Ohio University professor David Ridpath’s time at Marshall shaped his outlook on NCAA athletics

OU professor and former Marshall compliance officer David Ridpath (From ESPN)

When the Center for College Affordability and Productivity released a study in January suggesting that Ohio University students neither realized the financial drain nor appreciated the contribution of varsity athletics, it further ignited a debate around campus and throughout the nation.

Many considered the findings a swipe at the university’s athletic department – already under fire for continuing to overspend on its budget to the tune of nearly $1.2 million annually for the last five years.

Some pegged the study’s authors, Matthew Denhart and OU professors Richard Vedder and David Ridpath as disgruntled academics, unaware true impact of intercollegiate athletics.

At least in Ridpath’s case, they couldn’t be further from the truth.

The assistant professor of sports administration spent over a decade working in college athletic departments. He has coached conference champions and worked with future Hall of Famers.

He has also experienced the dark side intercollegiate athletics, and knows better than most just how tainted the institution can become.

“I really kind of saw the true face of college athletics,” Ridpath said. “It was a big eye-opener, which has kind of led me on the path I’m on now. I want to save college athletics from itself.”

A ‘convenient scapegoat’

It was Friday July 2, 1999 when Ridpath, then the assistant athletic director of compliance and student services at Marshall University, got the call.

Michelle Duncan, an academic advisor, informed him that a professor and volunteer football strength coach, Bruce McAllister, had approached her asking what grades a number of football players in his class would need in order to be eligible.

“The first time (McAllister) stopped me in the hallway and asked me in passing and I thought he was joking,” Duncan said. “It wasn’t until he asked me the second time that I realized he was serious and that’s when I contacted Dave Ridpath.”

Duncan also informed Ridpath that earlier that spring, McAllister had provided football players in one of his classes with a copy of a test ahead of time.

“[Ridpath was] probably shocked more than anything. As you can imagine a compliance officer probably hears about all kinds of details and events,” Duncan said. “But when he heard about this one, it immediately raised a red flag.”

This was the first Ridpath had ever gotten word of the issues, but he knew he had a serious problem on his hands.

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Despite changing NCAA regulations, Solich lands top recruiting class

Ohio recruiting coordinator Brian Haines, left, and head coach Frank Solich at the Feb. 2 Singing Day press conference. (Courtesy of The Post -- Staff Photographer Alex Goodlett)

At his press conference on National Signing Day, Ohio football coach Frank Solich proudly announced that this year’s recruiting class could be the best he has had in his seven-year stint in Athens. His first point of emphasis for the 24-man class wasn’t the speed, skill or size of the athletes, though.

“We’ve got a lot of excellent players,” Solich said, “a lot of guys with really high character.”

As more and more NCAA rules violations are being brought to light at high-profile athletic programs, Solich and his staff are trying to ensure their team’s compliance by bringing in players with skill and character. But, even the process of recruiting itself is riddled with rules and regulations. The school’s compliance staff must meticulously monitor and any and all forms of contact with a prospective student-athlete.

The NCAA has a stringent calendar that all Division I football programs must adhere to when recruiting prospects. There are limits set on personal contact, visits to a prospect’s “educational institution” and chances to evaluate prospects during competition.

Even if a coach is approached by a prospect’s parent at the mall, he can do no more than exchange pleasantries, lest the program forfeit one of its 42 face to face contact opportunities – and that’s only if it’s during the “contact period.’

Any contact outside of that seemingly arbitrary two-month window from late November through late January — specific dates vary from year to year determined by a formula in the NCAA Bylaws – and a program could likely find itself slapped with a sanction.

“It’s tough. You’ve got to stay on top of it,” Ohio tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Brian Haines said. “You’ve got to know what you’re doing and what’s right.”

But, Haines said there was a simple solution to effectively navigate the NCAA’s constantly changing rules and regulations, and ensure all his actions are on the level.

“Put our compliance department in your favorites in your phone,” he said. “We’re always communicating back-and-fourth and they do a good job of helping us out.

Haines shouldered much of the responsibility in determining whether a recruit’s athletic abilities merited a scholarship from Ohio University.

Tricia Turley, associate athletic director for Compliance and Student Services, on the other hand, made sure the recruits and the recruiters were held up to NCAA standards.

