Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Culture of Compliance

Recently, Penn State officials contacted TYT and others with a reminder of NCAA rules as they relate to contacting prospective student-athletes. Here's the text in its entirety, because it's worth circulating the rules to the masses every once in a while. You know that "no major violations" thing we're all proud of? It starts with awareness from all of us, not just PSU's athletic department.


To all Penn State Hockey Alums, Fans, and Booster Club Members:

While it is an exciting time to be associated with the ice hockey programs at Penn State, it is also a time to be attentive to how NCAA rules apply to this new landscape. As most of you know, the NCAA rules applicable to a varsity program are far reaching and include institutional responsibility for the actions of fans, former student-athletes and donors. Some people may not realize that NCAA recruiting rules began to apply to Penn State on the day we publicly declared intent to form varsity hockey programs. Thus, it is very important that everyone is aware of the following:
  • Only members of the Penn State coaching staff are permitted to call or write to prospective student-athletes, their parents or their coaches. Prospective student-athletes are defined as anyone who has entered 9th grade, regardless of recruitment status by Penn State.
  • Only members of the Penn State coaching staff are permitted to have any in-person contact with prospective student-athletes, their parents or their coaches.
  • Boosters and fans of the Penn State programs are permitted to attend hockey games involving prospects at their own discretion. In addition, they are welcome to share any relevant information with the coaching staff. However, they are not permitted to present themselves as Penn State recruiters and they may not attend a specific contest or activity at the request of the coaching staff.
  • Boosters and fans of the PSU programs are not permitted to provide any benefits or special arrangements to a prospective student-athlete or his / her family and friends.
  • Boosters and fans of the PSU programs may not visit a prospect’s high school or educational institution to perform an evaluation of a prospect’s academic qualifications.
  • NCAA rules provide exceptions to some of the contact restrictions, but these exceptions do not mean that it is OK for program supporters to recruit on behalf of PSU. For example, if a booster club member has known a prospect’s family since the prospect was in elementary school and they have always gone on family vacations together, this activity could permissibly continue. However, in this scenario, recruitment on behalf of PSU is prohibited and any matters involving PSU hockey must be referred to the coaching staff. Relationships that originated prior to the prospects enrollment in 9th grade and outside of athletics circles are considered safe in this analysis. Of course, the NCAA rules do not restrict interactions within a legitimate family environment (grandparents may speak to their grandchildren about Penn State at their discretion).
Please call the Penn State Athletics Compliance Office (ACO) at 814-863-8048 if you have questions about the application of NCAA rules. The ACO staff is happy to field calls from PSU supporters and dedicated to ensuring Penn State’s tradition of integrity in athletics continues indefinitely. We know that part of the transition into the new era may include modifying behaviors from years gone by that were helpful in a club environment, but may be harmful in a varsity environment. The best thing to do when in doubt is to call and ask before you act.


Now, the primary recipients of this email were more or less people in a position to put it on some kind of official website, some other important people within the program...and me. Hint taken.

As a matter of policy for the foreseeable future, TYT will no longer attempt to contact prospective student-athletes. While there are exceptions to the above for media outlets, which is what allows sites like Lions 247 and Fight On State to interview recruits prior to their enrollment, I'm not quite ready to attempt to distinguish myself as a media outlet. In fact, the NCAA seems to make a clear distinction for people like me in the 2000-01 Guide to Rules Compliance, The Use of the Internet in Recruiting Division I:
Web Sites Established by Individuals Independent of the Institution
  1. Establishing a Web Site in and of itself does not categorize an individual as a media entity. Therefore, individuals who establish Web sites independent of the institution continue to be subject to all applicable restrictions related to contacting prospects for a recruiting purpose.
  2. Recruiting information that is not available to the general public may not be posted on Web sites established by individuals independent of the institution.
  3. Individuals operating independently of the institution may not contact prospects to obtain recruiting information.
Should TYT evolve to the point where I feel comfortable fighting the "media entity" battle, I will do so. But for now, I'm still just a Nittany Lion Club member and alumnus with a blog, and the last thing I want is to jeopardize Penn State's NCAA compliance record.

To be sure, this doesn't have a profound effect on TYT. The "standard" recruiting post is formulated entirely from items available on the internet, and is therefore not at issue. I am truly sorry for any problems created by my contact to this point (which has been fairly minimal, amounting essentially to one interview and 2-3 emails/tweets). While I had planned more, I'll just have to shift that focus to the active student athletes. Otherwise, TYT will keep humming along as usual.


  1. Kyle,
    It isn't going to remain "Icers" for Penn State hockey in the post-ACHA world is it?

  2. Thankfully, no. I've never been particularly fond of "Icers," which I'm sure has its origins in an era before university recognition, although PSU's ACHA team has been able to use university trademarks for as long as I can remember (90s-present). Also, PSU traditionally has used "gridders," "cagers," etc. for other teams, although that's pretty much died off.

    That said, I'm sure people who followed the ACHA team will still use "Icers" out of habit, and it might stick as an informal nickname, like at Michigan State. It's pretty ingrained in the culture.