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Helping athletic directors comply with governance association rules

This is an excerpt from Athletic Director’s Desk Reference by Donna Lopiano and Connee Zotos.


7.9 Planning Tool


Rules Compliance Policies

Policies should clearly define the responsibilities of staff members and higher administration officials (registrar, director of admissions, and so on) in the determination of eligibility, the submission of supporting data, and the completion and submission of required compliance reports. Policies 7.10, 7.11, 7.12, and 7.13 are provided in the web resource as examples of such documents.


Rules Compliance Manual

A critical management responsibility is the design and implementation of a comprehensive rules compliance system beginning with the development of a rules compliance manual. The rules compliance manual should include (1) deadlines and instruction for the preparation of each eligibility report required by the institution’s state or national athletic governance association or athletic league or conference; (2) copies of forms, reports, and other documentation for all eligibility, financial aid, and other rules determinations; (3) copies of policies and accountabilities related to rules compliance; and (4) educational programs and resources to be delivered to staff, student-athletes, and representatives of athletic interests (parents, fans, and alumni). With regard to instructions for completion of each rules compliance report, such materials should contain the following information:

  • Processing timetable
  • Processing checklist
  • Definition of terms
  • Rules references to be followed
  • Applicable rules or institutional policy interpretations
  • Sample forms to use to obtain the information required for the report
  • Designation of staff members involved in preparation of the report and each staff member’s specific responsibilities, including the staff member with overall responsibility for ensuring completion of the report process
  • Designation of required signatories

The appendices of the rules compliance manual should contain a copy of all forms, cover letters, and educational resources used in compliance processes. Following is a sample table of contents for such a rules compliance manual:


Sample Table of Contents for Rules Compliance Manual

1.0 Duties and Responsibilities of Designated Individuals

2.0 Recruiting

3.0 Award of Financial Aid to Student-Athletes

4.0 Determination of Student-Athlete Eligibility

5.0 Admission of Student-Athletes

6.0 Certification of Continuing Eligibility

7.0 Obtaining Rules Interpretations

8.0 Monitoring Rules Compliance, Extra Benefits, and Eligibility

9.0 Obtaining Waivers

10.0 Investigation and Reporting of Rules Violations

11.0 Rules Education

12.0 Appendixes


A rules compliance manual is essential for several reasons:

  • Whenever a report has critical compliance implications and deadlines that could result in student-athlete ineligibility for competition, the user manual becomes an essential risk control mechanism.
  • Eligibility reports depend on the academic idiosyncrasies and variable policies of both the institution and its numerous academic units (colleges, departments, and so on). After the correct application of governance association rules is determined for specific situations (transferable credits, noncountable electives, and so on), this information must be memorialized to ensure the consistency of future reports and documentation of formal decisions by academic authorities. These decisions must be supported by written proof of certification that must be produced if eligibility is ever questioned.
  • Someone outside the athletic department is usually the required signatory (e.g., registrar, director of student financial aid, director of admissions) to ensure that the athletic department is not policing itself. Thus, these people must be taught about NCAA rules. Although meetings and governance association rules manuals are essential for this purpose, the report preparation material in the rules compliance manual must serve as the rules and decision-making anchor for the certifying authority.
  • Several people are usually involved in preparation of the report. These people must know their lines of responsibility and respective deadlines, and one person must be designated to oversee the entire process.
  • Highly detailed instructions and education systems are required to compensate for the inevitable staff turnover within and outside athletics.
  • Degree requirements change all the time. Detailed documentation must be maintained of degree program requirements operable at the time student-athlete eligibility was determined.

Verification of Rules Compliance

Although many national governance associations and conferences assist their member institutions by providing the forms on which information is assembled and submitted along with instructions for completing those documents, this information is never fully institution specific. Thus, these documents and instructions must be supplemented with institution-specific processing details (who does what by when). Athletic directors or their directors of compliance should construct customized instructional manuals describing all processes used for each of the following critical reports if they are required by conference, league, state, or national governance association rules:

  • Squad list (roster of eligible athletes)
  • Report of athletic-related financial aid (not applicable for high schools)
  • Satisfactory progress toward the degree
  • Graduation rate report
  • Report of athletic participation and seasons of eligibility completed
  • Verification of full-time enrollment report

A formal verification document should be attached to each of these reports. The document should contain the signature of all institutional authorities who are responsible for preparing, reviewing, and verifying the accuracy of the report. Form 7.14 accomplishes this purpose.


In support of such reports, the administrator in charge of rules compliance should also be responsible for designating data collection and processing forms and educational resources to be used to support the documentation of these eligibility reports or communication of rules requirements. Examples of such documents include Form 7.15, Educational Resource 7.16, Form 7.17, Form 7.18, and Form 7.19.


Athletic Scholarships and Recruiting Documentation

Athletic scholarship agreements are legally binding contracts with student-athletes. The recruiting procedures and award of such scholarships should be clearly documented to ensure compliance with governance association rules. Policy 7.20, Form 7.21, and Form 7.22 in the web resource can be used to ensure adequate documentation of these processes.


Other Forms Related to Rules Compliance

Additional rules-related forms and policies are explained in subsequent chapters and included in the web resource:

  • Documentation checklist for recruited and walk-on student-athlete selected for team (all required questionnaires and forms) (Section 2.0 of Policy 11.5)
  • Walk-on student-athlete documentation checklist (all required questionnaires and forms) (Form 11.4)
  • Notification of status of student-athlete: clearance to practice and participate (Section 5.0 of Policy 11.5)
  • Consent forms for drug testing (Form 9.14) and allowing disclosure of health and other athlete information (Forms 9.6 and 11.7)
  • Student-athlete completion of degree agreement (Form 8.5)

Invariably, the compliance director will end up designing a number of data collection forms that provide the information needed to complete compliance reports. In addition, the athletic governance association or conference will provide forms to the institution such as those required to request waivers of rules or report rules violations. Typical forms include the following:

  • Transfer Student-Athlete Information Form
  • Application for Medical Hardship Waiver
  • Approval for Outside Competition
  • Notification of Official Visit
  • Report of Completion of Official Visit
  • Report of Unofficial Visit
  • Complimentary Admissions Report
  • Designation of Prospective Student-Athlete
  • Prospective Student-Athlete Checklist
  • Eligibility Worksheet
  • Approval Form: Student-Athlete Receipt of Awards From an External Agency
  • Coaches’ Certification to Recruit Off-Campus
  • Approval of Student-Athlete Participation in Speaking, Charitable, and Other External Activities

Rules compliance requires a staff that is highly organized, capable of attending to detail, and fully committed to following procedures. Rules compliance manuals are the playbooks that enable excellent performance by the compliance team.


Read more from Athletic Director’s Desk Reference by Donna Lopiano and Connee Zotos.



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