Image credit: Getty / Photoshop by Rebecca O’Connell
The NCAA has a lot of rules and, as a self-governing body, they rarely have anyone standing in the way when they want to add, remove, or alter these rules. Their list of guidelines and regulations is changing all the time, and this frequently results in violations by students, schools, or school employees that, when put in the context of how a modern society operates, look pretty darn ridiculous.
Because the NCAA heartily encourages and expects schools to self-report any violations, many schools follow compliance very seriously, either out of respect for the order of the law or, as is often the case, to highlight the association’s inane nitpicking.
Here are some recent examples of ridiculous rules violations—most self-reported—according to the guidelines of the NCAA (a non-profit organization that, thanks to a separate set of wacky rules, boasts an annual revenue nearing one billion dollars).
1, 2, and 3. Oklahoma Football Team Eats Too Much Pasta; Coach Commits An Illegal Butt-Dial; Soccer Recruit Uses WiFi
In 2013, the University of Oklahoma self-reported a long list of secondary violations committed by the athletic department over an 18-month span. Included in this was a shocking confession: Three players ate more pasta than they were allowed:
Violation: Three current student-athletes received food in excess of NCAA regulation at a graduation banquet. The three had graduated from the school but returned for an additional season of competition. The players were provided pasta in excess of the permissible amount allowed. Resolution: The three were required to donate $3.83 each (the cost of the pasta serving) to a charity of their choice in order to be reinstated. The department provided rules education to applicable athletics department staff members.
The NCAA said they didn’t make that rule or order the ensuing punishment, and insisted that these were both determined by the university. The Oklahoman pointed out, however, that the school had likely been responding to NCAA bylaw 184.108.40.206:
220.127.116.11 Incidental Benefits—Reasonable Refreshments. An institution may provide student-athletes with reasonable refreshments (e.g., soft drinks, snacks) for student-athlete educational and business meetings and, on an occasional basis, for celebratory events (e.g., birthdays). [R] (Adopted: 10/28/99)
Because the pasta constituted a full meal and not a snack, Oklahoma wanted to be extra-vigilant. In addition, the school reported an assistant coach’s accidental butt-dial of a recruit that resulted in the player being declared ineligible pending further review:
Violation: Assistant coach Bruce Kittle pocket-dialed a recruit a day after receiving a permissible text message from the recruit. Resolution: Football staff was prohibited from initiating phone calls or correspondence with the recruit involved for four weeks and the recruit was declared ineligible for competition at the school barring NCAA reinstatement (self-imposed).
Besides pasta eating and butt-dialing, a woman’s soccer recruit ran afoul of the rulebook when she charged her hotel’s daily wifi fee to the university’s tab:
Violation: A recruit, staying in the Embassy Suites on an official visit, ordered Internet service for $9.95. Assistant women’s coach Graeme Abel did not notice the additional expense on the bill. Resolution: The recruit was ruled ineligible for competition at the school until repayment for the bill is made to the charity of her choice. The coaching staff was provided detailed rules education regarding additional lodging expenses. The form given to recruits on official visits was modified to include mention of additional lodging expenses.
4. Oregon Baseball’s “Impermissible” Laser Tag
Like Oklahoma, Oregon self-reported a long list of violations that would strike many as peculiar. Paramount among these: laser tag. The school treated the baseball team to a meal (one of 12 permitted during an academic year) and some mini golf and laser tag. Jody Sykes, Oregon’s chief compliance officer, reported the afternoon of laser-based fun, assuming the NCAA would consider it “impermissible entertainment.”
“There are some silly rules in there,” Sykes told The Oregonian, “but we are part of the NCAA and we have agreed to be a member and we are responsible for those rules.”
5. Geno Auriemma’s Illegal Phone Call To Congratulate Little League Pitcher Mo’ne Davis
Mo’ne Davis was the feel-good sports story of the summer of 2014, but when UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma called the 13-year-old little leaguer and fellow Philadelphian to pass along his congratulations, the NCAA slapped him with a secondary recruiting violation. The bylaws state coaches aren’t allowed to call prospects until their junior year of high school—not even to say a quick, “Way to go.”
6, 7, and 8. Mississippi State’s Illegal Table, Recruiting Stickers, and Caps and Gowns
The Mississippi State Bulldogs self-reported a list of 21 secondary violations during the 2013-’14 school year, including improper stickers and the use of an egregious table. For “Junior Day” invites to football recruits, the school applied stickers to the envelopes which is, according to the rulebook, a no-no. They also had a table in the locker room to hold equipment which, under the guidelines, constitutes a “special addition,” so they had to report it.
They school also confessed to activity that fell under “Extra benefits provided to student-athletes.” In their report, they listed the violation thusly: “Barnes and Noble bookstore did not charge student-athletes a late fee for their cap and gown rentals.”
9. South Carolina’s Improper Icing On Cookies
From an AP report on South Carolina’s self-reported secondary violations to the NCAA, which were submitted in 2014:
Impermissible iced decorations on a cookie cakes given to prospects.
BONUS: Illegal Dunks By North Florida Basketball Players
There’s a rule—specifically Section 4, Class B, Article 1e—in the NCAA Men’s Basketball rulebook stating that players can’t dunk during the last 20 minutes of pregame warmups. Should they violate this, the other team is rewarded two technical free throws at the start of the game. This is what happened when Tennessee Tech beat the University of North Florida in 2014, and North Florida had illegally dunked during pregame. Tennessee Tech hit their two freebies, and you can probably guess what the final score looked like:
Tennessee Tech 82
University of North Florida 80