While much of the information contained herein relates specifically to an investigation into North Carolina and South Carolina football recruiting, the process could also be relevant to other inquiry in the commonwealth.
The NCAA may finally be getting up to speed when it comes to investigating questionable recruiting practices, according to the Bylaw Blog.
Fed up with being undermined by agents and lacking the resources to police them effectively, the thought is that the NCAA has begun cracking down hard on schools with violations involving agents to get schools to police themselves better.
That may be so, but more important is that the NCAAâ€™s knowledge has changed. The Agents, Gambling, and Amateurism staff is much newer than the rest of the Enforcement Staff but has gained what appears to be a critical mass of knowledge. That knowledge allows the investigators to more effectively target schools, while at the same time cast a wider net, all without using excessive resources.
What appears to have happened in this case exemplifies the new approach:
- Pick a target population, in this case football student-athletes who were expected to be drafted who returned to school.
- Investigate the target population for evidence of violations, which turned out to be improper benefits received by agents.
- Use the associations and connections between involved parties as a jumping off point for related investigations, using Saundersâ€™ association with UNC defensive end Marvin Austin.
Such an approach was not possible as recently as five years ago since the NCAA enforcement staff did not fully understand the patterns of this activity. Itâ€™s the difference between playing Whack-a-Mole and knowing how the game works and to predict which mole is coming up next.
This is probably an overlooked reason the Southern California investigation took so long. Not only did the NCAA struggle to build a factual case, but the enforcement staff faced a learning curve in understanding how the cast of characters in the investigation were connected. What the staff learns is not filed away to gather dust, rather it gets used in the next investigation.
Expect the Basketball Focus Group to follow the same pattern. The first major investigation will seem to take forever, but after that the floodgates may open. I wouldnâ€™t count on waiting six years for results from the BFG though, since they have learned many of the lessons that the AGA staff had to discover via trial and error. Not to mention that the BFG spent over a year almost exclusively devoted to gathering information.