Blog Entry

NCAA considers using private investigators

Posted on: February 14, 2012 5:38 pm

INDIANAPOLIS -- NCAA enforcement may be going private – at least private investigator.

As the NCAA’s most feared division reinvents itself, that little nugget emerged during my recent conversation with enforcement director Julie Roe Lach. She has been with the NCAA for 14 years. But it was the last 12 months or so that have been the most challenging, with seemingly a scandal a week.

“It was constant,” she said

As part of a new streamlined approach, the NCAA might indeed use private investigators on a contract basis to observe subjects.

“Literally, if they could mobilize someone in a matter of hours as opposed to us putting someone on a plane it’s a timeliness issue,” Roe Lach said. “That, to me, is where we need to stay ahead of the curve.”

Proactive is a term seldom attached to the enforcement division. Last year’s test of the association’s ability to police itself comes at the same time the NCAA is trying to downsize its 436-page manual.

The NCAA has become more open, more accessible, more understandable. Last year, Roe Lach’s department conducted an all-day Enforcement Experience exercise for media. The idea is to communicate that enforcement is going to be more efficient, more streamlined.

“Are people going to expect that more is going to be permissible? …,” said Roe Lach, 35. “Should we publish a list of all the schools we’re investigating? I don’t know if we’re going there.”

The NCAA last week released a set of proposed enhanced penalties that could be in effect later this year.’s Bryan Fischer first published a version of those documents on Jan. 15.

As a part of that, Roe Lach said her division may begin contracting with private investigators for selected surveillance missions. Jim Rockford used to charge $200 a day plus expenses. Will the NCAA go there in hiring out investigative contractors?

“We could. Our bylaws don’t preclude it,” Roe Lach said. “We’d have to be very careful how we do it.”

As long as the NCAA gets it right. With only 55 persons in enforcement – 30-something on the street – enforcement can never catch all the outlaws. But told her department needed more vigilance in football, the NCAA hired former homicide Bill Benjamin to head a new football enforcement division

“If we get wind that a booster is employing student-athletes or an agent is too connected we’ll just go and watch foot traffic,” Roe Lach said. “It’s not like we’re out there stalking people.

“We’ve definitely conducted surveillance recently. Is it a better use of our resources to contract out surveillance?”

We’ll see.


Here’s a quick Q&A with Lach … The NCAA seems to be more open under president Mark Emmert. To the point that Cam Newton’s father was called out, the media is engaged on subjects and enforcement is more of a transparent process.

Roe Lach: “Probably because I think that’s President Emmert’s philosophy. First, the challenge is to take an honest look at where can we have more transparency. We also recognize there are some times we can’t be transparent about either because federal law says so or there is a greater interest at stake.

“I don’t think the default is no longer, ‘We can’t say anything.’ “ Talking to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, he agreed whole-heartedly with the intent of the Penn State letter  to possibly investigate the school in light of the Sandusky matter. Where is your department on that right now?

Roe Lach: “Right now, and I can say this because it’s been stated publicly, the Penn State letter was framed very specifically as from the president’s office. It’s really at an inquiry or information gathering stage and if the NCAA should take some sort of action. If the answer is yes … the next question is how?

“Is this an enforcement action or is there some other action that doesn’t currently exist that needs to be examined?” Was there a border crossed there? The Sandusky case is a legal matter.

Roe Lach: “Historically, legal matters are dealt with through the criminal system … There are times when criminal action also violates NCAA rules. There was a Division II case where a coach was providing a prescription drugs to student-athlete. I don’t know if that is legal.” But even that is different from the Sandusky case.

Roe Lach: “You’re right. Typically, criminal issues are separate from NCAA issues but not always. Especially on the gambling front. That’s why we try to have relationships with  the FBI and other agencies.

“The larger issue at play … is what’s the culture here going on in the athletics department? Does that somehow tie into how the athletic department exercises institutional control? President Emmert’s letter opened the door for that discussion.” Does that mean every similar case like that is going to end up on your desk?

Roe Lach: “I don’t think so. The larger issue is, do you have NCAA violations that may not be as clear? But you could make the argument that those are part of the culture that undermines institutional control. That the athletic department is not really being controlled by the school.” Couldn’t you just wait for the courts to play out?

Roe Lach: “Sometimes that’s what we have to do … It’s not necessarily a wait-and-see approach either.” There has been an addition of a director of enforcement for football, Bill Benjamin. What does that entail?

Roe Lach: “I was with the head football coaches (at the coaches’ convention) … We had heard from them, ‘Hey, here are our concerns [about enforcement].’ … That helped really to support the move to move staff to football.

