INDIANAPOLIS — Rule-breakers are about to find out just how tough the NCAA can be.
After debating changes for more than a year, the board of directors is poised to vote Tuesday on an enforcement proposal that would streamline the infractions process, impose harsher sanctions on violators and expand the current two-tiered penalty structure to four.
The details were first released in August when the board endorsed a proposal that has remained essentially unchanged.
NCAA President Mark Emmert has been pushing for the reforms since a spate of scandals rocked college sports last year. At a presidential retreat in August 2011, Emmert called on school officials to help assure coaches and athletic departments would no longer make ethical decisions based on a risk-reward analysis.
Tuesday’s vote is the next step.
“I’m extremely pleased with the speed with which we’ve been able to make progress,” Emmert told The Associated Press before the meeting. “We made our first set of reforms around academic expectations and standards in pretty much record time. We will vote (Tuesday) on the second big piece.”
If the proposal is approved Tuesday, as expected, the changes would be sweeping.
Schools and coaches would not only have to contend with an infractions hearing but may have to deal with accusations of aggravating circumstances, too.
Violators found in violation of a “serious breach of conduct” with aggravating circumstances could face postseason bans of two to four years and fines of millions of dollars from specific events or gross revenue generated by the sport during years in which sanctions occurred — just like Penn State earlier this year.
In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, the NCAA banned the Nittany Lions’ football program from postseason play until after the 2016 season and levied a $60 million fine on the school.
Coaches, too, will be held more accountable.
Under the new structure, they would be presumed responsible for violations committed by their staffs unless they could prove they were unaware of it. Those who cannot could be suspended from 10 percent of the season to a full season.
That’s not all.
Penalties would be meted out more quickly.
The proposal calls for expanding the infractions committee membership from 10 to as much as 24, serving in a rotation to speed up the hearing process.
Any program committing infractions following Tuesday’s meeting would be subjected to the new guidelines immediately.
And though the new structure won’t officially take effect until Aug. 1, schools currently under investigation, such as Miami, could face the harsher sanctions, too.
Emmert has backed every piece of the reform movement so far.
Last fall, the governing body passed a measure calling for tougher eligibility requirements on incoming freshmen and junior college transfers; another that used academic performance to help determine postseason eligibility; a third to give schools the flexibility to offer multiyear scholarships that withstood an override motion and a fourth that set up a $2,000 stipend for student-athletes, which was stopped by the override movement.
Emmert has promised a new proposal for what the governing body calls a miscellaneous expense allowance, but it’s unlikely to be heard until the board’s January or April meeting.
“The differences being explored right now are whether or not to include a need-based component in it so that students have to have demonstrated financial need before they might get the miscellaneous expense allowance,” he said. “There’s not a final proposal at this time. I’m sure it’ll be hotly debated. It’s an issue that provokes a lot of passion on either side of it.”
Another NCAA committee is trying to shrink the massive rule book. No formal proposal is expected before January.