Chip Kelly’s Show-Cause Makes Him a Harder Hire Than Others

Phil Sheridan writing for ESPN.com about potential interest by Texas in Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly:

Kelly is also limited to some degree by the “show cause” order placed on him by the NCAA for recruiting violations at Oregon. That 18-month penalty likely wouldn’t deter a college team from hiring Kelly.

While Kelly’s show-cause order is well down the list of reasons he is not headed back to college quiet yet, it may be more of a barrier than other recent show-cause orders. Kelly’s show-cause is the older style show-cause order which requires a school that hires Kelly to appear before the Committee on Infractions and “show cause” why it should not be sanctioned like Oregon was. This likely means coming up with self-imposed restrictions on Kelly and hoping the COI accepts them without penalizing the institution.

Compare that to Bruce Pearl’s show-cause order, which includes specific restrictions and penalties, namely that he is prohibited from any and all recruiting activities until August 23, 2014. While that penalty is a harsh one, especially in basketball, an institution that might consider hiring Pearl knows what the penalty will be. It simply has to decide if it can manage that penalty. And interaction with the COI can be limited to agreeing with the penalty and filing reports about Pearl’s compliance with the restrictions.

So while Kelly’s show-cause is shorter and unlikely to include as drastic a penalty as the one imposed on Pearl, in some ways it is more difficult to hire Kelly. It is the uncertainty rather than any specific penalty which makes him a tougher sell.


Kelvin Sampson’s Show-Cause Penalty Ends

Zach Osterman of the Indianapolis Star:

For the past five years, if an NCAA school had hired [Kelvin] Sampson, it would have had to present an explanation of why it should not be punished for hiring him, and how it planned to keep the coach from breaking rules again. It’s an onerous burden that usually keeps schools from touching a coach.

Sampson’s show-cause penalty was a bit lighter than that. It included specific recruiting restrictions, the biggest being that Sampson was prohibited from any recruiting activity, on- or off-campus, from November 25, 2008 through November 24, 2011. From November 2011 until November 2012, Sampson was restricted to one-half of the permissible recruiting contacts (both in-person, off-campus contacts and telephone calls). For the last year, Sampson had been limited to one-half of the permissible recruiting calls.[1]

The documentation requirements early in the show-cause penalty were as big a pain for any institution that might have wanted to employ Sampson prior to November 2011 as the recruiting restrictions:

The former head coach must provide contemporaneous and detailed records of any telephone call made to or received from a scholastic or non-scholastic organization in which prospective student-athletes participate or are members, including, but not limited to, coaches or staff members of high school, club, or non- scholastic basketball teams. These records must document the purpose of, and parties to, each telephone call and that its content neither involved discussion of prospective student-athletes nor was of a recruiting nature.

After the first three years of the penalty, the reporting requirement dropped to monthly phone logs, which almost all Division I institutions already collect from all coaches.

Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff was interviewed by Osterman and he is a poster child for why November 24, 2013 was not as significant a date for Sampson as we might think. Kent State hired Senderoff before the case was completed, retained him when he was barred from recruiting for one year, and was promoted to head coach while still under a show-cause penalty with recruiting restrictions. When a show-cause includes specific restrictions, it is less a ban from coaching and more a question of whether an institution can stomach the penalties on the coach.


  1. Beginning August 1, 2012, the NCAA made telephone calls unlimited in men’s basketball. An employing institution likely would have had to negotiate with the Committee on Infractions about what that meant for Sampson’s restrictions during the last two phases of the show-cause penalty.  ↩

OU Coach Likely Gets Last Break From NCAA

Oklahoma’s Jay Norvell had one of the Sooners’ 35 secondary violations over the last year (April 2012 – April 2013). But his violation should have carried one of the stiffest penalties, a coaching suspension. Lucky for him, Oklahoma took advantage of the Committee on Infractions appeal for Norvell’s violation and the suspension was dropped from the penalties:

The school filed a 30-page appeal, dated Oct. 23, 2012, which provided several items of evidence, including news articles citing other schools with similar violations and the actions taken against them by the NCAA.

But coaches who violate the same rule in the future will not be in the same point. In addition to impermissible tweets that violated the NCAA’s recruiting publicity rules, the content of Norvell’s tweets violated the NCAA’s rule limiting written scholarship offers to August 1 before a prospect’s senior year in high school or later. That rule has been singled out by the Enforcement Working Group, Committee on Infractions, and Board of Directors for stiffer penalties since it makes a significant impact in the recruiting process.

