Part II: Lessons to Learn from the NCAA Football Season

Posted by Kenneth N. Winkler on

Lesson 2: Scrutiny over NCAA Rules Shows Importance of Establishing Sound Policies

The NCAA gets picked on a lot about its rules. In fairness to the NCAA, some of the rules that get ridiculed deal with complex problems and are defensible.  For example, the NCAA’s ban on paying players has been the focal point of recent debate.  There are sound reasons for and against paying players.

On the other hand, the NCCA has enforced certain rules that seem indefensible. One such rule allowed universities to provide players with bagels as a snack, but barred universities from providing cream cheese to spread on the bagels.

Similarly, this season there was an uproar over the NCCA’s initial denial of eligibility to a former Marine, Steven Rhodes, because of his participation in intramural football as a Marine.   The NCAA initially ruled that Rhodes, who had recently finished his active enlistment, had to forfeit two years of eligibility and take a mandatory redshirt year this season for Middle Tennessee.  According to NCCA rules, Rhodes’ participation in a recreational football league at the Marine base counted as “organized competition” because there were game officials, team uniforms and the score was kept. As Rhodes explained to The (Murfreesboro) Daily News Journal, the recreational league was not an organized league warranting NCAA oversight:

“Man, it was like intramurals for us. . . There were guys out there anywhere from 18 to 40-something years old. The games were spread out. We once went six weeks between games.”

When the story made national headlines, the NCAA changed its position and rendered Rhodes eligible.

A critical lesson can be learned from the NCCA’s overreaching rulebook:  Maintain rules that are necessary and make sense for your business.  Too often employers implement rules without giving appropriate thought to the meaning and purpose of the rules or their impact on operations.  Cutting and pasting policies from an existing handbook or from the internet can be dangerous.  Employers that adopt overly restrictive progressive discipline policies, for example, limit their freedom to issue discipline and can destroy the employer’s ability to terminate an employee at-will.   Implementing policies that do not fit your organization can be more damaging than not having a policy.  Managers may choose to look the other way and avoid enforcing rules that they do not understand or believe are necessary.  This can be problematic, because employers are vulnerable to discrimination claims when rules are not enforced consistently.

For these reasons, it is prudent to review your company handbook and policies each year to ensure they comply with applicable law and benefit your company. Once you have ensured the appropriate rules are in place, managers should be trained to understand what they mean and why they are necessary.