The NCAA's Ethical Program Failure

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Determine the fundamental ways in which the NCAA’s ethics program failed to prevent the scandals at Penn State, Ohio State, and the University of Arkansas. Support your response with one (1) example from each of these schools’ scandals.

In the recent past, the college football sector has been rocked by several greatly exposed scandals that were accompanied by a heavy reproach from the schools where each scandal happened. The reactions of the NCAA to the scandals encountered mixed responses from the stakeholders. In this way, the NCAA fundamentally failed in ensuring the sports teams for the colleges are compliant with the ethical regulations. Furthermore, it failed in to combat the propensity of the institutions to be complacent due to the successes of their sports teams. Such failure in battling complacency is evident in the case of the Penn State Scandal where a former assistant coach for the football team was allegedly accused of sexually assaulting several young boys over a number of years. The institution was implicated for being suspicious and/or being aware of the crime and not taking sufficient measures to combat it. Moreover, two school officials surrendered to the authorities for being accused of participating in the cover-up of the crimes.

In the case of the Ohio State scandal, the NCAA’s fundamental failure is apparent in the failure to ensure the acquiescence of the established ethical bylaws. Five student-athletes from the Ohio State football team exchanged gear supplied by the football team for tattoos and money which is a violation of NCAA laws. Jim Tressel, the head coach, knew about the violation but did not report it to the school for as long as 9 months. In this case, student-athletes violated the rules and instead of the infraction being reported by the coach – who according to the ethical regulations are supposed to be the best example to the young athletes – it is covered up. NCAA emphasizes honesty and sportsmanship as the foundation of ethical behaviour, whereas withholding information is categorized among the enlisted unethical values (Ferrell et al., 2015). In the University of Arkansas scandal, Bobby Petrino the head coach appears to withhold information in accounting for the motorcycle incident which violates the NCAA ethical bylaws.

Examine the principal ways in which the leadership of the NCAA contributed to the ethical violations of Penn State, Ohio State and the University of Arkansas. Support your response with one (1) example from each of these schools’ scandals.

The weakness evident in the NCAA leadership to some degree underwrote the ethical infractions at the University of Arkansas, Ohio State, and at Penn State. In connection to the University of Arkansas and Ohio State scandals, the failure of the board to communicate the laws and expected ethical standards to the college stakeholders is apparent. The NCAA law prohibiting the sale of football gear was still novel as it had only been in place from 2003 following the discovery of students from the University of Georgia selling jerseys on eBay. In the case of the University of Arkansas scandal, Bobby Petrino was not aware of the requirement to report a conflict of interest following his hiring of a former student he shared a personal relationship with. Therefore, the NCAA leadership needed to have done better in enlightening the coaches on all the reporting requirements. In the case of the Penn State scandal, NCAA leadership should have communicated the requisite to report every infraction of its laws and more so those that were of a criminal nature.

Predict the key differences in the scenarios that occurred at Penn State, Ohio State, and the University of Arkansas if an effective ethics program was in place. Provide a rationale for your response.

If an effective program for ethics existed at Ohio State, the University of Arkansas and, at Penn State, the face of each scandal would have been different. Considering the Penn State scandal, the institution needed to have an obligatory reporting dogma for delinquency of criminal nature. Such a policy could have initiated investigations into the first cases of sexual assault accusations in 1998 and as a result preventing the other assaults that followed. Based on the ethical violations at Ohio State, the need for clear awareness and understanding of NCAA regulations such as those prohibiting the acceptance of cash from boosters is apparent (Ferrell et al., 2015). Therefore, considering the Ohio State situation, the college needed to have made all players and coaches sign an ethics code of conduct clearly elucidating the laws and expected ethical standards in detail. In this way, no player or coach would have the excuse of not knowing or understanding the laws. In the University of Arkansas case, it was established that Bobby Petrino and the university had not violated any laws. However, Petrino was fired because of failure to report his conflict of interest as postulated by the law. In this scenario, the university needed to have implemented detailed and clear rules governing the recruitment of employees. Furthermore, such a violation could have been averted if there existed a board that reviews employee recruitment.

Postulate on two (2) actions that the NCAA leadership should take in order to regain the trust and confidence of students and stakeholders.

With the aim of restoring the confidence and trust of the stakeholders and the students, it is vital for NCAA leadership to elucidate their position on ethics. Ensuring that the stakeholders and the students understand the NCAA’s moral stance can be achieved through broadcasts of commercials in relation to ethical behaviour in all the NCAA sporting events that are televised. In this way, the NCAA should strive to show zero tolerance to unscrupulous behaviour and set elaborate standards outlining the punishments for any violation of ethical regulations (Weaver, 2014). Furthermore, the NCAA needs to have increased oversight and demand that each member of the athletic programs in each school sign an agreement of the outlined ethical codes. In addition, the NCAA can also create a collaboration between the players and the coaches to be the ambassadors of the ethical behaviour expected and discourage ethical infractions. Embracing such steps, the NCAA can reinstate the confidence and trust of the stakeholders and the students.

Recommend two (2) measures that the HR departments of colleges and universities should take to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future. Provide a rationale for your response.

University and college HR departments may enact particular measures aimed at preventing such scandals from happening in future. As an initial step, HR departments need to implement an assessment of the ethical atmosphere in the institutions and implement measures to safeguard against violations. According to Gilman et al (2015), a formal evaluation of the institutional culture needs to be carried out to describe the standpoint of perceptions, attitudes, behaviour standards, values, risks, vulnerabilities, and communication. It is essential to closely monitor the corporate ethics and the level of adoption by the board, senior leaders, staff, and the important shareholders at every level. The HR departments also need to implement a robust structure of ethics that is able to self-sustain. As such, there is a need to establish a code of behavior supported at all levels and conveyed to all the staff including the players and the coaches (Pullen & Rhodes, 2015). The institutions need to have a team of independent non-senior directors – that is part of the board of directors – with the obligation to ensure that systems guiding worker compliance with the ethical codes are in place. In addition, the institutions could implement independent helplines or hotlines that can be used by individuals to request guidance in situations of moral dilemma or to report instances of ethical misconduct.


Ferrell, O., Fraedrich, J., & Ferrell, L. (2015). Business ethics: Ethical decision making and


(Tenth ed.). Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.

Gilman, S., Harned, P., Navran, F., & Brown, J. (2015). Ten things your company can do to

avoid being the next Enron. Retrieved from

Pullen, A., & Rhodes, C. (2015). Ethics, embodiment and organizations. The Organization, 22(2), 159-165.

Weaver, G. R. (2014). Encouraging ethics in organizations: A review of some key research findings. Am. Crim. L. Rev., 51, 293.

January 19, 2024


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