Answering Their Critics

By BASN Wire Services
Updated: September 26, 2009

NCAA POMPANO BEACH, Fla. — The NCAA’s September 24, 2009, release, “FOR THE RECORD: NCAA Corrects Unsubstantiated Claims Regarding Probationary Periods”, is incomplete, ignores the NCAA’s own practice of using averages for studies and fails to provide a complete description of probation penalties imposed by the NCAA.

On September 22, 2009, the Michael L.

Buckner Law Firm released a study on NCAA probation penalties. The study used the mean (average) of probation penalties imposed by the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions over a 56-month period (January 1, 2005, to September 2, 2009).

The study concluded Bowl Championship Series (BCS) universities receive less stringent probation penalties from the NCAA than other Division I institutions for violating the governing body’s rules.

Further, the research noted historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU’s) in the MEAC and SWAC receive higher probation penalties from the NCAA infractions committee than any other Division I category. The NCAA objected to the study in its September 24 statement.

The use of the mean is one of several valid statistical analytical methods. In fact, the mean is a form of descriptive statistics that measures central tendencies. The mean is considered to be a good estimate for predicting subsequent data points.

Ironically, the NCAA uses and relies on the mean in several of its studies and reports that are used internally, sent to the membership and available to the public on its website.

For example, a June 21, 2004, report in the NCAA News, “Re-enforcement”, relied on lists of the mean (average) length of enforcement cases over a seven-year period to justify an increase in the number of investigators on the enforcement staff.

Further, the Buckner Law Firm used evidence based on the mean in a recent NCAA infractions appeals—which was accepted by the infractions appeal committee as valid support in the case.

As a result, the NCAA’s assertion that the study was based on an “inadequate examination of the facts” and “a methodology that fails to tests the claims against standard statistical criteria” is inaccurate and inconsistent with NCAA operating procedure.

The study used probation penalties as its focus because the penalty is the only common sanction imposed against the schools during the 56-month study period.

Contrary to the NCAA’s statement, a probation penalty does indicate three things about an enforcement case: the severity of the violations (e.g., 50 violations of the same bylaw would be treated differently than two violations of the same bylaw); the nature of the violations (i.e., academic fraud and gambling violations are deemed more serious); and whether the school is a repeat-violator (i.e., multiple cases before the committee in five years).

The study also included the largest sample size available (i.e., all of the academic fraud cases in the NCAA database) when we tested the study results using the Alabama State University enforcement case.

This test compared Alabama State’s academic fraud case with other academic fraud cases. The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions issued a five-year probation penalty to Alabama State on December 10, 2008.

However, during the period beginning on October 28, 1970, and ending on December 10, 2008, the Committee on Infractions issued an average 2.50-year probation penalty to BCS automatic-qualifier schools in infractions cases involving academic fraud and other major rules violations.

Finally, the NCAA statement fails to recognize some of the reasons for the disparity:

• The allocation, or lack, of resources for a comprehensive rules-compliance program can impact the occurrence and severity of rules-violations.

• The failure to, or delay in, retaining an experienced investigator at the start of an enforcement investigation can influence the outcome of a case.

Michael L. Buckner, a licensed attorney and private investigator, authored the study. Mr. Buckner advises organizations on complex NCAA enforcement investigations and appeals and has appeared before NCAA infractions committees on several occasions.


Buckner, as an independent consultant for the NCAA (2006-07), conducted on-site investigative audits of non-traditional and prep schools in the United States and Puerto Rico. Mr. Buckner is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court and all federal and state courts in Florida.

Mr. Buckner earned his bachelor’s degree in international relations and social sciences and communication from the University of Southern California and a law degree from Florida State University.

“The NCAA, instead of criticizing the study, should have joined with us in exploring how the membership can improve the rules-compliance programs and investigative capabilities of all universities,” Buckner said.

“As a provider of complex NCAA enforcement investigation and appeal services, the Michael L. Buckner Law Firm is available to assist universities in rules-compliance and investigative issues.”

NOTE: The Michael L. Buckner Law Firm website and resource center can be located at