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NCAA Unveils New Enforcement Structure for Coaches, Schools

The National Collegiate Athletic Association announced a new four-tier enforcement structure Tuesday, which will replace the current two-tier model starting next fall, with tougher penalties for the most severe violations by coaches and/or schools.

The new model, which becomes effective on Aug. 1, moves from the current "major" and "secondary" violation structure to one that ranges from "incidental issues" to "severe breaches of conduct."

Disciplinary cases that occur from now and going forward that aren't resolved by August will be subject to the new penalty structure.

The changes won't directly affect high school student-athletes, but for those hoping to pursue athletic careers in college, the new penalty enforcement model could have an impact on their future college decision.

Coaches, teams, and schools found guilty of the most serious NCAA violations in the new model could face penalties that would likely deter recruits from choosing them.

In essence, the NCAA moved to stiffen penalties against the most egregious violations of conduct. "Severe breaches of conduct," the highest level in the new model, are described as "violations that seriously undermine or threaten the integrity of the NCAA collegiate model," including violations designed to provide a "substantial or extensive recruiting, competitive, or other advantage."

Such violations could lead to two- or four-year postseason bans (the latter of which Pennsylvania State University received for the Jerry Sandusky child-sex-abuse scandal), millions of dollars of fines, and/or yearlong suspensions for coaches.

Under the new enforcement model, coaches will also be presumed responsible if an assistant coach or other member of the team's athletic staff commits an NCAA violation. The previous (current) model bases penalties on whether the coach knew of the violations.

"We expect head coaches to provide practices and training and written materials that instruct their assistant coaches how to act," said Oregon State President Ed Ray, who chairs the NCAA's Enforcement Working Group, in a statement. "If they've done that, it can become mitigating evidence that they shouldn't be held accountable for what the assistant coach did. But head coaches have to have these things in place or the presumption will be that he or she didn't care enough to set standards. In that case, if the assistant goes rogue, then it's partly the head coach's fault, and they need to be held accountable."

The Division I Committee on Infractions is also being expanded from 10 to as many as 24 members, in an effort to expedite the NCAA adjudication process. Smaller panels will be formed from the larger committee to hear less-serious cases more quickly, while hearings for the most serious infractions will be scheduled roughly 10 times annually under the new structure.

"We have sought all along to remove the 'risk-reward' analysis that has tempted people—often because of the financial pressures to win at all costs—to break the rules in the hopes that either they won't be caught or that the consequences won't be very harsh if they do get caught," said NCAA President Mark Emmert in a statement. "The new system the board adopted today is the result of a lot of hard work and membership input devoted to protecting the collegiate model."

The NCAA Division I board of directors also announced Tuesday that it'll withhold consideration of all new legislation through 2013-14 that isn't related to these ongoing presidential reform initiatives or "considered essential to the operation of Division I."

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