Raider Roundball recently sat down with the Horizon League's Stephanie Jarvis to discuss one of the hot-button topics in intercollegiate athletics: compliance. Jarvis joined the League in 1999 as the Director of Compliance, now handles all legal and compliance issures for the League and serves as the advisor to the Horizon League Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
The interview transcript is courtesy of Mike Klingshirn and Raider Roundball, which can be visited here.
RRB: How did you become involved with compliance for the Horizon League? What is your background?
SJ: I went to undergrad at Northwestern University, then law school at Cincinnati. While at Cincinnati, they had an externship program, where you could work in a legal setting and get credit. The legal setting that I chose was in the compliance department of Cincinnati athletics. I did that during my second and third year of law school, and liked it. I graduated, was eventually hired by the Horizon League, and have been there ever since.
RRB: What is your mission as Associate Commissioner for Compliance and Legal Affairs with the Horizon League?
SJ: From a compliance perspective, the goal of the conference is to help our schools to understand and comply with NCAA rules. We lead them through the process and serve as a resource. My goal is to make sure that everybody knows what they need to know, and are able to ask me questions when they aren’t sure what to do.
RRB: What is your typical day like in the Horizon League offices?
SJ: There is no typical day. I have a lot of other hats besides compliance, so some of my day might be spent on other things. But in terms of compliance and rules, it is answering questions from schools, getting feedback on proposals that are out there, and educating them on newly adopted legislation.
RRB: Is there a sport that requires a larger portion of your attention than other sports?
SJ: Men’s basketball — only because it is the most high-profile sport that we have, so it generates the most interest and questions. That doesn’t mean that those questions are necessarily more complicated than other sports. It just means that more people are paying more attention to that sport.
We also spend a fair amount of time on some of the smaller sports that have part-time coaches. Part-time coaches are not as well educated about compliance since coaching is not their main job. Helping them understand the NCAA rules is a big part of it as well.
RRB: Nobody wants to commit an NCAA rules violation. Is it considered a good thing when Horizon League schools do not report any compliance violations during the course of a year?
SJ: No, it is a bad thing! Everybody makes mistakes. The rule book is 400 and some pages long, so you can’t know every rule. It’s a good thing when schools find those mistakes. It’s important to have a very good monitoring program to catch mistakes when they happen.
Coaches might turn themselves in, or schools might find something. It shows the NCAA that you have a proactive monitoring program, and that you’re finding the appropriate violations. If a school didn’t have any violations in any sport in a year, I would wonder whether they were hiding something or didn’t know what they were doing.
RRB: How is the communication between you and the league coaches? Do they call you with questions? How does that dialogue go?
SJ: Coaches do not generally call me at the Horizon League offices. Every school has a compliance coordinator who is the primary contact for the coaches on their campus. A coach might call our office when their coordinator happens to be out of town and is unreachable.
We encourage coaches to go to their own compliance coordinator, partially because beyond NCAA rules, some schools have their own institutional rules that we may not know very well. We don’t want to advise them of something that could put them in jeopardy with their own institution, even if it isn’t an NCAA violation.
RRB: How often are you in contact with individual schools? What are the most common/typical reasons?
SJ: We are in contact with some of the schools daily. For others, it is weekly. If we’ve got a younger compliance coordinator who doesn’t have as much experience, they call us fairly often, asking, “We’ve got a coach that wants to do this. Can we do it?” We give them an answer.
We’re also in contact with schools when they have broken a rule. They want to know the penalties and what they need to do. They call us, and we’ll walk them through the process.
RRB: What are the most common questions that you receive?
SJ: We get a lot of questions about recruiting. In terms of prospective student-athletes, they ask whether they can do this or that. We get a lot of random questions as well. It just depends upon what is going on at the campuses.
RRB: How often are you in contact with the NCAA? What are the most common/typical reasons?
SJ: Rules interpretation is one reason that we might talk to them. If I am not sure whether or not a school can do something and I can’t find the answer, we have a conference contact at the NCAA that we go to, who gives us an answer.
We also talk to them about potential violations. If a school has broken a rule, we might call the NCAA enforcement staff and say, “Here are the penalties that we think the school will assess. Do they sound like something that you would go with as well?”
RRB: Do you conduct any training with the league schools and coaches?
SJ: Sometimes we go on campus and do in-person rules education sessions. We try to make it fun, because the rules are pretty dry if you’re just reading them straight-up. It’s good for us, and it’s good for the coaches to hear it from somebody other than the compliance coordinator, because a different voice is sometimes helpful.
RRB: What is your most significant compliance concern for schools in the Horizon League?
