Jonathan Duncan, the NCAA’s interim vice president of enforcement introduced two long-requested programs designed to improve NCAA enforcement. First, staff members will be visiting member campuses to see conditions on the front lines.
“One of the things I hear is that our staff sometimes lacks an understanding of what campus life is really like,” Duncan said. “So we are piloting a program where our staff will work on campus with athletic directors, compliance staff members and coaches and walk in their shoes so that we have a true understanding of what goes on.”
I continue to be skeptical about the value of having NCAA staff members on campus for extended periods of time. Even if the visits are only informational, it seems impossible to avoid the sense that “the NCAA is in town” and to make sure everything is in proper order. No store or chain restaurant is ever running as smoothly, following policies to the letter as closely, or has such happy and productive employees as the day the regional manager is checking in.
Unless immunity is part of the deal, I doubt enforcement staff members will see anything but a sanitized, idealized version of an athletic department. There are numerous stories about former NCAA staff members who struggle on campus because coaches see them as not part of team. I am curious to see how current enforcement staff are going to combat this attitude.
The other big program involves beefing up the enforcement staff’s investigative chops:
“There are those who believe in the membership that our staff members could benefit from better training in investigative techniques and interviewing techniques,” Duncan said. “We are going to provide that training so that a good investigation will be done timely and professionally, though I’m not suggesting that doesn’t happen now.”
This makes sense given the series of high-profile departures from the enforcement staff. A lot of investigative experience was lost. While the NCAA has done a lot to prevent the loss of large amounts of institutional knowledge at the same time, that experience cannot be stored in a database.
As the enforcement staff rebuilds, it needs a mix of trained investigators and experience athletics professionals. But everyone needs to know the basics of both how to run an investigation and how an athletic department works. It appears the goal of these two programs is to make sure that the entire enforcement staff has that baseline of knowledge.
It also suggests talk of a “crisis” in enforcement is overblown, at least in the mind of Jonathan Duncan. It would be a terrible miscalculation to include more training and sending staff members to campus if the enforcement department was suffering as we have been lead to believe. If that were the case, you would expect to see more of a focus on staffing up, getting a handle on the caseload, and clearing the decks before introducing these new programs.