Posted by Bryan Fischer
NCAA Vice President of Enforcement Julie Roe Lach has been on the job nearly a year as the NCAA's top cop and made a number of changes to her department. She sat down with CBSSports.com to discuss several of the reforms that are currently making their way through the legislative process ahead of this week's meetings.
CBSSports.com: What are some of the ways you're looking to streamline the enforcement process?
"I think we're accomplishing what we set out to do in terms of focusing on the sports and issues that need a lot of attention; football, men's basketball and agents in both of those sports. The different approach to cases too, we've talked about surge, which is sending people out and sounds more dramatic than it is, but more people and hands on deck when needed. With some of our cases, we just have a lot of people working it with different roles. Multiple investigators are on a case but now we've got this information group. I was talking with a guy who heads up an investigative group somewhere else and he has a whole corps of what they call 'desktop investigators.' That's basically what our information group does, they are there to mine the internet for information and to help us when we go through thousands of phone records.
"That group is helping with some of the higher profile cases and that is starting to pay dividends by finding the information and connecting the dots."
It seems like there's an emphasis on compliance recently, what's the genesis of this new culture and all these new ideas?
"That was part of the vision coming out of the Presidential Retreat, the idea that we need some reform. It's under the auspices of the idea of risk-reward, both in terms of coaches and administrators, with people saying I'll take the risk because I'm not going to get caught and if I do, the penalty is not going to be that grave. The idea is how do we address that. The working group I have the privilege to work with, those presidents have said that we need to take a look at the violation structure because there's a pretty wide disparity between secondary and major. Those are two extremes, what about the stuff in the middle? Once we figure that out, what penalties need to be in place for each level. I think there will be some significant reform or change - it will be different."
Is there more of an emphasis on fixing your division?
"I've not spent a lot of time thinking about the other groups because I think we have a challenge from an enforcement perspective. Having said that, I know Kevin and his team are spending a lot of resources and time on looking at the rules, figuring out which rules make sense and which ones we need and which ones we do we not. That's a huge undertaking. Important but huge. I would not venture to say that we've got more work than somebody else, I know we've got our fair share."
Is there a new penalty structure forthcoming?
"I think it's too early to predict. Our group has met on the phone and they've rolled up their sleeves and done their homework. We're three meetings in and will continue that, including a lengthy in-person meeting in December. I think after that we'll have a better idea of where we'll end up."
We've seen some of the membership openly question some decisions, will this address some of the concerns from those at schools?
"I don't know if it's designed to address membership critique, I think that's healthy. But if there's a problem with the decision, that's what I've been asking in my travels and outreach. I'm asking what are we as an enforcement program doing well or not doing well. I prefer they tell me directly but they obviously can voice their opinions elsewhere and have the ability to do that. This reform isn't a knee-jerk reaction, it's more of a momentum from saying that we have a certain type of violation or mentality out there and what we need to do to address.
Will we see more financial penalties, taking away TV revenue from major rules violators?
"Financial penalties are on the menu of options the Committee on Infractions can impose. Even the enforcement staff can for secondaries infractions, obviously a lesser dollar value. In recent cases the committee had imposed financial penalties. There are two types of financial penalties, the flat-out fine and the requirement that schools receive from playing in - for instance - the tournament. I have a case in mind that the committee required that and the amount was well beyond $100,000. I don't foresee that penalty come off the table but I think we'll see a discussion as to when does that penalty, for corrective action, more appropriate. Does it make an impact or not? If it does, in what way? And who? That's what there's been a lot of talk about, what are effective penalties. Let's use the ones that work, if that means narrowing the list or you widen it, you do it. It's premature though to say what's in or what's out."
You have been looking to update the definition of the agent, will that close loopholes?
"We don't have jurisdiction over agents, that's the players associations and the states - according to laws and the (Uniform Athletes Agents Act). It is the definition of the agent in the UAAA and the 42 states that have stepped up and adopted it. Does that capture more than just the typical sports agent? That's what many states are asking right now. We certainly think that definition from an NCAA standpoint, as far as student-athletes taking benefits from or not, should they not be entering into agreements verbally or in writing. That expanded definition is a reflection of what's going on in the world more than a typical, registered, sports agent. The former definition, it worked for the time when it was adopted, but times changes. We've got to figure out the rules change too."
The state of North Carolina is suing for access to records, is there a reason it's resulted to this?
"We have cooperated with them and have given them the information that we can give them under the law. We've shared insights of the investigations when we could share them, not just within the law but within our own procedures. Not just generally but this is specifically who we're looking into and what we've learned. It's one thing to say that - which we've done in conversations - it's another to give documentary evidence. You have federal law that says you can't give education records because those student-athletes signed the FERPA release. They don't provide those documents for us to then provide to the world. We can only do that if we get a valid subpoena and that's really where the lynchpin is right now, what's a valid subpoena and what's not. We're not trying to play games but we need to make sure that if we're going to provide records protected under law, we do so when however we're being asked is a viable legal request.
"Make no mistake, we want states to enforce the UAAA. The fact that we're being represented as standing in the way of that is just flat out wrong."
Will we see open COI hearings or a more transparent process in the future?
"Whether or not that can happen will be a membership decision. I don't see that happening anytime soon. I was talking with somebody the other day about this, I don't know of any other private association that opens up its disciplinary hearings."
Are you worried about Congress getting involved and looking at things?
"It's interesting because I've gone back and looked at the historical enforcement files. As early as the 1970's, was one of the first congressional reviews of just enforcement and there have been several since then. That includes one that led to the Rex-Lee Report. There have been other individuals from the Supreme Court who have been involved in our review and come out with constructive suggestions that have shaped the fair process we have today. Many of the changes that have occurred, especially over the last 20 years, have been a result of membership asking strong legal minds to review the process and how to make it fair. I don't think congressional interest is new when you look at history. I wouldn't say it's in the back of my mind it's just a recognition that there is an interest in how we operate. Time and time again when a person reviews the reports, they say what you have works and it's fair and here are some ideas to improve it some more. No one has said that you need to blow this thing up and start over."
The SEC meetings, do you regret the run-in with Gene Chizik?
"I have no regrets. I think a run-in is really a mischaracterization, it was a discussion."
To his point, what is being done about concluding speedier investigations?
"When I've asked people what are we doing well, what are we not doing well from an enforcement standpoint. A common thread was investigations take too long. It's not from a lack of effort or energy from out staff. I can tell you that, our people work nights, work the weekends and take the red eyes. It has been what resources are we getting and when? Are we getting the right records, are people talking to us? How many doors get slammed in our face and how many tries to take before we say this person just won't talk to us? That obviously carries from case to case. The things we can control we demand it - putting more people, having people focus on heavy evidence review. There are somethings within our control that we are really track and improve on and we need to acknowledge what's beyond our control and is there anyway we can exert more influence over that."
Are things changing to where you will see major violations, secondaries go down?
"I don't know. I don't think secondaries going down are necessarily a reflection of risk-reward. Some secondaries, the intentional ones, yes. Some secondaries, it's a good thing because that means our schools are watching and monitoring and reporting. I think you can interpret those numbers in several ways. Same thing with majors, it depends on which types of cases we're talking about. I think it's too early to predict what sort of changes will happen. You hear anecdotally from some people, we never saw you before and now there's an enforcement presence. Does that mean there's a change in behavior or is it just driving it outside where it used to be? It's a big early to predict the impact."