New Territory

If there's one thing a compliance staff at colleges and universities know, it's to expect the unexpected. But this is even beyond the realm that anyone could ever have envisioned.

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Monday's announcement of severe NCAA sanctions against Penn State as the result of the scandal revealed there in the past few months certainly clears a new threshold in terms of compliance at NCAA institutions. The entire situation is unprecedented, and that includes how the NCAA handed down its penalties and what they ultimately were.

As those who follow college football know, Nittany Lions football players can now leave to go play somewhere else without having to sit out a year, as is normally the case. Signees who are scheduled to arrive at football camp there next month have the same opportunity to leave the program and play immediately for another school.

Matt Ball, Senior Associate Athletics Director for Compliance at Ole Miss, watched the news along with millions of others across the country Monday morning. Certainly any previous plans for his day changed at that moment.

"When the news broke the first thing in the morning that day, it was interesting to hear the sanctions the NCAA and President (Mark) Emmert levied against Penn State," said Ball, who has been at Ole Miss since April, 2011, replacing longtime compliance director David Wells. "On campus here as on most college campuses of our status, BCS level, and probably even FCS level, (schools) started looking at options, with the football coaches, about kids that might be interested in transferring to their institution. With football at the FBS level, transfers usually have to sit out for a year. Those kids can come in and be immediately eligible and potentially make an immediate impact.

"(The NCAA) opened it up so any returning student-athlete to Penn State can transfer, and any incoming who signed a national letter of intent can transfer and be immediately eligible at a school like Ole Miss," Ball continued. "(Ole Miss) Coaches were exploring options just like they were across the country regarding somebody that could maybe come in and be a difference maker immediately."

Matt Ball, Senior Assoc. A.D. for Compliance at Ole Miss
Ole Miss

Ball said Monday was filled with the repercussions of the announcement and how it could affect Ole Miss football.

"It did have a big impact on our day," Ball said. "Our coaches had several questions. The NCAA put a lot of information out but didn't fill in all the holes. So a lot of (the coaches') questions were ones that had not been answered yet. Some of them we're still trying to get answers to."

The NCAA, it appears, laid out the larger scope of the findings and penalties and what that means generally. But there was no way there wouldn't be questions at individual schools throughout the country. So Ball, as likely did many others in his position nationally, started trying to find additional answers.

"We did speak to several counterparts at various schools across the nation," he said of him and his staff. "(Other schools) asked how we were doing things. I asked them several questions to make sure everybody's on the same page with so many questions. Everybody's moving quickly with fall camps seven to ten days away."

To complicate matters at least somewhat, the Southeastern Conference has some rules for its own members that are different from many other conferences. Ball had to address those when researching the results of the Penn State situation.

"One additional thing is conference rules. With the Southeastern Conference, the general rule is we no longer accept transfers unless they have two seasons of eligibility remaining," he said. "But there are exceptions to this. The SEC (on Tuesday) was supposed to be looking at that. Basically (we were looking for) a conference-wide position with transfers from Penn State who had only one year of eligibility remaining. What kind of parameters would those (players) have to be able to prove?

"That's one of the questions everybody's waiting for the NCAA to answer. That's one of the questions our staff asked, if a (player) tried to stay there and play there this year but realized it was not the place for them anymore, could they transfer between fall and spring semesters (this year), enroll at a new school, and be immediately eligible next fall at that new school?"

There is one clear-cut aspect of what a school must do if they want to contact a player at PSU or if a Nittany Lion player wants to contact another school.

"Essentially the main parameter based on this situation which the NCAA laid out (Monday) is that we just have to notify Penn State," Ball said. "If (student-athletes at Penn State) theoretically are contacting us and we're interested in (a player) from Penn State, we let them know, just to keep them apprised of the situation."

So much information, yet more is needed. So many questions, some answers to still be revealed, and not that much time before August camp for football teams.

But that is the extended fallout of the situation at Penn State, which is being felt in all 50 states, not just Pennsylvania.

"This case is unique and horrific in its own sense," Ball said. "Hopefully no other schools or individuals will have to go through something like that again."

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