“We handle what paperwork needs to be completed by the prospect and when,” Turley said in an email correspondence. “We also provide academic assessments based on the NCAA Qualifier standards for the coaches and help facilitate the admissions process.

“We also answer various questions about communication with the prospects.”

USC expects athletes to self-report meetings with agents

USC student and former NFLPA-certified agent Teague Egan (right) lounging in the 1st Round Sports golf cart. (From The Los Angeles Times)

The University of Southern California is taking steps to make sure its student-athletes avoid contact with agents or, you know, at least give the school a heads up if there is contact.

On Tuesday the USC Office of Athletic Compliance emailed a four-page memo to the school’s 35,000 students and 5,000 faculty members outlining what could be considered impermissible contact between student-athletes and agents — an ‘innovative’ policy that vice president of athletic compliance Dave Roberts said is the first of its kind.

And to think, all this was prompted because USC running back Dillon Baxter accepted a free ride in a golf cart from a fellow student/former NFLPA-certified agent Teague Egan.

‘Cause the whole Reggie Bush fiascoOJ Mayo scandal, and Joe McKnight investigation weren’t enough.

From The Daily Trojan:

Under the policy, students, staff and other third parties are required to notify USC’s compliance office of their involvement with a sports agency before any interaction with student-athletes.

“We’re publishing this to the student body, so they can be aware,” Roberts said. “Of course, somebody could choose to ignore it, but we have to at least be proactive by putting the policy in place.”

Specifically, the new regulations stipulate that all such parties provide written notification to the school’s compliance office within 24 hours of their involvement with a sports agency or similar marketing agency.

Those found to be in violation of the policy would then be subject to remedial action and/or discipline, according to the release.

Essentially, all this “Athletes and Agents” policy does is attempt to deflect blame away from the Trojans if and when more violations surface. “Hey man, we told them not to talk to agents and they said they’d totally tell us if they do. What more can we do?” C’mon, the school replaced football coach Pete Carroll, who jumped ship when heavy-duty sanctions were handed out, with Lane Kiffin.

Lane freakin’ Kiffin — that bastion of coaching integrity. USC didn’t exactly clean up the program with that hire.

Student-athletes are forced to sit down with school compliance officials multiple times a year and learn in excruciating detail about virtually anything and everything that could jeopardize their amateur status and violate NCAA regulations. The ones who accept money and gifts from boosters or meet with agents before deciding to go pro know what they’re doing — and that it’s wrong.

(We’ll save the debate about whether student-athletes should be paid for another time.)

Sure, Athletic Departments have some incentive to self-report violations to the NCAA when it’s obvious the NCAA is going to find out down the road anyway. But why in the world would a student-athlete report talking with an agent?

What sort of professional contract is an agent going to be able to net for a student-athletes who can’t play his sport because he spoke with an agent? If they’re going to get busted, they’ll get busted but don’t expect student-athletes to voluntarily fork over cash and get themselves suspended.

What USC’s policy boils down to is “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the athletic department. But hey, that kept all the gays out of the military right?

Tennessee officials: ‘Swiperboy’ didn’t violate NCAA regulations

Renaldo 'Swiperboy' Woolridge and former Tennessee safety Eric Berry.

Well it looks like Tennessee is at it again. Reports surfaced earlier this week that Volunteers basketball player/aspiring hip hop artist Renaldo Woolridge may have violated NCAA compliance regulations.

Like Vols coach Bruce Pearl didn’t have enough on his plate.

To no one’s surprise Tennessee officials have vehemently denied that Woolridge — perhaps better know for his skills with a mic than with a ball — received any improper benefits when he allegedly rented the upstairs  room of a Knoxville campus bar to shoot his newest video fo’ free.

From the  Chattanooga Times Free Press:

UT officials said that research done by the school’s compliance staff found that no violation occurred because nothing was recorded and Woolridge simply was scouting the location for possible future use.

Woolridge’s talents as a hip-hop artist under the name “Swiperboy” are well-documented, and his music videos have been shown at UT football and basketball games.

He has been working exclusively with the Volunteers’ scout team, has played in only two games since the end of November and did not dress for Saturday’s loss to Connecticut because of an ankle injury.

The drinking establishment in question, the New Amsterdam, apparently wasn’t on the list of campus bars Vols football and basketball players were banned from frequenting after reports surfaced that a number of players weren’t charged a cover on Thursday nights at another Knoxville bar eloquently titled Bar Knoxville.

