It wasnt the want-to that was missing from the Boise State athletic departments compliance effort.
It was the how-to.
That has changed dramatically with more than double the staff giving compliance more expertise, visibility and reach improvements prompted by the schools first NCAA major-violations case, which culminated about a year ago with penalties levied against five sports and a finding that the athletic department lacked institutional control.
Boise State made due with 1.5 compliance employees before the infractions case, which included an ineligible player competing for the womens tennis team and football players providing summer housing often a couch or a spot on the floor for incoming players.
The school now has 3.75 compliance employees, including Executive Director of NCAA Compliance John Cunningham. He joined the staff in August 2011.
The size of the staff seemed appropriate, Boise State President Bob Kustra said. Its only when you have a major violation and things really break down and you see coaches who didnt have the information that they should have had and you see mistakes being made that you realize its going to take more. Its going to take more not just in terms of the numbers of people, but in the systems and processes you put in place.
I dont think this is simply about the number of compliance officers. This is about how savvy they are.
The dedication to compliance has become pervasive within the department.
Its the first topic of every meeting held by Athletic Director Mark Coyle, who started at Boise State in January replacing Gene Bleymaier, who was fired largely because of the holes in the compliance operation.
Cunninghams staff meets with each teams coaches once a month to discuss sport-specific compliance issues and emails athletes rules and tips.
Compliance staffers travel to all road football games where players, their families and fans mix at hotels and to select events in other sports.
The department has a Facebook page (facebook.com/BoiseStateCompliance) that educates student-athletes and fans, and a page in the football game programs.
Theres even something called Toilet Tips a page posted in the athletic department bathrooms that provides a hypothetical situation and details the NCAA rules that would apply.
I came up on the external (operations) side and I always used the line that were all in fundraising, Coyle said. I now say were all in compliance.
That includes Kustra, who shifted compliance from the athletic department to the presidents office when the school faced a hearing before the NCAAs Committee on Infractions in June 2011.
He moved compliance back to the athletic department on July 1 of this year a decision influenced by a COI member who told Kustra it would be a mistake to create a structure that left the athletic director without responsibility for compliance.
Still, Coyle and Cunningham wanted Kustra to have a direct relationship to compliance. That provides an additional layer of oversight from outside the department.
Kustras solution: a project management approach.
Kustra, general counsel Kevin Satterlee, Coyle and Cunningham share responsibility for compliance. Cunningham plans to meet with Kustra once per month.
The NCAA has come forward and said its the presidents job to make sure you have institutional control, Cunningham said. It wouldnt make much sense to not have a direct report to the president. I think its the way most of the biggest schools are going.
Said Kustra: Ive never felt so confident.
WE HAD NO IDEA
Boise State football coach Chris Petersen said the lack of compliance staffers likely contributed to violations in his program.
The thing thats so frustrating about this whole situation is we tried to pay so close attention to compliance, always, he said. If there was ever any question, we were trying to ask. What I think is different now, theres more people there and theres checks and balances in place, and theres more resources for us to go to.
For the first time, Petersen told the Idaho Statesman how the football program found itself in trouble with the NCAA.
The school was cited for helping newcomers find summer housing at players residences, and for players providing housing, meals and transportation at a reduced rate or for free.
It was a tradition within the team players talked about it in the media, clearly unaware it was against the rules and one Petersen said he brought with him from Oregon. He was the Ducks wide receivers coach from 1995 to 2000 and joined the Broncos staff as offensive coordinator in 2001.
Boise States case covered only the summers of 2005 through 2009. The NCAA has a four-year statute of limitations on most violations.
The compliance office used an athletics participation clearance form to determine whether incoming players were eligible to participate in summer workouts.
We ran every guy that came right through compliance: You tell us whether hes good to go or not, Petersen said. So that housing thing never came up. No one said, Where are they staying? The first time Gene ever asked me I said, They stay with some of our guys.
The COI, however, said in its public report that Boise State should have known the rule. Cases in 2006 (Kansas) and 2007 (West Virginia) included warnings from the committee about the potential pitfalls of having incoming athletes on campus in the summer before enrollment.
Coaches take a 30-question compliance test once a year. This is one (rule) where we had no idea, Petersen said. It didnt make sense that this is an extra benefit.
The football program later ran into problems with two players from Holland who were recruited while playing for Boise high schools. Defensive tackle Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe was suspended for six games last year and wide receiver Geraldo Boldewijn was suspended for four games last year and four more this year because of impermissible benefits tied to their host families.
The first two suspensions stemmed from a shortage of compliance knowledge. The host families became an issue in part because the NCAA determined the players were not part of an international exchange program and came to America with some athletic intent, Petersen said.
Nobody had ever heard of those rules, he said.
Thats why he appreciates the increased staffing and the compliance departments location within a first down of the coaches offices. A member of the football staff visits compliance several times a week, Petersen said.
We have guys here, and we have had guys here, who want to do it right, he said. We just need information. We ask them 100 times a month, Well, how is so-and-so doing this? We want to do everything that everybody else is doing as long as its within the rules. You have more people, more resources, they can get you answers quicker.
In fact, Petersen is chagrined that hell soon be 150 yards from the nearest compliance officer when the new football complex in the north end zone of Bronco Stadium opens in July.
Compliance is a good thing, Petersen said. Its your insurance marker that everything is right.
MORE VIOLATIONS REPORTED
The more vigorous compliance effort comes with an ironic price: more reported violations.
The more proactive you become, the more things youre going to see, Coyle said. When youre dealing with humans, nobody is perfect.
In the year starting Aug. 1, 2011, Boise State reported 28 secondary violations to the NCAA, according to school officials. In the previous year, the school reported 14.
Details werent provided, but Cunningham said some were found when the education provided by the compliance office taught coaches that they were doing something incorrectly.
Whenever you come off of a major infraction, you beef up compliance, you put more resources into monitoring, you put more resources into education, said Cunningham, who holds a law degree from Nebraska and previously worked at Maryland and TCU. The natural consequence of that is people become aware of issues they werent aware of previously.
Thats what the NCAA wants to occur.
TURN IT IN ANDWELL DEAL WITH IT
Many secondary violations are inadvertent and minor, but they do come with penalties. They dont require NCAA hearings and some of the penalties are mandatory based on the infraction.
Boldewijns latest suspension and the dismissal of an unidentified football player were two of the most severe secondary penalties in the past year. Cunningham hopes the number of secondary violations will drop as his staffs education efforts take hold, but he hesitates to make that a goal.
You dont want it to cause someone to wonder if they should report something, he said. We tell them, If its suspected, rumored or substantiated, turn it in and well deal with it.
One of Cunninghams successes, Kustra said, has been convincing coaches, athletes, administrators and boosters that hes their partner.
Its really important in compliance that this not look like some traffic cop is here to look over our shoulders, Kustra said. What John does is educate, provide information and help people make the right decisions.
The other two full-time compliance staffers are Ike Ukaegbu, whos in charge of education, and Jenny Bellomy, whos in charge of monitoring. The office also has a part-time, 30-hour-a-week position.
They use a department-wide software program to monitor activities like interaction with recruits. Coaches log their evaluations and visits and the software can spot a violation. For phone calls, the software is preventative it will stop a coach from making an impermissible call.
Compliance staffers monitor other issues like practice time. But its the education effort that has been upgraded the most.
The monthly meetings with each coaching staff have been a popular addition.
Theres complete buy-in from the coaches, Cunningham said. Its come to a point where they really appreciate the knowledge, especially when it relates to their sport.
Each student-athlete attends three compliance meetings a year.
Compliance also meets with each non-coaching staff like sports information directors or equipment managers once per semester. The meetings last spring included a customized compliance test.
Everybody did pretty well, Cunningham said. It was a good chance to go over some of the things they missed on that and see if there were some trends.
USING FACEBOOK AND ALL RESOURCES
Externally, compliance has used a variety of techniques to try to build a wall of education around the athletes. The Facebook page and Compliance Corner in the football game programs reach a broad audience. Cunningham also has sent letters to businesses surrounding the university and, learning from another schools violations, to area golf courses.
Thats the biggest challenge is the outside constituency groups, Cunningham said. As you go further outside the core group, thats where it gets more scary.
Thats also where its critical that the athletes know the rules, and make the right decisions.
Football players say the emphasis on compliance is clear.
Theyre more hands-on now, sophomore wide receiver Matt Miller said. Weve had quite a bit more compliance meetings. They do a great job sending us emails, informing us on the rules. Definitely theyre communicating a lot better with us.
Redshirt freshman defensive end Sam Ukwuachu said he hears something about compliance almost daily, but he hasnt faced any difficult decisions.
Its just common sense what to do, what not to do, he said. Be precautious. Think before you act.
That approach likely covers most situations.
Its the less-obvious rules that cost the football program practice time (less contact in the spring, fewer practices in fall camp) and scholarships (nine over three years, pending appeal) and those are the mistakes administrators expect their investment in compliance to prevent in the future.
As the program grows, so will its compliance effort.
When John Cunningham and Kevin (Satterlee) and Mark (Coyle) tell me we need more staff, Kustra said, well have more staff.
Thats perhaps the most important way that Boise State has prioritized compliance in the past year in its budget.
Compliance is the backbone of your program, Coyle said. Were going to do things the right way. We say, Were going to live in truth, always.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat