Assessing the NCAA as a Compliance Organization
62 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2021 Last revised: 6 Oct 2021
Date Written: March 4, 2021
The National Collegiate Athletic Association is, at essence, a compliance organization. This is evidenced by the NCAA’s stated and functional mission—one supported by a considerable and growing administrative apparatus—that is aimed at ensuring its member-schools abide by the association’s rules. While a significant body of academic literature analyzes the NCAA and its bylaws, surprisingly none of these prior works evaluate the effectiveness of the NCAA as a compliance organization. This omission is glaring considering the past decade has seen a rich body of work emerge regarding the field of corporate governance and organizational compliance. And it is all the more surprising given the sustained and withering critiques of the NCAA centered on the association’s inability to adequately and fairly police the integrity of college athletics.
This article seeks to fill this conspicuous gap in the literature by analyzing the NCAA through the lens of corporate compliance. What it finds, after applying theories based in behavioral ethics, criminology, and procedural justice, is that the association’s legislative and enforcement apparatus has become so overwrought, so “overcriminalized,” that it is eroding the legitimacy of the NCAA as a whole. Critically, this delegitimization not only decreases compliance effectiveness, but actually fosters future wrongdoing by allowing players, coaches, staff, and third-parties to rationalize rule-breaking behavior. In its misguided attempts to increase the integrity of college sports, the NCAA has damaged its own legitimacy, thereby creating conditions ripe for further rule violations. The origins, operation, and examples of this phenomenon are detailed, but so too are the implications for the NCAA, which must learn from corporate compliance if it is ever to effectuate its laudable, yet increasingly embattled, mission.
Keywords: NCAA, Alston, compliance, sports law
JEL Classification: K10, K14, K20, K21, K30, K42, K82, Z20, Z22
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation