Lane Kiffin is at it again. This time with what could be secondary violation No. 6.
You've no doubt heard that Kiffin might have broken NCAA rules by allowing a recruit to filmed in his office by a cable network. The question that popped into my mind was, when do enough secondary violations equal a major violation.
Short answer: It's complicated. Complicated answer: It's really complicated which is why so many coaches are willing to push the envelope when it comes to recruiting.
"There isn't a magic number," said one Division I-A compliance director, "but if you're violating the same rule more than once on different occassions, that's a problem."
Secondary violations are minor infractions that are sometimes inadvertent. Complicating matters further is the severity of those minor violations. The NCAA breaks them down by Level 1 and Level 2 violations. Level 1 is more serious and involves intentional violations as well as similar violations in the same sport.
Sound familiar, Tennessee?
All Level 1 violations are reported directly to the NCAA. The less serious Level 2 violations are reported to the conference. Those Level 2s must be filed with the NCAA en masse once a year.
The compliance director suggested that if the NCAA deems the infraction serious enough the recruit who appeared with Kiffin on TV could be ruled ineligible to attend the school. Tennessee then would have to seek reinstatement to keep recruiting the kid.
"I really believe the majority of violations out there are unintentional," the director said.
Auburn recently had the idea of traveling around the state in limos to impress recruits. Completely legal. However, the football program might have broken rules recently during a so-called Big Cat Weekend. Recruits were allowed to "roll" Toomer's Corner with toilet paper, a longtime tradition after big Auburn victories. Fans, police, media, even the mascot were present.
That could be a secondary violation -- several of them -- because it simulates a game-day setting. Yeah, I know, toilet paper and trees don't conjure up game day but that's exactly what it is at Auburn.
I found out firsthand what these secondary violations mean to some coaches. New Mexico coach Mike Locksley allowed me to sit in on a staff meeting the day before signing day this year. Commanding the meeting, Locksley impressed upon his staff that he wanted to lead the Mountain West in self-reporting violations.
A minor controversy erupted at New Mexico when I published what Locksley told his staff, " "It's OK to make a mistake -- secondary violations, We want to lead the conference in them." There was laughter in the room but the point had been made. It's not the number of secondary violations that necessarily matter. It's about being forthcoming with the NCAA.
They were nervous at New Mexico when the quote came out because the program already is on probation from wrongdoing during the previous coaching regime. But Locksley showed me in that meeting he knew more about NCAA rules than anyone in the room. The 39-year-old coach, a tireless recruiter, was also well aware of his reputation in some coaching circles as a guy who pushes the edges of the NCAA Manual.
"As coaches it's almost a compliment," Locksley told me. "It's almost like having a beautiful girlfriend or wife and people are staring at her. If you're a good recruiter, people are going to accuse you of cheating."
So how beautiful a girlfriend do you want to date? In a recent Columbus Dispatch investigation, the newspaper found that Ohio State had reported an incredible 375 violations since 2000. That's the most of any of the 69 Division I-A schools who responded to the paper's Freedom of Information requests.
That number is tempered with the fact that Ohio State sponsors the most sports in the country, 36.
Rick Neuheisel had a part in more than 50 secondary recruiting violations while at Colorado. Neuheisel, then at Washington, was prohibited from recruiting off campus for a time. His former school was placed on probation, docked scholarship and had off-campus recruiting limited.
To say some of these secondary violations are unintentional is a bit misleading. In fact, a lot misleading. If compliance directors don't know this stuff is going on they should. If they don't tell the coach to knock it off, they should lose their jobs. Of course, at a lot of schools when the head coach doesn't want compliance to know something it isn't known.
Schools have proven that the slap on the wrist they receive is worth it. If Kiffin wants attention for his program, he certainly has it. One of the violations reportedly had to do with a fake press conference set up to impress nine recruits. A fog machine was reportedly used in January, simulating pre-game introductions.
Taking all that into account, six secondary violations don't seem to be that many. I'm no expert but it seems Kiffin will get both his attention and a sore wrist.
Guess which one he cares about?