November 15, 2011

Huffington Post Blogger Calls for NCAA Ombuds

Eric Schmeltzer, a political and communications consultant, argues that the National Collegiate Athletic Association should establish an independent investigative body to to monitor all of its member schools. The editorial was prompted by the recent allegations that a Penn State Football coach sexually assaulted minors, but also references other college sports scandals. Schmeltzer envisions a Ombuds program with investigatory powers similar to the Ontario Ombudsman:

With one lump-sum payment from the NCAA to set up the body, and mandatory payments from member schools to keep it running, this Office of the NCAA Ombudsman would be responsible for investigating any and all claims brought to it, and guaranteeing the absolute, complete anonymity of its sources. The Ombudsman him or herself would be hired by an executive search firm -- not by the NCAA -- and once established, would make his or her own hiring and firing decisions. The office should be given enough money to hire a decent number of regional investigators (possibly one in each state), who would act as a point of first contact for anyone within his or her region. This investigator would have authority over any college or university's athletics program within his or her jurisdiction, and full access to anything he or she needs to verify or dispel charges brought to the office's attention. If member schools don't like that, then they can leave the NCAA, and take the major PR hit of not wanting to be kept honest.

At the end of any investigation, the Office of the Ombudsman would release a full report on findings, with recommendations for punishment. This report and its recommendations would be made public at the time it is turned over to the NCAA and the school investigated. This would put pressure on the NCAA and the school to accept the recommendations for punishment, or try to explain why it thinks a school's program deserves more of a slap on the wrist.

Ken Pendleton, writing on the Competition Not Conflict blog, agrees. (Huffington Post; CNC Blog.)

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