In August 2011, NCAA President Mark Emmert met with presidents and chancellors of member institutions to address current issues in intercollegiate athletics. One of the primary points of concern was refocusing the association's enforcement program to provide stronger disincentives for rules-violations. As a result, the NCAA Working Group on Collegiate Model - Enforcement was commissioned and charged with recommending revisions to the current enforcement program. The Working Group made many significant recommendations, including: (1) the introduction of a four-tier violation structure; (2) the adoption of penalty guidelines for core penalties; (3) expansion of the Committee on Infractions; (4) streamlining case review; and (5) providing higher expectations of accountability for both head coaches, athletic directors and institutional presidents or chancellors. These changes, which are effective on August 1, 2013, have been the topic of great discussion among the membership, the media and the general public. However, one important aspect of these changes has been overlooked—what effect will these changes have on current student-athletes? 

One area the Working Group discussed in the report was the fact that institutional penalties that arise from an enforcement case often have a direct or indirect impact on current student-athletes who may have no culpability with the violations found. The impact can come in the form of competition limitations (i.e. postseason bans) and scholarship reductions (i.e. an indirect impact by limiting the number of scholarship student-athletes a program may have on its roster). However, the Working Group also noted that the membership identified that the penalties that have the most deterrent effect are also competition limitations and scholarship reductions. 

Ultimately, the Working Group decided that the interests in significantly penalizing violating institutions in order to protect the interests of all institutions outweighed the effect competition limitations and scholarship reductions have on student-athletes. The Working Group further concluded that there was no "practical way" to impose penalties that would eliminate violators from conducting a risk/reward analysis without the use of the aforementioned penalties. As a result, the Working Group provided the following recommendations to limit the impact these types of restrictions can have on student-athletes who had no culpability in the violations found:
  • Require institutions subject to a postseason ban to notify all student-athletes of potential transfer waiver opportunities; and
  • Explore the possibility of waiving the one-year residence requirement for student-athletes who transfer from an institution that has been penalized with scholarship restrictions.
While these remedies certainly do not cure the harm competition limitations and scholarship reductions have on innocent student-athletes; they do offer some relief by allowing an effected student-athlete to pursue their interests at another institution without any penalty. In order for these types of penalties to be eliminated, other penalties (e.g. financial penalties) would need to demonstrate they sufficiently deter violations. Until then, innocent student-athletes will still be faced with difficult decisions should their institution face the NCAA enforcement process.