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Compliance Group Proposes Student-Athlete Employment Monitoring Standards

NAAC is the National Association for Athletics Compliance, the main industry organization for NCAA compliance professionals and an affiliate of NACDA, the National Association of Collegiate Athletic Directors. NAAC provides resource of compliance professionals, hosts an annual convention in conjunction with NACDA, and has proposed a certification exam for compliance coordinators.

But one of its more important functions has been to propose Reasonable Standards. While the NCAA Manual is full of rules, it offers very little guidance as to what schools should be doing to try and comply with those rules. Previously most compliance professionals read the tea leaves each time the Committee on Infractions released a new major violation report, especially one which included a charge of failure to monitor or lack of institutional control.

NAAC has already published three sets of reasonable standards, covering a variety of topics like practice hours, complimentary admissions, student-athlete vehicles, outside financial aid, and sport camps. NAAC has published a draft of its fourth round, which focuses solely on student-athlete employment.

Most of the proposed standards are relatively uncontroversial. The document says schools should collect information from athletes about their employment, including where they are working, who their supervisor is, and what the athlete’s rate and method of pay will be. The same goes for athletes who will be giving private lessons (called fee-for-lesson in NCAA terms). Education materials on NCAA employment rules are also supposed to be distributed annually to athletes, parents, employers, and athletic department employees.

Having athletes fill out a form reporting where they are working, what they will be doing, and how much they will get paid is fairly widespread in Division I. It is also consistent with NCAA rules for athletic department employees, who are required to report their outside athletically-related income at the start of each academic year.

More debate will surround this proposed standard:

Require student-athletes reporting employment to sign a statement entitling Compliance to review employment records (e.g. pay stubs), upon request. Additionally, require employers to sign a statement that they have read and understood the NCAA rules regarding student-athlete employment and that they will provide employment records (e.g. pay stubs), upon request.

Student-athlete advocates will object to having athletes sign over access to personal financial information, especially having an employer grant the access so that pay stubs may be accessed without the athlete’s knowledge. Given that more and more states are preventing athletic departments from forcing student-athletes to give up social media credentials, requiring access to even more sensitive information bucks that trend.

Compliance offices may object as well because this is one of the more difficult tasks. It requires coordination with the athlete and the employer and it can take multiple rounds of follow-up just to get both parties to agree to release pay stubs.

The standards also do not provide any guidance on how often compliance offices should obtain the actual pay stubs. Should it be a regular monitoring procedure? Or is access just granted so that investigations can move more quickly if there is an accusation that an athlete is being paid more than the going rate or for work not performed?

The cases cited by NAAC in support of the proposed standards (which NAAC ultimately seeks to have blessed by the Committee on Infractions as a sort of “safe harbor”) show a push by the Committee on Infractions to have schools not just get documentation on student-athlete employment but also to follow up with employers to ensure the actual employment matches what was declared on a form.

The standards are currently in draft and will likely be debated and refined at the NAAC Convention in June. There is currently no timetable to release this round of standards and previous rounds have been released at various points during the year, with one round released roughly every year.

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