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Dan Wolken, @DanWolken, USA TODAY Sports

Jon Duncan, the vice president of the NCAA's frequently criticized enforcement arm, noted Wednesday that staff turnover has abated, the enforcement division has 100 open cases and he expects at least 10 more involving major violations will be processed by the end of the year, in addition to the 12 that have already moved through his office.

"We're doing the work," Duncan told USA TODAY Sports. "Either at the front end on intake, the middle part when you're investigating, the back end processing a case, and it's either about that particular case -- what should we do, what's the right thing -- or how to improve one piece of that process along the way.

"But it's (about) the cases and providing better service to the membership. It's not all this other drama. It's about the work, and I'm so glad to be in that spot."

Gene Marsh, a former chairman for the committee on infractions who now works for the Jackson Lewis law firm specializing in infractions work, said he noticed the review process for cases has been more detailed, perhaps a nod to Duncan's background as an attorney who worked some cases on behalf of the NCAA. As Marsh says, when NCAA enforcement has gotten in trouble -- the Miami case, for instance -- it was because of legal missteps made by investigators or executive-level people with almost no experience outside of NCAA matters. So having a real lawyer heading the staff has eliminated the "throw something against the wall and see what sticks" mentality of the past.

"It doesn't mean the staff is getting wimpy, it just means they're getting more thoughtful about bigger-picture issues," Marsh said. "What evidence can they actually bring to the table to prove something? They seem to be a little more thoughtful about it than just putting the most egregious allegation on the table and seeing if the committee would go for it. We've been pleasantly surprised by a couple recent cases where they ended up. They ended up where they should've ended up, but in the old days it would've been more of an expensive, long drawn-out fight."

Duncan also has fostered staff training on NCAA rules and investigative interview skills and created an in-house review board in which a team of investigators, before sending a notice of allegations, will present its findings to a group of 14-16 investigators as a stress test for holes in the case, consistency with other cases and whether it should be sent along as a more serious Level 1/2 case or into the Level 3/4 pool, which are basically resolved on paper.

"All in the world we care about is getting it right," Duncan said, "and those discussions help us get it right."


May 22, 2014




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