NEW YORK --- The NCAA's enforcement chief says punishing athletes for violations they didn't even know about would be a major shift in philosophy for the organization.
Days after the NCAA cleared Auburn quarterback Cam Newton to play despite finding his father broke the organization's rules, Julie Roe Lach said Monday that college sports' governing body traditionally has preferred to "fall on the side of the student-athlete."
In the wake of the Newton decision, some conference commissioners expressed concern that more adults will shop around recruits now that they've realized the player won't be suspended if he wasn't aware of the scheme. The Heisman Trophy front-runner is eligible to lead the Tigers against Oregon in the BCS title game, even though his father solicited money for the quarterback to sign at Mississippi State, because the NCAA so far has found no evidence Cam knew about the ploy or received benefits from it.
"That's the question I think a lot of people ask not just today, but when I worked in reinstatement 10 years ago. We struggled with the issue of student-athlete knowledge and culpability for certain violations vs. the deterrence factor," said Lach, the NCAA's new vice president of enforcement.
Lach was promoted to replace the retiring David Price in October, having worked previously both in rule enforcement and student-athlete reinstatement.
NCAA President Mark Emmert released a statement Thursday saying the organization was committed to strengthening and clarifying its rules to prevent a repeat of the Newton case.
Lach met wouldn't comment specifically about Newton, but she addressed in general terms several issues the case raised. She said the NCAA's Division I Amateurism Cabinet was studying whether to broaden the definition of who is considered an agent. A parent or adviser could be viewed as an agent based on their actions, giving the NCAA new approaches to prevent violations.
One important detail the Newton case illuminated was that infraction investigations of schools and eligibility decisions about athletes are separate processes.
The NCAA has noted that decisions on reinstatement often come before the investigation closes.
"If more information comes to light as a result of the enforcement staff or institution's investigation, and that information is credible and contradicts the prior facts that were used to base the reinstatement decision, then that information would need to go back to the reinstatement staff," Lach said.