(Of course, that might have also had a little something to do with a couple football players deciding to pummel an off-duty officer outside Bar Knoxville back in July. Chicken or the egg, right?)

Regardless, UT’s findings completely contradict statements made to the Knoxville News Sentinel from an unnamed source apparently with intament knowledge of the New Amsterdam.

From the News Sentinel:

“It was given to him by the New Amsterdam for free because we do support him and UT sports in general,” the source said.

“He shot the video, like I said, to support UT. It was basically done at the New Amsterdam because it’s one of the favorite spots for UT college students.”

The cost for leasing the room for special occasions was not available.

It seems there’s one easy way to get to the bottom of this caper — watch the music video. Unfortunately the video for Swiperboy’s newest single “Snap Back” appears to be a pretty ambitious project, as the part shot (or not shot) at the New Amsterdam was only small portion.

And if Woolridge doesn’t want to hire dancers he can always bring back the Vols’ recruiting hostesses.

— bartftc@gmail.com

Twitter: @bart_logan

Q & A with David Ridpath

Dr. B. David Ridpath is an assistant professor at the Ohio University School of Recreation and Sports Sciences where he teaches courses in sports law, marketing and issues in intercollegiate athletics. Prior to coming to Ohio, he worked as an NCAA compliance officer and spent time teaching at the Mississippi State and Marshall University sports administration programs among other institutions. Ridpath owns a wealth of knowledge with respect to collegiate athletics and the issues and regulations facing student athletes. He has been interviewed on ESPN’s SportsCenter and in The Sporting News. He is also a regular guest on ESPN’s Outside The Lines.

Bart Logan: You used to work as an NCAA compliance officer. What were your duties? Were you out of Indianapolis?

David Ridpath: Actually, I worked for an institution. I worked at Marshall University (as the) assistant athletic director for compliance and student services. Before that I had worked at Weber State University, which is a school in Utah, and also coached here, and then worked a Division II school in Georgia. So, I’ve never really worked, per se, for the national office. Compliance is essentially – assuring to the best of your ability – having systems in place to NCAA conference and institutional rules and regulations with regards to athletics. That’s essentially what it is.

While I was one person – you typically have a staff, but I didn’t really have a staff at Marshall – but compliance with rules is everyone’s responsibility. When you have a far-reaching athletic department like here where you have 300 athletes, 400 athletes, and a huge department, and other people who are very interested in athletics, it can be a very difficult job.

Logan: Were you the person who would run the athletes through during the year and outline what would be a violation?

Ridpath: Absolutely. You have several meetings with teams – sometimes with individuals athletes, obviously with coaches – just saying, “This is what can be done. This is what can’t be done. This is what you need to do.” You really tell the athletes, sadly it almost got to the point of just like “don’t do anything until you ask” almost.

Ohio University assistant professor of sports and administration David Ridpath. (Courtesy of USA Today)

You feel bad about that because you want to give them a little bit of freedom but it almost became that way. You try to have layers of protection and certainly the first-line person is the coach. But, if you have a coach who’s a little more desperate to win than to follow the rules, it can become a little more problematic. Everybody has to be pulling on the same rope and that doesn’t happen very often.

Logan: Do you think that there’s a double standard for the big sport athletes – the football players, the basketball players – than other smaller athletics in terms of revenue production?

Ridpath: Yes. And I know that for a fact. How it works: the NCAA national office exists for the membership. The membership does make the rules in that very big, thick rulebook… That national office wields a tremendous amount of authority in interpreting what those rules mean.

You and I might look at a sentence that says, “this desk is brown.” I think we can both agree with that. That might be an NCAA rule. Somebody could come and say, “it’s actually brown and light brown and there’s a trim.” There’s a lot of grey area in NCAA rules and that’s where the national office yields a lot of authority. But, I’ll tell you who wields more authority – conference commissioners, big time schools, TV networks, and bowl committees.

You just look at Ohio State situation. (Paul) Hoolahan of the New Orleans Bowl… basically admitted to everybody “Yeah, I called the NCAA. I called Ohio State. I called the Big Ten. I told them we need to protect the integrity of this game.” OK? I know that Jim Delany of the Big Ten and Mike Slive of the SEC don’t sit a twiddle their thumbs and wait for this national office to make a decision. They’re on the phone. They’re talking to people and they’re putting an immense pressure. Not so much like, “hey, I hope you can really find something that works.” It’s more like: “here’s what we need. Make it work.”

The interpretation for the Ohio State situation is in no way related. I’ve actually been working on this for the past few days and there’s going to be more to come, but let me just show you an example. This took weeks for somebody to finally say this. You figure that if it was an interpretation the NCAA would say, “Here’s why we did not suspend the Ohio State players.” … Here’s the wording of why those five athletes at Ohio State were eligible… (The NCAA interpreted that they were) ‘Innocently involved.’

Would you agree that they were innocently involved? There’s [sic] been mountains of evidence. They knew what they were doing was wrong. (For) Gene Smith, who’s a very good athletic director and a good guy, to sit there and say, “We didn’t educate them enough,” is just a load of crap to essentially throw a smokescreen up.

Then it says, “No competitive advantage was gained.” Now typically that could mean no competitive advantage was gained by selling the stuff. I would say that’s true. But the other thing is the fact that they were kept on the team. Those five had a significant effect on that game. If those five didn’t play, Ohio State loses by three touchdowns, even though Arkansas couldn’t catch a pass…

NCAA rules are made to be twisted, turned and abused. And, it’s usually the powerful that get that consideration… I used the example of this with a friend of mine that was with the NCAA. I said, “let’s face facts here… If I was still at Marshall University and Randy Moss’ dad… was shopping him around for $180,000, would Randy Moss have been able to stay eligible?” Their answer was probably not. “If Randy Moss was selling his stuff when I was at Marshall – Byron Leftwich, Chad Pennington – would they have been eligible for a bowl game?” Highly doubtful.

In this case a lot of people got involved who are very, very powerful and basically the bowl director – the Sugar Bowl – let the cat out of the bag. There were a lot of things going on behind the scenes. So that’s the fundamental problem. It’s arbitrary, capricious and not enforced equitably across the board. The standards are nebulous. I could look at almost any NCAA rule – and I gave you that pretty silly example – and find a way to make it work.

Profile: OU TE coach Brian Haines

There is still long ways to go in the coaching career of Brian Haines, but for now, things seem to have come full circle.

The former Ohio graduate assistant was named the new tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator for the Bobcats in February, replacing University of Toledo-bound Scott Isphording.

This is Haines’ first full-time coaching position, and it came sooner than many would expect. After all, there aren’t too many Division I football coaches under the age of 30.

But Haines, 27, does not like waste time dwelling on the fact.

“To be honest with you – the age – I’ve not thought of it that way,” Haines said. “I’ve thought of it as, ‘I’m ready for my position.’”

His resume certainly speaks for itself.

Haines is a 2004 graduate of Marietta College, where he had a storied career at wide receiver. The Williamstown, W. Va. native is fourth in receptions and fifth in receiving yards all-time for the Pioneers.

After graduating, Haines swapped his pads and helmet for a whistle and visor. He began working on his master’s degree and served as a GA for the Pioneers until 2007.

Then he decided to make the move.

“For me, playing there for four years and working there for three, that was all I knew at the time and it was just time to move on,” he said.

Haines applied for the same position at OU and took over as the offensive GA. The move came naturally for Haines, whose wife, Mary, is from Athens.

He worked closely with offensive coordinator Tim Albin, as well as wide receiver coach Dwayne Dixon, during his first stint with the Bobcats.

“I made a real good connection, you know, with the entire staff,” Haines said. “Especially here, if you work hard, that’s all they ask for. That’s what Coach [Frank] Solich expects and that’s what Coach Solich gets.”

Haines made quite a reputation for himself during his first tenure with OU, and not only for his coaching prowess.

“He did an outstanding job as a graduate assistant in that capacity. He was like a full-time coach for us,” Albin said. “He chipped in in a lot of ways, not only during the season, but in the offseason with recruiting.”

After two seasons with the Bobcats, Haines felt he was ready to take the next step, but the transition did not come easily. He pursued a full-time job “anywhere,” but could not get his foot through the proverbial coaching door.

So, through the wonders of networking, Haines was offered a GA position at West Virginia University, the team he grew up rooting for in Williamstown.

“It (West Virginia Football) is the only thing that the state has. There’s no other professional sport,” Haines said. “It’s the show everybody wants to see.”

