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    March 2016

    Improving Athletics Compliance in Higher Education

    Improving Athletics Compliance in Higher Education

    At many institutions, athletics sits as an island mostly disconnected from the college’s compliance efforts. Administrators often struggle to integrate the institution’s athletics department into its compliance program. Yet, institutions should view athletics programs as allies that can help lead and shape the compliance culture.

    Laws, Regulations and Rules

    Various compliance obligations apply to college athletics, such as:

    • Federal law. Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. The law’s related regulations and guidance address everything from equal athletic opportunities to sexual violence. Additionally, the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act (EADA) imposes annual reporting requirements on athletics departments.
    • State and local law. All states have laws addressing the treatment or education of student concussions. Additionally, many states have laws affecting the use of athletic facilities.
    • Case law. Case law in every state is different and may affect athletics in a variety of ways. For example, case law in some states may affect the language used in coach contracts, the waivers signed by student athletes, or the standard of care required of coaches to supervise their athletes.
    • NCAA or NAIA rules. The athletic associations, leagues, and conferences to which a college belongs often have very detailed rules that athletics programs must follow.

     An effective institutionwide compliance program must include athletics. 

    Ideas for Improvement

    Consider these suggestions for improving athletics compliance:

    • Survey coaches annually to identify their needs and wants. This can give them a chance to voice concerns and identify important ideas for improvement. Also, it can reveal moral hazards, such as disgruntled coaches who may cause others to disconnect from their work or engage in unethical behavior.
    • Implement regular touch points between the athletics department and those charged with the institution’s compliance. Some institutions require their athletic departments to submit monthly reports on different compliance metrics. A monthly meeting is a good way to build a relationship between athletics and those managing compliance and check progress on compliance-related milestones. It also prevents situations in which the only time athletics and compliance interact is when compliance says “no."
    • Create a multidisciplinary committee devoted to athletics issues. The committee’s goal is to advise the board of trustees, the president’s office, or the athletics department on compliance. Consider including the athletics director, provost, compliance officer, auditor, Title IX coordinator, and general counsel (if the counsel has pertinent experience). The committee might:
      • Review annual training and education requirements for athletes and athletics staff to ensure compliance and effectiveness
      • Complete EADA and NCAA surveys
      • Examine the enforcement of sanctions across athletic teams to ensure consistency
      • Review athletes’ courses and grades to identify potentially unethical academic practices
      • Conduct tabletop exercises of athletics-related issues or scandals reported in the media and ask, “What would we do if this happened at our institution?”


    University of Notre Dame Athletics Compliance Office
    University of Richmond Intercollegiate Athletics Oversight Policy

    AGB Statement on Board Responsibilities for Intercollegiate Athletics

    By Alyssa Keehan, JD, Director of Risk Research


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