When a significant NCAA violation occurs within a sports program, NCAA legislation presumes that the head coach is responsible for it, even if the head coach had no knowledge of, or involvement in, the rule-breaking conduct. Under its relevant process, and as part of its investigation of the underlying violation(s), the NCAA automatically examines whether the head coach: (1) promoted a compliant atmosphere within the sports program and (2) monitored staff. If the NCAA deems the head coach’s actions in these two areas satisfactory, the head coach rebuts the presumption of responsibility for the violation(s) in the head coach’s program. If the head coach’s actions fall short of the NCAA’s expectations, the NCAA holds the head coach responsible for the violation(s) and will charge the head coach individually with another violation—that the head coach violated NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199 head coach responsibilities legislation.
While the NCAA has suggested some activities that head coaches can undertake to help them rebut the presumption of responsibility for violations in their programs, it has stated there is no safe harbor or checklist for head coaches. Thus, head coaches seeking more information are left to try to learn from written decisions from the committee on infractions (COI) adjudicating violation cases involving head coaches at other universities. The COI adjudicates most cases involving significant NCAA violations. In doing so, it drafts and releases a written decision for the public. However, the COI’s written decisions only include analysis of situations where the NCAA charges a head coach with a violation of head coach responsibilities legislation.
What about situations where a violation occurs within a sports program, the NCAA investigates to determine whether to charge the head coach individually as responsible for the violation, and the head coach’s conduct satisfies the NCAA such that it does not charge the head coach individually? In these instances, even though its process dictates that it automatically analyzes the head coach’s conduct, the NCAA typically does not release any information about what the head coach did—or did not do—that satisfied its expectations. Thus, head coaches—and other college athletics constituents—are left in the dark about the NCAA’s expectations in actual cases where head coaches successfully rebutted the presumption of responsibility for their staff members’ violations. This information could be extremely beneficial to other head coaches who seek insight into NCAA expectations.
Prosecutors occasionally release statements explaining why criminal charges will not follow an investigation. Scholars have argued that, in certain situations, these prosecutorial declination statements are appropriate and beneficial. The benefits include signaling an end to an investigation, clearing an individual’s name, and educating the public regarding laws and prosecutors’ roles. This Article contends that, for many of the reasons prosecutorial declination statements are beneficial in certain situations, the NCAA should release information about situations in which it investigates a head coach for violations in the coach’s program and concludes that it will not hold the head coach responsible for them because the coach’s actions rebutted the presumption of responsibility. Head coaches—and other college athletics constituents—could learn so much from these situations involving their peers.
The Propriety of Incorporating Enforcement Staff Declination Statements into the NCAA Infractions Process Following Bylaw 188.8.131.52 Head Coach Responsibilities Investigations,
100 Neb. L. Rev. 483
Available at: https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol100/iss2/5