Players rely on referees to make calls concerning traveling, goaltending and palming on the court, but they look to the athletics department to help with judgment calls off the court.
Associate Athletic Director Beth Goetz, whose job includes making sure all conference, NCAA and institutional rules are followed from the recruiting process onward, said the men’s basketball team’s runs to the NCAA National Championship game have led to her spending more time on compliance with team members.
“It’s not that when you’re not in the limelight that you’re not concerned about rules, because you always are, but the success of men’s basketball raises different questions,” Goetz said.
Athletic Director Barry Collier said the department has had to deal with increased external interest in the program but that the focus on compliance has grown at every school regardless of size or notoriety.
“The NCAA wants you to be more thorough than ever before,” Collier said.
A heightened sense of compliance has reached the top levels of all colleges and universities in light of recent scandals at Ohio State and Miami in which football players received extra benefits and allegedly broke numerous rules.
“Your president wants to know what you’re doing, and it has definitely trickled down to all institutions, even though the big cases have been through Bowl Championship Series institutions,” Goetz said.
For players the main rules cover receiving benefits, handling speaking requests, keeping others from profiting by using their name or likeness and avoiding banned substances. Coaches’ rules are focused mostly on recruiting.
Penalties for noncompliance can include mandatory education, a reduction in the number of contacts a coach can have with a prospect, repayment, fines, loss of games or permanent ineligibility.
Goetz said she credits coach Brad Stevens and the Butler environment with creating an atmosphere of compliance on the men’s basketball team.
“Coach Stevens creates an environment that is ethical,” Goetz said. “It’s part of our mantra, whether spoken or unspoken, that we’re going to do it the right way and win the right way.”
Goetz said growing attention to Butler also brings greater support from donors and boosters. Educating these fans becomes part of NCAA compliance, since the recent scandals were caused or exacerbated by donors offering players illegal benefits.
Associate Athletic Director Mike Freeman oversaw the Bulldog Club until last March when Associate Athletic Director Bill Lynch took over. The Bulldog Club is a group for individuals looking to donate to the athletic department, and Freeman said it has grown from about 1,500 to 1,900 members in past years to nearly 2,800 members.
To keep all donors and boosters aware, the athletics department sends out periodic newsletters that outline compliance and donation rules. Freeman said the newsletters generate a lot of questions, but answering them is an important part of the athletics department’s duty.
“Our members and boosters are outstanding, but part of our mission is to make sure they do the right thing, just as our student-athletes do,” he said.
Goetz said she expects new rules to come from the NCAA in the next year that focus on extra benefits and how donors interact with players and recruits.
“The reason you see all these problems with big programs is because they’re in the limelight,” Goetz said. “People and donors become very attached, and the success of their team becomes this goal that they want to be a part of and contribute to and control—sometimes in ways that aren’t legislated, aren’t healthy and aren’t part of their purview.”
Goetz meets with all Butler teams at the beginning of the year and then meets with them periodically throughout the season. There are also monthly compliance sessions with coaches and yearly meetings with all non-coaching staff members.
The system is set up so that universities monitor themselves and self-report violations. Butler has never had a major violation, although it has reported some secondary violations—most of which were inadvertent, Goetz said.
“If we don’t submit violations, we’re probably not doing our job because [the rule book] is pretty thick,” Goetz said.