The Touchables

By Johnny Ginter on June 30, 2011 at 1:00p
Make sure when your shift is over you go home alive

The official Twitter account of the Ohio State Athletic Compliance Office has six hundred and thirty three followers, which I would bet dollars to doughnuts is several hundred more than they had roughly seven months ago.

Scandal does that; people want to get on the ground floor of whatever the topic of the day is, and right now Twitter is the easiest (and laziest) way to try and gobble up any juicy crumb of controversy that might fall from the horse's mouth.

Unfortunately those who took the plunge into the wild and crazy world that is the Twitter account of OSU Compliance were probably disappointed to find out that the vast majority of what is posted is less of the "OMG TP NOT AGAAAINNNNNNN smh" variety and more along the lines of "If Legislative Council doesn't change its decision, an override vote of the membership shall occur...but not at a Convention."

Some of it is actually fairly interesting stuff; OSU Compliance often details certain NCAA rules and bylaws, and if you want to get a greater understanding of the rules themselves, it's not a bad account to follow. In the wake of recent events one would expect that OSU's Compliance Office would know the rules inside and out. The thing is though, that's only about 25% of their job.

Which leads a number of people, including Board of Trustees member Robert Schottenstein, to think that they're not doing the other 75% as well as they should be.

Robert Schottenstein has been by far the most vocal of the Board of Trustees so far with regard to OSU football and NCAA compliance. From a June 23rd Lantern article:

"We believe we have very sound processes and protocols, many of them have been validated by third parties as being at or near best in class," Schottenstein said. "Still as I said, we believe we can get better." ..."We will be reviewing best practices and model programs not just within the academic arena that are at other institutions, but we will also be reviewing model compliance programs in the private sector as well as other non-profit organizations and as I said we will be accessing all aspects of our compliance programs within the university," Schottenstein said.

Part of the reason for that assessment is a growing concern that the Athletic Compliance Department has been too cozy with the Athletic Department. The Board of Trustees couldn't have been happy when it was publicized that an internal audit in November of 2010 showed that OSU Compliance wasn't monitoring the football program as closely as it should have been, or that Compliance Director Doug Archie drives a courtesy car from a Columbus dealership.

Schottenstein, chairman of the Audit and Compliance Comittee for OSU's Board of Trustees, wants to create a Compliance Office that oversees the medical center, research, and the athletic department. In an April meeting, he suggested that OSU would be engaging PricewaterhouseCooper for the contract to be OSU's external auditor (page 25). PwC is the second largest professional services company in the world (the first is the previous contract holder, Deloitte), and has seen its fair share of controversy.

Of course, PwC is a gigantic company and would likely have little to do with the process of educating student athletes about NCAA rules, enforcing them, and reporting any violations. But the larger point is that any kind of oversight, be it auditing the tax claims of a multi billion dollar Russian oil conglomerate or making sure that Tyler Moeller isn't given a free crunchwrap supreme at Taco Bell, becomes increasingly difficult to achieve if the means of enforcement is too large and unwieldy to do its job efficiently.

My fear is that if the OSU Athletic Compliance Office is absorbed into a larger office, the ability to monitor might actually become worse; instead of someone with a vested interest in OSU athletics trying to snuff out problems, you'd have someone with no real motivation at all. Internal Athletic Department audits might be given even less credence if they come from a faceless and distant "General Compliance Office."

Therefore to become the effective policing element that Schottenstein seems to want it to be, the OSU Athletic Compliance Office must retain some sense of autonomy within the greater sphere of OSU Compliance.  If OSU is serious about improving the way they monitor their Athletic Department they will need to allow it to have a (new) internal administrator, and people who can pull off the trick of both understanding how OSU athletics works while also being motivated enough to enforce the rules with an Eliot Ness like tenacity.

Gene Smith's best bro from high school football isn't the solution, but neither is Worker Drone #48928.


In 2005, Karen Holbrook asked then AD Andy Geiger to "...more closely align the athletic compliance office with the legal-affairs office to ensure its independence." In hindsight this was pretty smart on her part, but it also implies a protective stance toward OSU athletics rather than an investigative one. The thing is, neither stance is "wrong." When players are treated unfairly or accused wrongly, they need to know that OSU is on their side, and when violations do occur, OSU has to be willing and able to investigate vigorously.

For an Athletics Compliance Department, the two shouldn't be mutually exclusive, and hopefully a revamped compliance department can meet that goal.

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