The NCAA enforcement program strives to maintain a level playing field for the more than 400,000 student-athletes. Commitment to fair play is a bedrock principle of the NCAA. The NCAA upholds that principle by enforcing membership-created rules that ensure equitable competition and protect the well-being of student-athletes at all member institutions.
1906-1951: While the NCAA was established in 1906 principally as a regulatory and enforcement body for intercollegiate athletics, the Association for its first half-century relied on “home rule,” which vested regulatory authority (and expectations) with individual member institutions.
The first NCAA constitution stated that athletics activities “shall be maintained on an ethical plane in keeping with the dignity and high purpose of education.” It was expected that “a high standard of personal honor, eligibility and fair play” would be preserved and any abuses would be remedied. The Association itself, however, did not bear the responsibility of enforcing these expectations and standards (the original Executive Committee in fact declined to support the idea of a central enforcement authority).
“Home rule” was both sensible and attuned to the political and philosophical realities of the time, but it carried a built-in tension between the NCAA’s commitment to amateurism and its reliance on the member institutions to honor that goal. That “trust factor” became the root of the Association’s early enforcement challenges, and it continues as a primary driver of enforcement issues today.
1940: In light of a growing number of violations (particularly related to the Association’s core principle of amateurism), delegates at the 1940 NCAA Convention grant the Executive Committee more investigative and interpretative powers with respect to protecting amateurism. That action stops short of establishing a full-blown enforcement apparatus, however.
1946: The Association calls for a “Conference of Conferences” in Chicago for members to discuss growing concerns related to violations of the amateurism principle.
1948: Convention delegates adopt what is referred to as the “Sanity Code” (named in part after a delegate at a previous Convention who called for “a return to sanity” with regard to members following established rules), which contains strict regulations regarding financial aid, recruiting, academic standards, institutional control and amateurism. The Sanity Code is the first set of regulations with teeth, since it declares that institutional violators shall be expelled from the NCAA (pending a two-thirds vote of Convention delegates). A Fact-Finding Committee also is established to investigate possible violations.
1950: Seven institutions are found to have violated the Sanity Code. However, only a 111-93 majority of Convention delegates favors expelling them from NCAA membership.
1951: Due to concerns over the Sanity Code (particularly its limits on recruiting and financial aid, and the severe consequences for violations) and the failure of delegates to expel the seven violators the year before, the 1951 Convention repeals the Sanity Code.
1951: Walter Byers, who had been serving as a part-time executive assistant for the Association since 1947, is hired as the NCAA’s first executive director. Byers would establish the NCAA national office in Kansas City, Mo., a year later and begin assembling the first national office staff.
1952: Convention delegates adopt a new code that establishes a Membership Committee (which would examine complaints about violations) and a Subcommittee on Infractions (which would investigate them). Subcommittee findings would then be reported to the NCAA Council, which could suspend an institution or place it or probation.
1952: Byers files Case Report No. 1 representing the first formal action of the Subcommittee on Infractions. It charges that 10 basketball players at the University of Kentucky had received impermissible financial aid. The Southeastern Conference suspends the Kentucky basketball team from league play for one year. The NCAA Council, through its Membership Committee, bans Kentucky’s entire athletics program from intercollegiate competition for one year. In effect, it was the Association’s first “death penalty,” though its enforcement was binding only through constitutional language that required members to compete against only those schools that were compliant with NCAA rules. Despite fears that it would resist, Kentucky accepts the penalty and, in turn, gives credibility to the NCAA’s ability to enforce its rules.
1954: The NCAA disbands its Membership Committee and instead appoints the first Committee on Infractions to handle enforcement cases. Byers is authorized to hire a staff member to administer this function full-time. In 1955, E.G. “Ted” Whereatt fills that position. He is followed a year later by Art Bergstrom, who would hold the job until 1976.
1954: The Convention adopts a national certification plan that requires the institution’s president to certify in writing that the school complies with all NCAA rules and regulations.
1956: The NCAA Council approves a recommendation from the Committee on Infractions that a member institution must “show cause” why its membership should not be suspended or terminated if it retains a staff member found to have violated NCAA rules. That show-cause penalty remains in place today.
1964: After several cases in which institutions do not cooperate fully with an investigation, the Council approves the following procedures:
1971: The NCAA Council appoints a Special Enforcement and Reorganization Committee to recommend changes in the enforcement process.
1973: Convention delegate adopt changes to the constitution, bylaws and procedures that will govern the enforcement process into the 1980s:
1974: Because of the changes adopted in 1973, the 1974 Convention approves adding six field investigators to the two already on the NCAA enforcement staff.
1975-83: In the nine years since strengthening the enforcement process, the Committee on Infractions meted out punishments in 96 cases. Sixty-nine involved recruiting, 46 involved financial aid and 41 regarded extra benefits. The Pacific-10 Conference has six members put on probation during this period. The Southwest and Big Eight had five each, the SEC had four and the Big Ten two. The number and profile of the cases spurs more presidential involvement with the NCAA’s governance structure.
1987: The Committee on Infractions suspends the Southern Methodist University football program for one year (the so-called “death penalty”).
1988: The U.S. Supreme Court rules that the NCAA is not engaged in state action in a case involving the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and thus is not bound by formal due-process standards. Nevada would adopt a law in 1991 requiring the NCAA to use defined due-process procedures in its investigations. Several other states adopted the Nevada law, posing a serious threat to the NCAA’s ability to enforce its rules equally in all states. The NCAA sued in federal court to have the Nevada law overturned, asserting that it imposed unattainable due-process standards on infractions cases in that state. The federal court determined in 1992 that the law and others like it were unconstitutional, and that ruling was confirmed when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case.
1994: The NCAA Council, soon to be disbanded because of the NCAA federating its governance structure in 1997, is relieved of its appellate duties in infractions cases.
1995-2003: The number of cases warranting penalty is an even 100. Sixty-five cases regard recruiting violations, while 62 involved extra benefits and 13 involved academic fraud. Eligibility issues and institutional control were significantly more prominent than a decade earlier.
2004: A Congressional hearing again challenges, but in the end maintains, the Association’s immunity to due-process standards.Last Updated: Jan 21, 2013