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Assessing the Extent and Sources of NCAA Rule Infractions: A National Self-Report Study of Student-Athletes

NCJ Number
Criminology & Public Policy Volume: 11 Issue: 4 Dated: November 2012 Pages: 665-706
Francis T. Cullen; Edward J. Latessa; Cheryl Lero Jonson
Date Published
November 2012
42 pages
This study explored the prevalence of NCAA rule infractions among student-athletes.
Findings from this study on NCAA rule infractions by student athletes include the following: while 60 percent of student-athletes reported that they did not commit any infractions in the recruitment process, 70 percent of respondents reported breaking NCAA rules while in college; the majority of infractions were minor and were for amenities that would improve the students' quality of life; less than 2 percent of respondents reported serious infractions such as receiving gifts or money greater than $100 in value; and no study participants reported any academic violations. The primary purpose of this study was to determine the true prevalence and causes of NCAA infractions among student-athletes in order to verify claims by the media that NCAA rule violations are widespread in college athletics. Data for the study were obtained from a national sample, n=2,000, of male student-athletes drawn randomly from Division I basketball and football programs. Study participants completed self-report questionnaires dealing with different domains of infractions, different types of acts within those domains, and infractions of differing levels of seriousness. The study found that infractions were highest among student-athletes who were highly recruited; who associated with fellow athletes that had already broken the rules or who saw nothing wrong with breaking the regulations; who did not have a close relationship with their parents; who themselves saw nothing morally wrong with breaking the rules; and who had a general propensity to be involved in deviant behavior. These findings suggest that student-athletes break NCAA regulations for a diverse set of reasons and that it will be difficult to stop or eliminate this behavior in college athletics. Policy implications are discussed. Tables, references, and appendix