Better Know a Compliance Rule #1:Don’t Mind the Size You’re Wearing, Mind the Size of Your Label

First, my disclaimer – I am not a compliance official of any sort.  I have a weird fascination with NCAA compliance.  The material below is just my interpretation of the rules in a easily digestible form for fans.  It should not be used by student-athletes or athletics officials for any formal use.

Anyone who works with me knows that I am a NCAA Compliance geek. I don’t know exactly how my interest in these daunting regulations began, but I suspect it might have began with being exposed to housing regulations as they related to the new residence hall where I worked and lived my senior year. Our building – brand new – appealed to basketball players because it served as break housing and had the highest ceilings on campus (always important when you are well over 6 feet tall.) However, NCAA Division I regulations restrict the number of student-athletes that can live in a single residence in rule 16.5 Housing and Rules:

“During the academic year, the institution may not house student-athletes in athletic dormitories or athletics blocks within institutional or privately owned dormitories or apartment buildings (when the institution arranges for the housing) on those day when institutional dormitories are open to the general student body.”

Athletic blocks and athletic dormitories are defined as units of residence (be they residences or floors) where at least fifty percent of the residents are student-athletes. Therefore, it could be very difficult to allow your student-athletes to participate in any lottery-based housing system – random assignments of selection numbers based on class year and/or credits earned – without having to go back into the system after housing selection and reassign some of your athletes just to be safe from a violation. Long story short – the entire men’s basketball team could not reside in my residence hall, despite the fact that it had some of the only showers on campus they could fit in without having to duck their head (no lie.)

Because of my compliance geekdom, I present to you a new reoccurring feature on my blog (aka, another excuse for me try to post more often): “Better Know a Compliance Rule.” (I hope I don’t get sued by Stephen Corbert.) Today’s Random Compliance Rule of the Day was discovered when I was looking for NCAA Compliance rules involving non-recruited walk-ons. Last week, all of Boston University was wrapped up in the aftermath of the suspension of four men’s hockey players for a undisclosed incident. The suspension, combined with two key injuries, left the team with the minimum of players to dress for their weekend games. It just happens that our unrecognized club ice hockey team just won the Club Hockey Beanpot, meaning we have a whole vat of not-too-shabby hockey players hanging out in our backyard. This led to various co-workers of mine asking, “Well, if we’re short handed and need players to dress, why doesn’t Jack Parker (coach of the Terriers) grab some of them?”

Now, mind you, my office is not Athletics and has no say in who Parker dresses for a game or accepts as a walk-on. But it got me intrigued as to the NCAA regulations involving unrecruited walk-ons, so I broke out the office copy of the 2007 NCAA Division I Manual (which I ordered, of course, after selfishly convincing my office that it would be a great use of $15.00) to quickly quench my curiosity. While I was looking, I found the following rule:

12. 5.4.1 Laundry Labels – If an institution’s uniform or any item of apparel worn by a student-athlete in competition contains washing instructions on the outside of the apparel on a patch that also includes the manufacturer’s or distributor’s logo or trademark, the entire patch must be contained within a four-sided geometrical figure (rectangle, square, parallelogram) that does not to exceed 2 1/4 square inches.

This rule refers to a patch often found on NFL replica jerseys – a rectangular patch on the outside of the jersey near the bottom hem that states the manufacturer and the size of the garment. I always found those labels tacky and unneeded for two reasons – one, maybe I’m being totally girly with this, but the whole world does not need to know what size I’m wearing, and two, it is completely just another way to get a company’s logo on the jersey. I understand the NCAA’s concern regarding the use of a corporate logo – they regulate the heck out of them – but what got me about this rule was the statement of the four-sided geometrical figure, and the examples that follow. Really, we had to explain what a four-sided geometrical figure is? And really, a parallelogram? That’s a phrase that is usually left to standardized test writers. I would love to see a laundry label that is in an awkwardly slanted four-sided shape with sides parallel to each other. Where’s the love for the triangles, octagons, and pentagons? Why does there need to be a qualifier on the number of sides? As long as the shape is of a certain area, I think you could allow for it to be any shape. My last beef with this rule is that most Division I teams are serviced by equipment managers who are charged with laundering jerseys – do they really need instructions? I imagine they know what they’re doing, for it is their job to wash these uniforms time and time again – doesn’t that make the purpose of the laundry label on a Division I athlete’s jersey unnecessary? Therefore, should these labels just be outlawed entirely by the NCAA?

As I explained to my father recently, NCAA regulations are very much like the law – highly detailed but open to interpretation. Most of the regulations boil down to determining when differential treatment occurs between a student-athlete and a non-student-athlete attending the same institution. However, like real lawyers, you can argue your way out of or into anything – in a extremely basic example that would rarely if ever occur, if a student-athlete receives several articles of clothing beyond the regulations on apparel, a compliance officer could argue that a non-student athlete in the span of an academic year had a similar opportunity to obtain an equal or greater amount of complimentary apparel, as long as they had the data to prove it. In an example from my everyday life, administrators are allowed to host student-athletes to a dinner as long as he or she offers the same opportunity to non-student athletes (in fact, in our practice, non-student athletes get the opportunity to do this than student athletes.) There are then additional issues involved with having student-athletes over to dinner (for example, there are stipulations on the meal taking place in an administrator’s house and not a restaurant) – but because non student-athletes get the opportunity for such a meal to a same, if not greater, amount, we have covered the most basic and overarching compliance rule. When we get into issues of amateurism in NCAA regulations, my initial generalization is non-applicable, if not completely turned on its head. A non-student athlete could be an artistic performer, could go out and obtain representation, sign a contract to perform and receive compensation, and still be eligible to perform in the college’s theatre troupe or choir. If a student-athlete does the same, they are rendered ineligible to compete. The greater societal good of amateurism regulations is a topic for another day, but consideration of amateurism on a logical basis absent of American society’s emphasis on sports over artistic talent, those regulations seem to be of an opposite logic of other NCAA rules.

I could be completely off on my study of the overarching themes of NCAA regulations – in all reality, I’m an event planner and educator, not a director of compliance – and if I am, please let me know. I always do run through any work-related compliance questions with my school’s Athletics department because I recognize that I don’t know everything about compliance. But I find the subject of compliance fascinating – but I promise that next time I share an amusing compliance rule, I won’t get all professor-y on you all.


In other news, I am still trying to finish the re-cap of my brief foray into sports management – working the Boston University – Cornell University men’s hockey game at Madison Square Garden. I hope to finish it by the end of the week, so be on the lookout for it!

And, I heart Trent Edwards. That is all. (Sorry, J.P.)


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Filed under Better Know a Compliance Rule, Boston University hockey, college hockey, hockey, NCAA basketball, NCAA Compliance, Trent Edwards

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