So while Oklahoma was able to point to precedent and get Norvell’s suspension dropped, coaches in the future will likely not have this argument at their disposal. On August 1, 2013, the new enforcement program kicks in with enhanced penalties for some secondary violations, including early written scholarship offers. Citing cases from before that date will not be as persuasive.

Had Norvell committed the same violation after 8/1/2013, his suspension might be the least of Oklahoma’s problems. The combination of the increased penalties for this violation and stronger head coach responsibility rules means OU head coach Bob Stoops might be suspended as well. Not only would the arguments to reduce the penalty not be there, OU’s resources and focus might have been on rebutting the presumption of Stoops’s responsibility for the violation rather than reducing the penalty for an assistant coach.


“Noncommitable” Offers Show Why Written Offers Are A Big Deal

There is not as many interesting things to report from the NCAA’s Regional Rules Seminar here in Denver. A lot of it is very technical, not even immediately useful to someone who is no longer working on a campus. But one nugget was interesting. While major violation penalties have gotten the attention, the NCAA is also racketing up and expanding penalties for some secondary violations. For example, sending a written scholarship offer to a prospect prior to August 1 of their senior year will carry a suspension of the head and/or assistant coach.

Why is that? Because of where verbal offers are going:

Alabama’s scholarship offers at some positions, most notably quarterback, are non-committable and pending an evaluation at summer camp.

As many have pointed out, that is not an offer, it is an invitation to a tryout (on the prospect’s dime since schools may not offer free or reduced camp admission to prospects).

Prospects already have reported that early written offers are a big deal in recruiting, but this both explains and highlights why. Verbal offers can sometimes not even be real offers. Rarely though would a coach email or send a prospect a letter which includes a scholarship offer that is not one the prospect can accept.


Show-Cause for Former Texas Southern Coach Upheld

Johnnie Cole, former head football coach at Texas Southern, was unsuccessful in his appeal of his three-year show-cause order that came from Texas Southern’s 2012 major infractions case. Cole appealed both the show-cause penalty and the findings that he failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance and failed to monitor the football program.

Cole’s appeal of the findings was quickly dismissed by the Infractions Appeals Committee. But how the committee handled the penalty appeal was more interesting. Cole appealed the show-cause in part because of a violation the Committee on Infractions mentioned, but did not find:

It merely referred to the situation in connection with charges against the institution’s basketball coach and cited the matter in its discussion of the former head football coach’s penalty. Under these circumstances, it is reasonable to assume that the Committee on Infractions made such a finding by implication.

Immediately after helping the COI out, the appeals committee took a moment to chastise the Committee on Infractions:

It is important to note that the Infractions Appeals Committee considers such a procedure to be most unwise. In future cases, the Committee on Infractions should make such finding explicitly before referring to a violation in its discussion of the penalties to be imposed on the violator.

This language suggests that the appeals committee will find in favor of coaches or institutions in the future if the COI relies on violations it did not deal with explicitly in the findings. But important to upholding the penalties in this case was that an “extensive review” of precedent for show-cause penalties supported the order imposed on Cole.


Penn State Meets Scholarship Reduction Early

Penn State received many penalties from the NCAA last summer. The three penalties that affect Penn State’s on-field performance each run for four years. But all three cover a different four years:

  • Postseason Ban: 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16
  • Initial Counter Limit (15): 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17
  • Overall Counter Limit (65): 2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18

Penn State is on track to meet the last of those penalties, the limit of only 65 overall counters, a year ahead of schedule:

“This is really a six-year sanction,” O’Brien said. “We have until 2014 to get down to 65 scholarships. We’re at 65 in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, and we’re already at 65, probably, in August of 2013. So it’s not just a four-year sanction.”

The sixth year O’Brien is talking about is 2018-19, when it will be virtually impossible for Penn State to get all the way back to 85 scholarships, although tricks like blueshirting and scholarships given to junior walk-ons can help.

Penn State being at 65 scholarships for 2013-14 raises a valid question: why is the school not allowed to start the sanction early? Scholarship sanctions are routinely delayed when a school has already committed itself to more scholarships than the sanctions would allow. In Penn State’s case, the NCAA built in a delay to allow the school to get down to the reduced number.

Penn State did not need the delay. The NCAA should allow PSU to move its overall counter sanction up by a year, ending now with the 2016-17 academic year. This is even more appropriate given the additional elements of the sanctions which contributed to the attrition, like allowing transfers with no penalty or restriction and letting athletes quit the team but keep their scholarships.

Otherwise the penalty, supposedly a four-year reduction, appears intended to be what O’Brien says they are: a six-year reduction. And that gives credence to the claim that the NCAA simply took a convenient opportunity to hammer a successful program as hard as possible.


UCF Wins Appeal of Bowl Ban

UCF Wins Appeal, Eligible for Bowl in 2013

Central Florida continued a rare winning streak for schools in front of the Committee on Infractions. The university successfully appealed the football team’s postseason ban from its 2012 major infractions case. The reasoning was that football and basketball were too mixed up:

In reviewing the record before us, the committee agrees with UCF’s assertion that the Committee on Infractions does not adequately distinguish between the factors on which the football and basketball postseason bans are based. [Appeal Page Nos. 9-11] Specifically, as evidenced in the Committee on Infractions’ report, the rationale for the football postseason penalty is so intricately woven with factors only supportive of the basketball postseason penalty (i.e., continued employment; significant competitive advantage) as to make it impossible to determine whether these additional factors formed a significant basis for the Committee on Infractions imposition of the football postseason penalty in addition to the full range of other significant penalties placed on the UCF football program specifically, and the university overall.

Given the way the appeal decision was written, it raises a question of why the penalty was simply reversed. In the Boise State case, the rationale for BSU winning the appeal was similar: an inadequate explanation by the Committee on Infractions.

As this committee noted in the Southern California case, while the Committee on Infractions should not be strictly bound to a decision made years earlier, where the circumstances of intercollegiate athletics are shown to be qualitatively different, it does not mean that prior decisions provide no restraint on or guidance to the Committee on Infractions and this committee, or that insignificant changes in the environment in which NCAA member institutions operate can justify ignoring those prior decisions [University of Southern California Infractions Appeals Committee Report (May 26, 2012) Page No. 21]. In this case, there appears to be no qualitative distinction in the record that would warrant the extent of the departure from prior precedent that was undertaken by the Committee on Infractions in this case. Therefore, the reduction by nine of football grants-in-aid is excessive.5This committee, while recognizing the authority of the Committee on Infractions, respectfully finds that in this case the Committee on Infractions failed to consider and weigh the material factors of the precedent set in prior cases.

Therefore, the Committee on Infractions’ increase of the reduction in football grants-in-aid from three to nine imposed a penalty that was excessive such that it constituted an abuse of discretion. For that reason the Infractions Appeals Committee believes it is appropriate to remand to the Committee on Infractions for reconsideration of the appropriate penalty.

In both cases, the Infractions Appeals Committee determined that the Committee on Infractions failed to adequately distinguish and explain its rationale for imposing a penalty the appeals committee found was so excessive it constituted an abuse of discretion. But Boise State’s penalty was remanded back to the COI. UCF’s was simply eliminated.

The difference may be the ultimate outcome of the Boise State case. The Committee on Infractions left the scholarship penalty unchanged. Its rationale also did not address the Infractions Appeals Committee’s issues with the penalty. While the COI explains the factors it weighed in imposing the penalty, it only addresses one case, rather than the entire body of precedent the IAC relied on.

Perhaps the Infractions Appeals Committee did not feel confident that remanding the case to the COI would ensure that UCF’s postseason ban in football was given a critical enough eye. In the Boise State case, the appeals committee had a guide for reducing and selecting its own penalty, but chose not to. Here, without as good of a guide, the IAC decided not to give the Committee on Infractions a second bite at the apple.


Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Coming Off Probation

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi will finish four years of NCAA probation on Monday for a wide-ranging of violations that mostly started and ended with a failure to report violations. The Corpus Christi Caller-Times had a breakdown of the changes that the Islanders made over the last four years:

“One of the huge changes we made that first year was in the academic center,” Lazenby said. “We created the academic center where there are four full-time workers. They and (current compliance director) Jason Hall report to a vice provost on campus. They work closely with me, but they report elsewhere so there’s no thought that the AD put pressure on them.

