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:
What boosters can do:
What boosters cannot do: