NCAA President Mark Emmert says the organization could look into changing its bylaws to better establish its authority to address situations like the child sex abuse scandals at Penn State and Syracuse.
The governing body already has a working group considering different rules to prevent violations in what have traditionally been college sports' problem areas, such as recruiting and amateurism.
“This may — I'm underscoring may — become a point of discussion with them. If we're going to do something, the timing would be pretty good,” Emmert said Wednesday. “Right now there's not an active discussion of it, but this is a very new topic.”
The NCAA is examining whether Penn State violated bylaws covering institutional control and ethical conduct in its handling of accusations of child sex abuse against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. It is monitoring the Syracuse situation — in which three men have accused former men's basketball assistant coach Bernie Fine of molesting them — but has not initiated an inquiry.
The NCAA can't discipline members simply because an employee broke the law, but parts of the Penn State scandal might fall under its current jurisdiction, Emmert said.
“This is allegedly about behaviour that took place on campus, by members of a program and allegedly covered up by members of that program,” he told reporters after speaking at the Intercollegiate Athletics Forum.
The NCAA asked Penn State to respond to a letter of inquiry about the scandal by Dec. 16, though it is unlikely the school will be able to provide all the information the NCAA is seeking by then because of several ongoing investigations.
“This is a new approach for us,” Emmert said. “We're asking some of the same questions of what is the appropriate role of the NCAA in this matter. So at this stage we're conducting an inquiry; we're going to ascertain whether or not the bylaws in place right now come into play.”
Potential rules changes could make the NCAA's role clearer in dealing with similar cases in the future.
Emmert described the current state of college athletics as “the best of times and the worst of times” during a panel discussion at the forum, which is sponsored by IMG and hosted by SportsBusiness Journal/Daily.