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College football is one of the most loved and followed type of sport within the United States. College football has come to such prominence that it brings in a substantial amount of earnings for the team’s college or university as well as reputation and credibility. However, due to the high income that collegiate football earns for universities, that are instances when inappropriate misconducts take place, and that’re overlooked by the authorities of the university. For such instances, as well as other where misconduct is apparent within college athletics teams or staff, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has been founded so that when ethical and inappropriate violations that take place within collegiate sports, the correct set of penalties is given out in order to promote ethical environment where the rights of student-athletes are protected, and excellence and fair play is expected (Ferrell, Fraedrich & Ferrell, 2014, pg. 444). This paper will seek to explain how the NCAA encourages collegiate football programs to develop a culture of ethics and compliance, while analyzing the criticism that the NCAA is based more on compliance than ethical values, as well as the question of how student-athletes, coaches, and university administrators can demonstrate a proactive response to ethics and compliance.
The NCAA was an organization founded in 1906 with the initial goals of protecting student-athletes from being endangered and exploited. It is with the passing of time and the growth of collegiate sports itself that the NCAA also grew, and its goals, as well as rules and policies, expanded. Table 1 in the Appendix provides a list of principles for conduct that are expected of the student-athletes and staff that are involved within collegiate sports, and it can clearly be seen from this table that the NCAA doesn’t have toleration for unethical happenings within collegiate sports. In order to promote an ethical environment within collegiate sports, the NCAA not only establishes rules and policies pertaining college teams, but it also actively enforces them in case of a NCAA violation, where the authorities of the university are ultimately held accountable for their lack of action and control over the football department within their university.
The NCAA’s role is critical in setting an ethical environment within collegiate sports. However, although NCAA thoroughly imposes their rules and policies, and doesn’t discriminate when it comes to giving penalties, it is nonetheless criticized by some for being not harsh enough and yet by others for being too harsh. Criticisms to the NCAA are well-founded because there have been instances where NCAA’s investigators have done their investigations inappropriately, as well as the unquestionable increase in unethical conduct within collegiate football. For example, one of the criticisms to NCAA has to do with one of its former investigators, Ameen Najjar, who was reprimanded and dismissed from the NCAA for attempting to obtain and give court evidence that was inappropriately and falsely collected. Although the NCAA quickly fired Najjar, the case nevertheless hurt the organization’s credibility and reputation. Moreover, as aforementioned there has been more and more reported activity of ethical misconduct within collegiate football, such as rigged games where the sport is fraudulently managed in order to earn higher funds from a booster, who is a rich fan of the team that is willing to make payments to see what he wants within a game. Therefore, the critics have support for the arguments they make when complaining about the lack of harshness within the sanctions that NCAA imposes.
Due to the damage Najjar brought to NCAA’s reputation, as well as the increase in the misconduct of sports games, it’s even more significant that the NCAA thoroughly and actively imposes its rules and sanctions on colleges and universities that require it, without making the student-athlete team uncomfortable. One cannot state that it is a valid criticism that the NCAA is based more on compliance than ethical values, because the reason the NCAA even has a set of compliance is due to their emphasis on ethical values. NCAA, an organization that was initially founded to incorporate ethical values within collegiate sports, regardless of the criticisms it receives, continues to actively ensure, at the best of its ability, to impose the correct regulations for required situations. The following are two examples as to when the NCAA appropriately gave off sanctions, and they also show the investigative process NCAA favors in following when making decisions, to ensure fairness is being executed.
