Analyzing the violations
The more I’ve thought about the self-reported NCAA violations the EMU women’s basketball program announced this morning, the more they remind me of one thing, and one thing only: the violations at Michigan’s football program. Consider , for example, the following quote:
Players on the 2008 and 2009 teams described training and practice sessions that far exceeded limits set by the NCAA, which governs college athletics. The restrictions are designed to protect players’ well-being, ensure adequate study time and prevent schools from gaining an unfair competitive advantage.
That quote is taken from a write-up the Detroit Free Press did on the Michigan football violations more than a year ago, but it just as well could have been written this afternoon about the EMU women’s basketball team.
Obviously basketball and football are very different sports, which place different demands on student-athletes at different times of the year, but there are some fundamental similarities between the two sets of violations. In both cases, practices exceeded NCAA limits on length. In both cases “voluntary activities” were treated by coaches as mandatory. In both cases, activities that are required to be player-initiated and to have no coaches present were initiated by coaches who then stayed around to observe.
For their four violations, the Michigan football program reduced its training time by 130 hours over two years (two hours for every hour of violation, which is fairly standard), reduced the number of certain staff positions, took disciplinary action against “seven individuals who shared in responsibility”, and agreed to two years of probation.
EMU seems to have taken similar steps, reducing practice time during the 2010-11 season, suspending head coach AnnMarie Gilbert without pay for one month, suspending assistant coach Darin Thrun with pay indefinitely, reprimanding Gilbert and Thrun as well as assistant coach LaTonya Tate and assistant athletic trainer Megan Snow, and going on probation for two years.
EMU took additional steps to address the fact that two of the violations dealt with recruiting, reducing expense-paid recruiting visits for the next two years, prohibiting open gym activities for prospects for two years, requiring coaches to submit detailed practice schedules to the compliance office each week, requiring an academic advisor to travel with the team to ensure that adequate time is available for players to study during road trips, requiring the top three coaches to attend an NCAA rules session, and mandatory counseling for Gilbert during her suspension.
The good news is that, unlike U-M, EMU does not have any recent history of NCAA violations that I could find, meaning that the Eagles are probably safe from any “loss of instutional control” issues, which can lead to more severe sanctions. I personally don’t find AnnMarie Gilbert’s claim that she misunderstood what constituted “countable hours” very compelling; compliance is part of the job, and given the allegations a year ago on that very issue, you would think she would have taken the time to be sure she had the program on solid ground. I’m not necessarily arguing that this is a firing offense, but Gilbert has got to be on pretty thin ice with Derrick Gragg right now, especially given his background in compliance.