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Ohio State Releases 24 Secondary Violations

Eric Seger of The Lantern reported on Ohio State’s 24 secondary violations during the second half of 2013. Everything is mostly pretty standard, with nothing that should draw a reaction similar to Oklahoma’s pasta violation. One though probably deserves some explanation:

Men’s Gymnastics
Reported Nov. 5

Program engaged in seven hours of out-of-season conditioning activities involving gymnastics equipment.

That is a violation of Bylaw, which states:

Conditioning drills per Bylaw that may simulate game activities are permissible, provided no offensive or defensive alignments are set up and no equipment related to the sport is used. In ice hockey, a student-athlete may be involved in on-ice conditioning activities, provided no equipment other than skates is used. In swimming and diving, a student-athlete may be involved in in-pool conditioning activities and swim-specific equipment (e.g., starting blocks, kickboards, pull buoys) may be used.

The use of gymnastic equipment meant the conditioning activities would be considered practice or skill instruction. That then likely caused the team to exceed the two-hour per week limit on skill instruction during the offseason period.

Conventional wisdom says NCAA rules are so numerous and complex that everyone is bound to make mistakes, and that includes compliance professionals, as evidenced by these three violations:

Women’s Soccer
Reported July 25

An assistant coach and an assistant director of compliance distributed camp postcards at a soccer tournament May 4.

Field Hockey
Reported July 24

The field hockey program received approval from the OSU Compliance Office that allowed it to put an image of a current member of the team on an institutional brochure.

Synchronized Swimming
Reported July 9

On Jan. 10, 2013, the Compliance Office approved and provided what was determined to be an official visit for a prospective student-athlete who had not yet been registered with the NCAA Eligibility Center.

The most interesting part of the article is this quote from Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith about the number of violations OSU reports:

“Our whole thing is if we have 10 (violations), I’d have a problem. I mean, I really would because people are going to make mistakes. And that means if I only have 10 out of 350 employees (and) 1,000 athletes – something’s not right.”

“I’d have a problem” is better phrased as “I’d have questions.” The idea that a school of Ohio State’s size has some quota of violations leads to mistrust of the compliance office and the NCAA. It fuels the belief from coaches and fans that compliance professionals make up violations to appease the NCAA. Or that similar schools must be cheating if they do not report a similar number of violations.

The correct number of violations for Ohio State or any other school to report is as close to 100% of the ones that occur as possible. If that means normally around 40 annually, then around 40 should be reported. If that happens to be 10, 10 it is.

If the number of violations for a given time period deviates from long-term trends, that deserves a closer look. If violations are down, monitoring systems should be checked to ensure they are working properly and that best practices are being observed. If violations are up significantly, perhaps the educational plan for coaches needs to be revised.

If things seem a little too quiet on the violation front, everything should be double-checked to ensure it is because things are actually quiet. The worst case scenario for an athletic department is to find out it seemed everything was OK because little things were falling through the cracks before they grew into something major.

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