“Part of their push to us has been we need to increase the penalties for secondary violations and suspend some coaches. They’ve also met with the Committee on Infractions and want to ramp up the penalties on football cases.

“To me that’s the first time a coaches’ association has stepped forward and said, ‘We want you to do more to us.’ “ Dr. Emmert told me in November in the middle of the investigation that Miami had been ‘extraordinarily cooperative.’ That’s the first time I’d heard anyone from the NCAA say anything like that in the middle of an NCAA investigation. Your reaction.

Roe Lach: “We don’t typically comment on cooperation but this goes back to the other discussion. That’s not a confidential issue. In the past we probably took a conservative approach. If a school is really stepping up and cooperating and taking some heat … sometimes it helps for them to be recognized by us.” Does that make things uncomfortable if, in the end, Miami gets hammered?

Roe Lach: “I’ve been in hearing rooms where we’ve said, ‘This is an extremely serious case – if not the most – close to it [but] the school did everything within their control once they found out about these serious violations …

“The appeals committee message has been: You need to give some credit in the penalty phase … You need to factor that his. Where the committee has tried to land is, there is an obligation of cooperation. You shouldn’t get credit for doing what you’re supposed to do. There is a philosophical disagreement about that within the membership.” How is the shrinking of the manual coming?

Roe Lach: “Sometimes you feel like it’s two steps forward, one step back. Right when you think you’ve got a ground-breaking idea … then 10 more unanswered questions pop up. It’s so hard for people to get their arms around less regulation and how does that affect coaches and schools.” Can this year be better than 2012? Perhaps less work?

Roe Lach: “We’re just trying to continue our progress in terms of knowing what’s going on. If people are breaking the rules, we’re upholding integrity by enforcing them.”


Since: Feb 22, 2012
Posted on: February 22, 2012 2:42 pm

NCAA considers using private investigators

Guess who else Emmert is good friends with? None other than Nick Saban. You think tOSU is getting away with junk, think about what's going on in the state of Alabama and UA: players from modest-to-low income families having new tailor-made suits (several of them in some cases); driving SUVs that even I couldn't afford and I have a full-time job; having the mother of a player "house-sit" in a very nice home that was reportedly in foreclosure; players autographing multiple jerseys and seeing them hanging in a certain men's wear department store in Tuscaloosa for sale; the owner of this department store has been "dissasociated" from UA, but yet their compliance dept "investigated" and found no violations of NCAA rules and yet this same store owner has been having pictures taken of him and UA football players TO THIS DAY; the signing of Brent Calloway and Cyrus Kyondjo (misspelled, I'm sure) after they both publicly declared their intent to sign with Auburn University; the Dodge dealership in Gadsden, AL, which a full detail of that has been sent to the NCAA with nothing being done; and I'm now getting tired of typing so ending this here. So, you think Emmert is letting tOSU get away with violations---that's NOTHING compared to what Alabama is getting away with.

Since: Jun 5, 2011
Posted on: February 18, 2012 4:10 pm

Mark Emmert? Puh-leeze.

As long as Mark Emmert is the president of the NCAA and his BFF Gordon Gee is the president of Ohio State, the most prolific cheaters in college football will never be truly investigated or given the punishment they richly deserve.  The main reason Ohio State hasn't fired Gee and Gene Smith is that they know their safety net is gone when Gee leaves.
If the NCAA wants to truly show that they are tough on cheaters, they should send an investigative team to Columbus.  Then, they should change their procedures so that depositions can be taken in the field and used in front of the committee.  That way, the death threats that always seem to make people "change their minds" just before they are supposed to testify against Ohio State won't be able to help them hide the truth about what is going on in Columbus.

Of course, as long as Gordon Gee has a crony/protege in the president's chair, it will never happen.   

Since: Feb 16, 2012
Posted on: February 16, 2012 11:29 am

NCAA considers using private investigators

Itzak, why would any credible witness (much less 4 of them) refuse to meet with NCAA investigators concerning the allegations they made on HBO after the NCAA made numerous attempts to contact them?      The NCAA letter says it all.

