Each year the news comes floating out of the National Collegiate Athletic Association headquarters like a black cloud: some university’s athletic program is being punished because of the extraneous efforts of an excitable fan. Last year, for instance, the University of Dayton’s basketball team was placed on probation after a trustee gave a recruit’s father a loan. The year before, the University of Notre Dame’s football team was penalized because a booster gave presents to some players.
While boosters’ intentions are often admirable—trying to help their favorite team—their methods are frequently amiss and their actions are often the catalyst for trouble. Knowing this, Xavier athletic director Mike Bobinski and NCAA compliance coordinator and swim coach George Rathman wrote a brochure—The Do’s and Don’ts of Supporting Xavier Athletics. Nearly 4,000 copies of the brochure were sent to those who are considered boosters: season ticket holders, Musketeer Club members, faculty, staff, student-athletes, athletic staff and certain alumni.
“Having boosters break the rules isn’t a problem here at Xavier,” says Bobinski, “but it’s something that can easily become a problem. We wanted to get out in front and cut off any potential problems. While you can’t answer everything in a three- or four-page brochure, our intent was to get people thinking. And we’ve done that. We’ve had a significant number of phone calls asking us about situations, and to me, that’s what you hope for—people who call before they act.”
Although the NCAA manual contains a full chapter on booster involvement, the athletic department whittled the material down to a small brochure that simply provides guidance to the general understanding of the rules.
Fortunately, Rathman says, almost all of Xavier’s boosters are aware of how delicate the NCAA rules can be, and have the utmost interest in maintaining the integrity of the institution. Still, he adds, “Given the problems some schools have had with booster involvement, we thought it was a good idea. A lot of boosters mean well but can still run into problems. And now that we’ve publicized it, people can’t plead ignorance.”
Rathman, a former attorney, says that the NCAA manual is easier to understand than the tax code, but can be somewhat complicated. Its intentions, though, are this: Boosters can’t give an individual student-athlete a benefit that the rest of the student body can’t receive, and a booster can’t get overly involved. It’s the job of the coach to recruit an athlete, Rathman says, not the job of the booster.
“I’m not going to defend all of the NCAA rules as being great,” says Rathman, “but usually there’s a purpose for them. If they’re in there, someone’s tried to break them.”
Are You a Booster?
Who qualifies as a “representative of athletic interests,” or a booster?
Those who have ever:
- joined any athletic booster support group, such as the Musketeer Club;
- helped arrange employment of enrolled student-athletes during the summer or semester
- promoted the athletic programs at Xavier; or
- participated in a Xavier athletic program.
What boosters can do:
- forward general information to Xavier coaches about a prospect;
- forward the name of Xavier coaches to a prospect’s coach;
- contribute funds to finance a scholarship for a particular sport or team position;
- employ student-athletes,provided the work is performed and compensation is consistent
with like services.
What boosters cannot do:
- write, meet or telephone a prospect;
- contact a prospect’s coach, principal, counselor or family;
- provide tickets to a prospect or his coach;
- directly or indirectly arrange for funds, aid or inducements to be given to a prospect, his
family or friends;
- provide extra benefits or preferential treatment to a student-athlete.