NCAA Bylaw 22.214.171.124 states a head coach is “presumed to be responsible for the actions of all institutional staff members who report, directly or indirectly, to the head coach” and it is the head coach’s responsibility to “monitor the activities of all institutional staff members involved with the program who report, directly or indirectly, to the coach.” The risk of failing to properly monitor staff members reporting to a head coach is substantial. In recent cases, high profile coaches have been suspended for three (3) conference games (University of Connecticut), nine (9) conference games (Syracuse University), and thirty percent (30%) of the team’s competitions (Southern Methodist University). On October 17, 2016, the NCAA sent the University of Louisville (“Louisville”) Notice of Allegations (“NOA”). As part of the NOA, Louisville’s head men’s basketball coach was cited with violation of NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199. In pertinent part the NOA states:
Pitino did not demonstrate that he monitored Andre McGee (McGee), then men’s basketball program assistant (2010-11 and 2011-12 academic years) and director of basketball operations (2012-13 academic year through April 2014), in that he failed to frequently spot-check the program to uncover potential or existing compliance problems, including actively looking for and evaluating red flags, asking pointed questions and regularly soliciting honest feedback to determine if monitoring systems were functioning properly regarding McGee’s activities and interactions with then men’s basketball prospective and current student-athletes visiting and attending the institution.
The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“COI”), on June 15, 2017, penalized Louisville’s head men’s basketball coach under NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52 and suspended him from coaching in the first five (5) conference contests during the 2017-18 men’s basketball season. COI found that the head men’s basketball coach monitoring was “deficient” and concluded that a severe breach of conduct occurred (i.e., Level I violation). COI stated as follows:
[He] creat[ed] the living arrangements in which the violations occurred and then trust[ed] the former operations director without verifying his actions…. According to the head coach, the former operations director’s duties included monitoring the behavior of the people in Minardi Hall. In such a setting, the head coach had a responsibility to ensure that the former operations director complied with NCAA and institutional rules.
[T]he head coach said he delegated the monitoring of the former operations director’s activities to his assistant coaches. However, the assistant coaches who were interviewed were unaware of this responsibility. The head coach’s own role was generally limited to asking the former operations director where the prospects were leaning toward enrolling. Consequently, neither the head coach nor his assistant coaches monitored the former operations director’s activities with visiting prospects on campus.
The NCAA expects head coaches to “spot-check the program,” “look for and evaluat[e] red flags,” and “ask pointed questions.” In the context of recruiting, it is imperative for head coaches to be engaged in the compliance monitoring system to protect the head coach and the program from potentially devastating penalties. For example, when involving an official visit, a head coach should call a meeting with the responsible coaches and administrators to review the visit in total including, but not limited to, meals, entertainment, and activities with the host. Additionally, the head coach should question any matter that appears to raise a red flag. Following the meeting, the head coach or his/her designee should draft an email or other written correspondence confirming the meeting and the relevant topics discussed. Following up on the issues presented and monitoring these activities should protect against findings of violations of NCAA Bylaw 184.108.40.206 or, at the very least, give a coach a colorable argument that he/she met the requirements of NCAA Bylaw 220.127.116.11.