In the heat of the colonoscopy Auburn was undergoing concerning Cam Newton, HBO Sports beat the bushes to find something "new" and went to press with a half-baked story that didn't hold water because their sources were not credible.  The pressure on the NCAA to find Auburn guilty was incredible and they would have if they could have after interviewing more than 80 witnesses.  It is established that Cecil Newton shopped his son to Miss St and was soundly rebuffed - he then played it straight with Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arizona and Auburn.    &nbs

Since: Apr 26, 2011
Posted on: February 15, 2012 2:25 pm

NCAA considers using private investigators

I think their first priority should be those schools that seek an on the field advantage by paying performance incentives, like some of the ex Auburn players who were on HBO

Since: Feb 15, 2012
Posted on: February 15, 2012 12:31 pm

NCAA considers using private investigators

The first commenter got it exactly right. The problem is in the rules. NCAA rules call for punishing schools/coaches/athletes for doing things that are routinely done in real life and business. The way things are now, a coach/booster can even do something that would qualify as an act of kindness in real life and be penallized for it. Who in the world should care if a booster is taking a player or players out to dinner or if a business gives discounts to athletes? I know an assistant football coach who was fired because he asked a booster who was coming to a basketball game to give a recruit who was going to sign with his school a 70-mile ride to the game. Another assistant coach was fired for giving a turkey to a kid (don't remember if it was a recruit or an athlete already enrolled) and his family when they likely could have used the food. Too many smaller schools want to try to equalize recruiting by limiting what recruits can be given or approached when the fact is there is no way you can legislate equality. They do things like limit the contact between a coach and a recruit. So is it any secret why we seem to have more transfers and player suspensions today? (Just going by memory here; wish I had data to back that up, but I don't. But just look at how many D-1 basketball rosters have transfers from other D-1 schools on them.) I have seen where Emmert wants to revise and reduce the rulebook. Coaches and others have said that over and over again. I hope he is serious this time.

Since: Aug 13, 2011
Posted on: February 15, 2012 9:54 am

NCAA considers using private investigators

Anything that can speed up the process is fine with me. But speed is not nearly as important as being able to identify the guilty parties involved and punishing those specific people.

During the 80s, my Cowboys were investigated and it was discovered that numerous rules had been violated. However, it took so long, with delaying actions and various other maneuvers, that by the time Oklahoma State received the near-death penalty, the head coach had gone on to greener pastures, some of the players were in the NFL, and those players who actually did have to endure the penalties had been in high school when the offenses had occurred and were totally innocent. The NCAA responded that they punished institutions. But what are institutions except people? The guilty people were gone and those actually punished were innocent. The NCAA needs to figure out how th punish the guilty people whereever they may be before any NCAA sanctions can really be effective.

Since: Feb 11, 2009
Posted on: February 15, 2012 3:46 am

NCAA considers using private investigators

Well, why not?  Why not do anything that might make the investigation process smoother and quicker?  As it stands now, the process rivals the regular judicial process for how sloooooowwwwww things go.  Get some folks who are trained to get the facts and get them in a aquick manner so that these tjings don't drag on, while the media outlets continue to rehash stories of who is under investigation.  Undoubtedly, privatre investigators would be trained to hone in on the truth more efficiently than the current setup.

Since: Aug 9, 2011
Posted on: February 15, 2012 3:31 am

NCAA considers using private investigators

I generally agree with your assessment, but I also think the investigators will help nail the flagrant violators--the Cecil Newton's of the world and others as I'm sure he's not alone in wanting to pimp his son to the highest bidder these days.  Not to mention the ones that can provide luxurious rides and new tailor made suits for every occassion for their premier student athletes--how does a poor city kid going to school on a scholly afford to rent or buy a new SUV, not to mention actually put gas in it at today's prices?  Or have a different tailor made suit for every occassion?  I own 1 tailor made suit and I actually work for a living.  The investigators may actually be able to follow the money trail--heck Hansel and Gretel were able to.

Since: Dec 7, 2011
Posted on: February 15, 2012 1:16 am

NCAA considers using private investigators

stuff the ncaa does seems weird at times, but i have come to the point where it is good forthe to catch cheaters. i think the teams need tohnire someone tht is not involved as a coach with the uiversity. he could report to the president or board of trustees, and there would not nerly be so many surprises. there are only so many exceptional player on a team, not more than 10. it would be real easy to see if any of those are living beyond thir means. with classes and practice. on any given day day you would not have to watch them for 2 or 3 hours. 

Since: Nov 30, 2006
Posted on: February 14, 2012 10:02 pm

NCAA considers using private investigators

No argument on the premise of your post, but the college logo associated with it suggests that you disagree with the punishment for the arrogant & unapologetic violations of Southern Cal.  The rules are there for all teams.  No matter how entitled some universities feel, they need to subscribe to those rules.  Southern Cal decided to "buy" championships.
  That shouldn't come without penalty.  Hell, run for Congress if you want to buy self worth & financial success, (you can even call them campaign contributors).

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