As has been standard in the run-up to Friday's NCAA hearing in Seattle, the Indianapolis Star is reporting long-known facts as if they are breaking news. As I write this post, the banner headline on the Star's website reads: "Bills: IU compliance staff missed calls." No shit? You mean that when IU held that press conference in October 2007, and admitted that an intern discovered improper calls in a year-end audit, which led to the discovery of the three way calls, that meant that the compliance staff had missed those calls earlier? Really? You needed to see the bills themselves to know that? Certainly, it's nice that the Star requested the bills themselves and has provided us with a look at them. But we have known this for as long as we have known that there was a problem.
Alesia, in what nominally is a news article, engages in some blatant editorializing by describing "easily identifiable three-way calls." Indeed, this article and the article that I discussed three weeks ago lead to the impression that Alesia is practically begging the NCAA to add an institutional failure to monitor charge against IU. Much as Mark might want that, and with the constant caveat that I'm not an expert on NCAA procedure, that seems unlikely. As I discussed in the post linked above, Long Beach State received notice of the Committee on Infractions's revision of the charges in time to provide a written response and in time to address the issue at the hearing. Not only has the Committee not done that, but in recent weeks the Committee actually reduced one of the charges against IU (the Derek Elston t-shirt/backpack issue) to a minor violation. Certainly, I suppose (again with the caveat) that the Committee could add charges and schedule another hearing. But again, what the Star reports today has been obvious since day one. The three way calls were detectable earlier than they were actually detected.
Certainly, the compliance office should have left no stone unturned. But I do think it's important to remember that what is obvious in hindsight isn't always apparent in the moment. Senderoff wasn't prohibited from making three way calls. He wasn't prohibited from making three way calls with recruits. He was prohibited from making three ways calls involving Sampson and recruits. Obviously the prudent thing to do would be to identify the third party on each of the three ways calls. Yet, it's also understandable that the compliance staff's main objectives were 1) reviewing Senderoff's records to make certain that he was complying with sanctions and NCAA rules; and 2) to review Sampson's records to make ceretain that he was complying with the sanctions and NCAA rules. Again, given the stakes the compliance staff should have left no stone unturned. But it is understandable that they fell into the trap of checking Senderoff's records for Senderoff's compliance and Sampson's records for Sampson's compliance but not Senderoff's records for Sampson's compliance.
Alesia again raises the specter of the Long Beach State case. As I have noted before, the LBS case is quite different factually and was in a different procedural posture when the Committee added the "failure to monitor" charge. But it seems to me that the far more relevant precedent would be the case against Oklahoma, the case involving Sampson's similar violations at his former school. In that case, the NCAA did find OU guilty of failure to monitor. Why isn't the Star talking about the OU case, which seems to be the most facually analogous recent NCAA proceeding? Here's what the NCAA Committee on Infractions said about OU's call monitoring (emphasis added by me):
The enforcement staff took the position that the facts of this finding demonstrated a lack of institutional control. The institution asserted that the facts of this finding demonstrated a failure to monitor the telephone contacts with prospective student-athletes. The committee finds that the facts establish a failure to monitor by the institution.
As shown by over 500 impermissible calls made over four years going undetected, the system in place to monitor phone calls made by the men's basketball coaching staff was wholly inadequate. The coaching staff got together on Sunday nights, reviewed the calls they had made and recorded a countable call on forms different than those supplied by the compliance office. The completed forms weren't turned in to the compliance office but were instead stored in a filing cabinet in the basketball office.
However, review of the records by compliance personnel was sporadic at best, occurring approximately once per year. It wasn't possible to say with certainty when the reviews took place, as no records were maintained by the institution. Compounding the problem was that the reviews were conducted by interns rather than by trained and experienced compliance personnel. But perhaps the most glaring deficiency was that the logs produced by the basketball staff (which were incomplete since the coaches failed to record all calls made) were never cross-checked against institutional phone records; the coaches were taken at their word when even a cursory review of men's basketball office, cell phone and calling card bills would have revealed the myriad of impermissible calls being made by multiple coaches over a period of years.
Though seriously flawed, a system for monitoring the phone calls did exist. The coaches were regularly educated regarding phone contact rules, written policies were in place and forms to record the activities were supplied to the coaching staff. It was the monitoring of the calls that contributed to the problems; the phone logs compiled by the coaches were not checked on a regular basis and the reviews that took place did not involve cross-checking the logs with available institutional records. Finally, the violations involved only one aspect of one sport. For these reasons, the committee finds that the facts establish a failure to monitor the men's basketball program by the institution rather than a lack of institutional control.
Hey, NCAA, don't knock interns! The point, however, is that IU's compliance program did all the things that Oklahoma's did not do. The coaches turned their logs in rather than maintaining them in the basketball office. IU maintained detailed records. Compliance staff cross-checked phone records with the phone logs. That monitoring failed to detect the violations in a timely manner, but it ultimately did detect the violations, obviously, because IU reported the violations itself. I don't mean to apologize or rationalize for IU's compliance staff or athletic department, which failed at an important task. But failure to detect a particular violation isn't necessarily "failure to monitor." If it were, every NCAA case would include the allegation.
The NCAA isn't always a predictable organization, so there's a decent chance that I will be eating my words. But based on the facts of IU's case, consideration of the LBS and OU cases, the current procedural posture of the case, and the Committee's recent downward revision of one of the charges, I think it's highly unlikely that IU will face an institutional failure to monitor charge. The NCAA being the NCAA, Alesia may turn out to be right, but he hasn't made a convincing argument that a last-minute "failure to monitor" charge is a real risk for IU.