“Even before that happened, that’s the way a lot of schools did it. When (A&M-Corpus Christi officials) first started talking to me, they were moving in that direction. The compliance guy should not report to the AD.”

Though compliance and the academic side were separated, an additional person was added to the compliance staff. For baseball coach Scott Malone, who was at the university before the investigation, he said the added manpower is the biggest difference.

TAMU-CC’s violation was part of a trend of lack of institutional control charges against schools that had just moved up to Division I. Understaffed and not prepared for the greater challenges of Division I compliance, the schools often had poor monitoring procedures, an inexperienced and understaffed compliance office, and few of the safeguards that are normal in larger athletic departments.

Corpus Christi’s problems went even deeper, with a broken chain of command between the compliance director, athletic director, and university president. All three discussed not reporting a violation in 2006. And in a separate incident, the athletic director self-reported a violation without the knowledge of the compliance director. It is no wonder that Scott Lazenby, hired from Texas State to clean up the compliance mess, is now the athletic director.


SMC Penalties Getting Good Reviews

Generally NCAA major violation penalties are categorized one of two ways: as ineffective slaps on the wrist or corrupt overreaching not proportional to the violations. But in the case of the NCAA’s sanctions on Saint Mary’s, the Committee on Infractions seems to have found the sweet spot. Even a local writer, generally a tough audience for NCAA penalties, thinks the penalties are appropriate:

If the NCAA thought for a nano-second that it was setting itself up for more embarrassment (or a lawsuit), don’t you think it would have erred on the conservative side and hit SMC with far more moderate sanctions?

The fact that the Committee on Infractions came down so hard on the Gaels in the current environment should tell you just how guilty they are. These weren’t innocent mistakes in any way, shape or form. This was experienced rulebreaking.

They got caught. They got hammered, and they deserved it.

The biggest question mark is Randy Bennett escaping a show-cause, especially in light of what Jon Wilner (and I would agree) calls “an attempted cover-up”. Other than that, the NCAA managed to craft a series of penalties that were significant, aimed at the conduct that lead to the violations, but did not involve crushing scholarship losses or a postseason ban that makes it almost certain that innocent parties would be affected.


Saint Mary’s Hit With Extensive and Creative NCAA Penalties

Saint Mary’s was sanctioned by the NCAA today for a host of major violations. The violations centered around the recruitment of an international prospect in 2009 as well as training activities involving outside consultants in the summers of 2009–2010. On top of the underlying violations, a former assistant coach was charged with unethical conduct, head coach Randy Bennett was charged with failure to monitor and failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance, and Saint Mary’s was charged with failure to monitor.

The interesting part of the case is not the violations but the penalties. Many of the penalties are fairly standard stuff, like four years of probation, scholarship reductions, and recruiting restrictions. Saint Mary’s self-imposed some typical penalties for the training violations. And Bennett’s suspension is not surprising given the push for the use of coaching suspensions.

But three penalties are odd, if not unprecedented, in a major infractions case:

  • Saint Mary’s is prohibited from going on a foreign tour until the 2017–18 academic year.
  • Saint Mary’s is prohibited from participating in a qualifying multi-team event in the 2013–14, 2014–15, and 2015–16 academic years.
  • Saint Mary’s is prohibited from engaging in skill instruction with the men’s basketball team during the 2013–14 and 2014–15 academic years.

The foreign tour ban needs no explanation. Basketball teams are allowed to pick one of two limits on their season: 27 games and a qualifying multi-team event, or 29 games and no such event. QMTEs are early season tournaments like Maui or the NIT Season Tip-Off. Because schools normally get four games in those tournaments, Saint Mary’s effectively loses two games for the next two years.

During the offseason parts of the academic year, teams are allowed to engage in two hours each week of skill instruction, part of their eight hours per week of offseason workouts. Between September 15 and April 15, these workouts can be with the full team (otherwise it is four athletes at a time). Saint Mary’s is prohibited from engaging in this type of skill instruction for two years. That means coaches will only be able to workout players during the season and possibly during the summer practice period for men’s basketball (the report is unclear about summer).

Those penalties are creative ways to punish a school for excessive practice and the use of outside consultants. A two-year ban on skill instruction is a harsh penalty too, especially on top of the practice reductions the school had already self-imposed. Also interesting is that there appears to be no attempt to tally up the workouts and impose a two-for-one penalty over the next year or two, like in the Michigan case.