennon's group is charged with gathering the facts of the cases and coming to a decision on the conditions of student-athletes reinstatement after being declared ineligible by their schools.
Lennon has been with the NCAA for 24 years and has a bachelor's degree from Harvard and a master's from Ohio U. His primary responsibility is assisting schools, conferences and student-athletes in achieving full compliance with NCAA rules and regulations.
Send your questions now and join Lennon Friday at 3 p.m. ET!
Buzzmaster (2:48 PM)
Kevin Lennon, NCAA VP of academic and membership affairs will be here at the top of the hour to take your questions. Kevin, along with his staff, deal daily with student-athlete reinstatement and helping schools, conferences and student-athletes with the rules and regulations to maintain full complience and remain eligible.
Derek (New Orleans)
How long were you in vestigating Miami? How does such a big case liek that come about?
Kevin Lennon (3:03 PM)
To be clear, the student-athlete reinstatement process happens when the institution declares the student-athlete ineligible. That's different than the enforcement.
Is your group in totally a reactive situation, where you come in and investigate if there's anything you suspect to be wrong? Or do you do anything to be proactive as well?
Kevin Lennon (3:03 PM)
Our member institutions must declare ineligible, not the NCAA. In the reinstatement process, we will work with schools to make sure the facts are fully developed, which to some may look like an investigation.
Without having any subpeona power, how are you able to make sure you're getting the right facts from the right people during your investigations?
Kevin Lennon (3:05 PM)
As an NCAA member, it's our schools obligation of membership to submit complete and correct facts to the NCAA. It's a major component of institutional responsibility. If they are caught being less than factual, they will be put into the enforcement process.
Kevin Lennon (3:05 PM)
We also have all staff members and all student-athletes sign yearly statements that they are complying with the rules.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about what you do is?
Kevin Lennon (3:07 PM)
First that the NCAA staff, rather than our schools, make the rules. Secondly, that the NCAA is not first and foremost concerned about the welfare of all of our student-athletes. Sometimes to protect the welfare of all student-athletes, penalties must acrue to those who violate the rules. And thirdly, the process to reinstate student-athletes is not the same as an enforcement process that investigates a school.
I'm guessing one of the things you hear about the most is people/fans saying that some of the punishments seem arbitrary. What would you say to that? What are we missing in the public about how the punishments are given out?
Kevin Lennon (3:09 PM)
The NCAA is committed to reviewing each situation independent and to review the specific facts that pertain to each situation, rather than an over-reliance on prescriptive penalties that can not take into consideration the uniqueness of the student-athlete. To some, this may appear that decisions would look inconsistent, but to us, the decisions relate to the unique situation that comes before the NCAA.
Kevin Lennon (3:10 PM)
We also have to assess in each case the level of the students culpability and the institution's culpability, responsibility and the nature of the violations.
If a school declares an athlete ineligible, why does the NCAA step in to re-instate them (i.e. Cam Newton)?
Kevin Lennon (3:12 PM)
Once a school declares a student ineligible, the school must make the decision as to whether they wish to seek reinstatement. In some instances, the school may not, because the violations are so significant. Should a school want to reinstatement for a student-athlete, they must come to the NCAA to do so. It is at that point that the NCAA reinstatement staff examines the facts and mitigation and makes a determination as to whether any witholding conditions are appropriate. This process has been approved and supported by the NCAA membership. We believe this is the appropriate role for the NCAA staff.
Kevin (South Carolina)
How likely is Byrd at South Carolina get 4 games and Floyd get 2 being from the same situation that caused the suspensions?
Kevin Lennon (3:14 PM)
As previously mentioned, the NCAA examines the uniqueness of each situation, assesses each individual's culpability and makes determinations based on the facts. Individual differences need to be examined in the facts, which may result in different witholding conditions. That is the case here.
What's the biggest/most common issue you come up with on a daily basis as it relates to comliance in your job?
Kevin Lennon (3:15 PM)
We are working now as an association on looking at our regulations to help provide greater clarity and then accountability with our rules. President Mark Emmert has appointed a special working group to do just that. So, that relates to the administrative burden and complexity of the regulations and what we can do to help everyone better understand the rules.
When does your office get involved? Does a school have to report something first? Do you hear rumors and then get involved? Do you need some kind of evidence to go on?
Kevin Lennon (3:17 PM)
As we discussed, the institution is responsible for declaring a student ineligible. Should they seek reinstatement for the student, our reinstatement staff would get involved. That is different, significantly different, than when our enforcement staff investigates an institution.
Charles (Rochester, NY)
Do you ever get mad at all the violations and everything that happened this summer?
Kevin Lennon (3:19 PM)
It's obviously disappointing any time individuals - coaches, administrators, students - engage in behaviors that are wrong and outside the scope of the NCAA. I take heart in the fact that the vast majority of those involved in intercollegiate athletics and in particular our student-athletes not only behave appropriately but are leaders on their campus.
I, I am sure like most people, still am a little confused about all of the information, and probably misinformation, that was spit out during the Reggie Bush investigation. Why did that situation take so long to play out? Was it because of the lawsuits involved? Were you and your staff waiting to get the depositions and court records from that to use in your investigation?
Kevin Lennon (3:21 PM)
First of all, the public should be aware that all of the information that we receive is available to them in any of the cases. The timing related to this specific example had many complexities outside of the NCAA's control. When the information came to the NCAA at a point in which the NCAA could appropriately address the issues, the NCAA did so in a timely manner.
Ryan (Cedar Rapids)
How harsh of a punishment is it when the NCAA makes a school vacate wins? It doesnt wipe out stats, it doesnt take away from the fact that the game was played out. Is there some kind of punishment that will have a better deterent for schools not to cheat?
Kevin Lennon (3:23 PM)
The committee on infractions on the encouragement of the NCAA Board of Directors - our presidents - are currently examining the array of penalties to encourage appropriate behaviors and discourage those who believe committing willful violations will help their program.
Ryan (Cedar Rapids)
Do you think the reason we are finding out about all these violations is because there has been a big increase in the violations? How important is it to make an example of a program in order to deter these things from happening in the future? This summer has been an embarassment to college football.
Kevin Lennon (3:25 PM)
Over the last decade, we have seen increased instituational compliance efforts that do a better job of identifying violations (we actually look favorably upon programs who have good systems in place to monitor - and sometimes catch - violations). It is unclear as to whether we simply see an increase in overall violations now or whether more are simply being identified.
Kevin Lennon (3:25 PM)
Thank you very much.
Buzzmaster (3:26 PM)
Thanks for chatting Kevin!