He once again coached with the offense, this time focusing on the running back position as well as working with slot receivers. The entire time he worked closely with offensive coordinator/spread offense virtuoso Jeff Mullen.

“There’s a lot of people that would like to be involved and know what he’s (Mullen’s) doing and what he’s thinking,” he said. “While I was there, I was kind of like his ‘right-hand’ man.”

The Mountaineers went 9-3 during the regular season, good for third in the Big East, but were downed by Florida State in the Gator Bowl New Year’s Day.

Meanwhile, the Bobcats finished the 2009 with a 9-4 record, their best since 2006. The Mid-American Conference East champions punched tickets to Detroit for the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl, but fell to Marshall 21-17.

After the 2009 season, Haines once again decided to chase his dream of a full-time coaching position, and his pursuit led him back to a familiar setting. When he heard about the OU coaching vacancy left by the departure of Isphording, he applied immediately.

“I think going away for a year and then coming back definitely made me a better product,” he said. “I think that Coach Solich saw that and I saw it as well. When you get around different programs – different people – you see different things done the other way and it really opens your eyes.”

Haines’ approach to the position has already started to open eyes of many on the OU coaching staff, including Albin.

“The time at West Virginia was nothing but beneficial,” Albin said. “He’s able to bring some ideas – some different thoughts – to the table as far as their scheme and some of the things they did with their offense.”

Max Manin, a former student assistant coach who worked closely with Haines as a GA and again this spring, echoed Albin sentiments.

“It’s like night and day. He’s 100 percent business now,” Manin said. “I think that [his time at West Virginia] had a lot to do with him maturing.”

His players have noticed a contrast between Haines and Isphording as well. Redshirt freshman tight end Jordan Thompson noted the obvious.

“He’s younger,” Thompson said.

While Haines avoids focusing on his age, players and the coaching staff recognize some of the benefits.

“That’s a plus I think” Albin said. “He brings a lot of enthusiasm to our practices and I think that rubs off onto the other coaches as well as the team.”

“There’s just something different about a younger guy talking to you,” Manin said. “More importantly than them being able to relate to him, he can relate to them. He can kind of realize, you know, if a kid’s having a tough day.”

But his age is not the only thing that stands out about Haines and his approach to the tight end position.

“Coach ‘Hainesy’ is really big on not only knowing what we’re doing, but knowing the 10 other positions on the field,” Thompson said. “He always talks about the big picture.”

Haines is certainly a man who appreciates the importance of the “big picture.” It’s that appreciation that helps him carry out his other role with the team as recruiting coordinator.

“One guy can help your program and one guy can hurt your program. You’ve got to do your research,” Haines said. “Right now is when every team across the country is winning or losing games, you know, we’re talking two, three years, four years down the road.”

Haines takes a very meticulous approach to recruiting, a fact that is not lost on the rest of the coaching staff.

“In the recruiting aspect of it, he’s very detailed and highly organized,” Albin said. “The recruiting coordinator part is vital to your program. Good players make good coaches.”

In the end, that is what Haines wants to be – a good coach.

“I think every coach wants to be a head coach one day, but as for me, time will tell,” Haines said. “My next move would be years and years down the road, after just being a sponge around Coach Mullen and Coach Albin.”

And while Haines ultimately has the “big picture” in mind, his focus is completely on the here and now.

With 12 returning starters and four returning All-Americans, the Bobcats will enter next season as a favorite to compete for the MAC crown.

“We’re close. We showed it last year. We’ve just got to take that next step,” Thompson said. “I definitely think the table’s set.”

OU has a glut of weapons on the offensive side of the ball with the likes of LaVon Brazill and Terrence McCrae at wideout, but Albin said he also plans to get the tight ends more involved, especially Thompson.

“The tight end catches, I think, will increase as time goes along,” Albin said. “I’d be shocked if his (Thompson’s) catches don’t at least double this fall.”

Haines is certainly optimistic about his group of players at the tight end position.

“They’re smart, they’re bright, but they don’t act like they know everything,” Haines said. “They’re willing to take coaching, which helps me out.”

Currently, Haines is making recruiting visits in the Pittsburgh area. He has been on the road for the last three weeks. While he admits the “grind” that is the college football offseason has been challenge, it’s one that he welcomes with open arms.

“I want to do everything I can to help Ohio University and its athletics program win football games,” he said. “I’m just trying to take an innovative approach.”