Have you ever bought an athlete a drink?
Really? Not even when you were in college? Just one drink to say 'hey' or to hit on the athlete or to just congratulate them on a job well done.
If you did, you and that player just committed an NCAA violation.
It's hard to believe that something so innocent could get your favorite athletic department in trouble, but it happens all the time.
Even famed Florida State coach Bobby Bowden acknowledges that it's impossible to run a completely clean program.
"No [you can't run a totally clean program]. And by that I don't mean that some coaches purposely try to break the rules. I mean, I don't care how good you are. Let's just say it's raining and one of your boys has to go to school and he's two miles away and some booster drives by and sees him, picks him up and carries him to school. Well, that's a violation. … You can't cover all that stuff. It's going to happen. What you have to do, what do you do about it? Well, you self-report it. You've got to turn yourself in. If you turn yourself in for something like that, they'll usually excuse you and don't let it happen again."
Compliance has become the latest buzzword because various rule breaking incidents at Ohio State, USC, Tennessee, Boise State and North Carolina, among others. Obviously, all of those schools engaged in a little more than players taking car rides in the rain or accepting a beer from a fan, but rules are rules, regardless of how minute and sometimes it's the casual fan that helps athletes break them.
I was a Division I college athlete for three seasons and I can't tell you how many times I had food or drinks bought for me or how many times I saw it bought for others across all sports. No one thought anything about it. Of course, some violations were more egregious than others, but for the most part we all thought it was harmless. Just people being nice. And we had all sat through the compliance seminars and watched the NCAA videos. Didn't really seem to matter.
OK, so why am I bringing this up. Well, the Cleveland Plain Dealer had an interesting story today about compliance, which included a test on whether you could tell if you were helping commit a violation or not. I can honestly say that I didn't know all the answers to all the questions.
Can you tell which ones are violations and which aren't?
* During dinner, a super fan of the local college basketball team notices a few of the players glued to the big-screen TV at a nearby sports bar. To show his appreciation, he buys them a pitcher of pop and an extra-large bucket of spicy wings. He's not an official booster.
* A football team spends the night before a big road game in a hotel a few miles from the stadium. The university springs for pay-per-view movies so they can relax in their rooms.
* A tipster calls the university compliance office after learning the college is paying for contact lenses and braces for its athletes.
You'll have to go to the link to find out the answers, but they may surprise you and give you a different perspective on how difficult it is to monitor athletes. That's why Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne has asked students to start policing their student athletes and places such as Colorado post signs in each bathroom stall that give facts about compliance and how to spot a violation.
So, as you head into the next sports season, just be aware how easy it is to find yourself in that compliance gray area. As Bowden said, no athletic department can be squeaky clean.