Earlier this week, the college basketball community was rocked by allegations of payments exchanging hands relating to the recruitment of prospective student-athletes and the federal government’s investigation thereof. I have a firm rule in life and in practice to steer clear of the scrutiny of the federal government. However, it is not always that simple. Coaches around the country are likely shaking at the idea of facing federal prosecution. Federal prosecution, however, is not the only regulation coaches should fear.
The NCAA also has the ability to regulate and enforce its regulations. The NCAA is permitted to wait until the conclusion of the federal prosecution or conduct its investigation concurrently. As a result, these situations are tricky. If the NCAA decides to investigate the alleged involved programs and coaches, the coaches are required by NCAA regulations to cooperate with the investigation or face a potential NCAA Bylaw 10.1 charge (i.e., unethical conduct). Any information provided by a coach during an NCAA investigative interview is subject to being turned over by and through a subpoena. In short, the federal government can gain information from the NCAA interviews and any revelations made during these interviews can help bolster the federal government’s case against a coach.
As such, coaches have to make a choice between protecting their livelihoods and protecting their freedom, because it is not proper for a coach to submit to questioning by the NCAA under these circumstances. A coach under federal scrutiny would be wise to either plead the Fifth or refuse to submit for questioning. However, if a coach does so, he/she will likely receive an unethical conduct charge and a show cause penalty that prevents him/her from coaching at the college level for a specific period of time. If I was in the hot seat, I would choose my freedom over my occupation.