In 2011, accusations arose within the Penn State football team that a former assistant coach named Jerry Sandusky had “sexually assaulted at least eight young boys over the course of many years”, and additionally, it wasn’t long before that it was discovered the school showed a lack of action, and contributed in why Sandusky got away with his crime for so long. An initial report first came in 1998, stating potential misconduct between the former assistant coach and an underage boy, and was dismissed due to the lack of evidence. However, in 2001, when a graduate assistant allegedly witnessed Sandusky sexually assaulting another young boy, and reported to the head coach Joe Paterno, the school made the huge mistake of not going further with the report and investigating, when Paterno notified and reported Sandusky. It was ultimately discovered that Penn State authorities and officials, as well as the head coach, Joe Paterno, were primarily responsible of the happenings within their football team, costing Penn State “$60 million in fines, a four-year post-season ban prohibiting from being eligible for any post games until 2016, and four-year reduction in scholarships amounting to ten scholarships per year for the football program” (Ferrell, Fraedrich & Ferrell, 2014, pg. 450). After these sanctions were imposed by the NCAA, the football team’s ability to win games and practice effectively were damaged and they were unable to compete successfully with other teams, which proves to as how harsh the sanctions imposed by NCAA can be.
The most significant corrective measure that was taken against Penn State was to have them sig the Athletic Integrity Agreement, which was an agreement specifically formulated for the authorities and staff of Penn State. The signing of the Athletic Integrity Agreement by Penn State allowed NCAA to require the college to take certain corrective steps, such as “the addition of a compliance officer for the athletics department, the creation of a compliance council and a full discourse program, adding internal accountability and certifications for this accountability, implementation of an external compliance review/certification process, drafting an athletics code of conduct, conduct training and education, and appointing an independent athletics integrity monitor” (Ferrell, Fraedrich & Ferrell, 2014, pg. 450). As can be seen with the actions NCAA took with Penn State, not only did NCAA impose penalties on Penn State, but it ensured Penn State took certain corrective steps so that such ethical misconduct does not take place again, and is detected and prevented before it even begins. Thus, NCAA does not only impose regulations, but also promotes an ethical environment by literally implementing those values within the collegiate team.
Ohio State’s football team is yet another example of the necessity of NCAA’s regulations. In December 2010, five players of the Ohio State football team exchanged their sports equipment with money and tattoos. Although this was in clear violation of NCAA rules and policies, the head coach of the football team, Jim Tressel, was aware of the misconduct of his football players, and failed to report it to the authorities who could’ve appropriately dealt with the situation. Besides this unfortunate bartering situation, Ohio State was yet in another violation of NCAA’s rules because its players were accepting money from boosters and rich fans, and attempting to hide it in the form of pay for some type of work, which was unaccounted for. Tressel was forced to resign at the end with a show-cause order on his resume, making most colleges and universities to shy away from hiring him again, and thereby ending his career. However, it was the main authorities and officials who were again held responsible of this violation, due to their head coach covering misconduct of student-athletes, the disorganization and lack of control of the school football department, and the officials’ lack of knowledge of what’s happening within their football department, which all end up being the school’s fault at the end. “In addition to suspensions, the NCAA also banned Ohio State from a bowl game for one year, took five scholarships away for the following three years, and put the team on a one-year probation” (Ferrell, Fraedrich & Ferrell, 2014, pg. 451). This happens to be another example where NCAA rightfully gave appropriate penalties to a collegiate sports team where they weren’t representing the values NCAA is trying so hard to instill.
Student-athletes, coaches, and university administrators can demonstrate a proactive response to ethics and compliance by using the rules and policies that the NCAA gives as a simple framework, and from that framework build yet another set of rules that adheres to their own goals, and values within the team. Moreover, coaches and university administrators must actively report on any sort of misconduct within the collegiate sports, and they can ensure timely and correct reporting by having either an outside compliance officer or being involved themselves.
As can be seen, collegiate sports, especially collegiate football, is a critical factor for many universities, as they are high-revenue bringing businesses for the schools. However, like every business, there are conduct rules every school must adhere to which NCAA ensures is being regulated. Regardless of the criticisms NCAA receives, the organization actively implements its ethical values within school by imposing certain regulations, and providing a framework of values that schools can utilize to promote an ethical environment within their school.
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