SJ: The biggest concern is the size of staffs. Most of our schools have one or two people working in compliance. Ohio State has six. Some of the big schools have eight people. We are required to follow the same rules and monitor at the same level, so it’s hard when you have one person that has to monitor everything, and the big schools have six to eight people who can do all of that work.
The biggest concern that I have is finding a way to add more staff in compliance when the economy is bad, budgets are being decreased, and people are fighting for coaching positions.
RRB: Can you share with us, the biggest compliance/legal issue that has been faced within the Horizon League during your 12+ years with the league?
SJ: It’s probably an overall trend. Trying to monitor everything that happens, and the public knowing everything instantaneously is a big challenge. Increased scrutiny, the media, the internet, and being able to see everything on YouTube, makes this difficult.
Booster involvement is another issue. People are more excited about their sports programs and want to feel that they are more a part of it. They may be breaking rules.
RRB: In your opinion, what is the most blatant disregard for compliance that you have heard about involving a college athletics program?
SJ: Luckily, in my time at the Horizon League, we haven’t had anything at any of our schools that I would consider to be a blatant disregard for rules. We have been fortunate, and I will knock on wood. The paying of players is probably the most blatant. The other troubling issue that I have is coaches not telling the truth. The cover-up is always worse than the crime, and I’m a little disappointed to see that that’s now becoming a trend.
RRB: Sometimes the NCAA will grant waivers to their rules. When does that typically happen?
SJ: It will usually happen when there is a mitigating circumstance that would make a reasonable person say that we should set aside a rule in a certain case.
An example would be a men’s basketball player who is transferring. The NCAA rules require that he sit out a year and is not immediately eligible (to play). If he is transferring closer to home to be with a family member who is dying, has a terminal illness, or needs to be taken care of, and the school that he came from is OK with him transferring and becoming immediately eligible, that’s a case where the NCAA may grant a waiver saying, “You’re not transferring for athletic reasons, but rather you have a legitimate family reason why you need to go home.”
RRB: What NCAA compliance rule would you most like to see changed?
SJ: Contacting recruits. We need to adapt with technology to the way that fifteen to eighteen year olds are communicating. The NCAA rules prohibit texting. I am of the opinion that if kids would rather be on Facebook, tweet, text, or whatever it is that they want to do, we need to keep up with that. Our rules need to address and be mindful of how a prospective student-athlete wants to talk to a coach.
RRB: How has the evolution of the internet and technology affected your job over the years?
SJ: It has made it more difficult because the NCAA rules aren’t adopted quickly enough to keep up with changing technologies. We have to rely on a lot of interpretive guidance and figure it out on our own. We make our own way, create situations, and ask questions in order to adapt to new technology. It has been challenging to figure out how old rules that are in place, apply to new technology.
RRB: Fans that post messages on independent websites, such as RaiderRoundball.com, could be considered boosters or representatives of the program. Is there anything that a person should be aware of in terms of NCAA compliance, before they post a message on the internet?
SJ: You have to be really careful when you talk about recruits and anything to do with recruiting. Schools are not allowed to publicize visits of a recruit, so fans need to be careful. It’s not so much of a violation if a fans says, “I heard so-and-so is on campus.” However, you can’t put up a picture up of somebody visiting. You have to be careful about posting pictures.
Another thing that you have to be careful about is going on a potential recruit’s Facebook page. You can’t go onto his or her page and say, “Hey, I know that you’re a really good basketball player. I think that you should consider coming to Wright State.” That is recruiting by a booster, and it is not allowed.
You have to be really careful. Before you do anything with a recruit, my advice would be to talk to a compliance person.
RRB: What are the rules regarding publishing recruiting information? You see such information in both the mainstream media and independent websites.
SJ: It depends. You’ll see newspaper articles where reporters will say, “So-and-so is taking a visit to Kentucky this weekend.” The problem would be if a coach was the one saying that, or if a coach was commenting on that person’s ability. Coaches have to be careful about what they say to the media, whether it is mainstream or independent sites. You also have to make sure that you are not contacting recruits, either through your website or their website.
RRB: If you had any word of advice to Wright State boosters, what would it be?
SJ: Talk to Trevor Doll (WSU Director of Compliance) before you do anything. It’s great to help the program. It’s great to do everything that you can to support Wright State athletics. The athletic department needs you, wants you, and is very happy to have you. We tell all of our schools that it is important to make sure that boosters know their roles, and what they can and cannot do, because I don’t think that there are any boosters out there that want to jeopardize the eligibility of a student-athlete or the success of the program. Everybody wants the program to succeed. They just need to make sure that they are doing so within the rules.
Tags: Horizon League - All Sports