NCAA investigators are going back to school

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NCAA enforcement seems arbitrary and out-of-touch with reality at times.

Apparently, interim NCAA enforcement chief Jonathan Duncan has noticed the same thing, and he has a pretty straightforward way of addressing the problem. He’s sending his staff back to campus. Not piecemeal as part of emerging investigations, but in a more collaborative, immersive way designed to promote some understanding of the challenges colleges and athletes face on the ground.

“One of the things I hear is that our staff sometimes lacks an understanding of what campus life is really like,” Duncan told the Associated Press. “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.”

The relationship between athletic departments and the NCAA has often been distant and combative. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney recently declared that the NCAA needs to undergo a major restructuring, as the challenges of realignment and a re-examining of amateur principles as a whole are making headlines on a near-daily basis.
At Big Ten football media day last month, Delany listed four commitments that must be made to the scholarship student-athlete: giving them a “lifetime opportunity” to graduate in the event they leave school early; making sure that time demands for athletics don’t exceed the 20 hours per week allowed under the rules; helping the “at-risk” athlete; and paying athletes.
With all of that on the table, and the ever-present threat that mega-conferences might break away and form an exclusive elite division, it might be a good idea for the NCAA to do everything they can to understand what’s at play. Spending more time on campus with coaches, athletes and administrators seems like a good place to start.