Support group roles discussed by athletics

National trends and more stringent NCAA recruitment policies have left TCU athletics administrators discussing the future of team support groups like the Purple Hearts and Diamond Darlings, said Marc Evans, director of athletics compliance.Evans said the NCAA has changed rules over the last two years to restrict how support groups can deal with recruits, and as a result, some schools, like the University of Alabama and Florida State University, have disbanded groups like the Purple Hearts. Other colleges have reorganized or changed group charters to be sure they comply with regulations, he said.

“If you remember, there were some incidences at some other campuses – Colorado and others – and so that started this reform as to we need to review and look at those (spirit groups),” Evans said. “So there have been discussions, but there has not been any decision made as to exactly what (TCU is) going to do with this group yet.”

The athletics department reviews its practices every year to analyze how successful they’ve been, if they have assisted in accomplishing what they were supposed to and to make sure TCU is in line with NCAA regulations every year, Evans said. With the flux in recruiting policy, he said, it’s natural that administrators would address support groups this year.

“The new reform package for recruiting has really changed what they can do for us,” Evans said “I would say that there’s been discussions as to what role they will play on our campus, but I don’t want people to read any further than the fact that that’s been discussed on every campus across country as to what their role will be.”

Evans said his role in discussing Purple Hearts and Diamond Darlings is limited to informing department officials as to what NCAA rules are and to inform them of what TCU needs to comply with those rules. The future of the organizations will be decided on athletics administrators.

Athletics director Danny Morrison said his department evaluates all compliance areas on a regular basis and is checking into all aspects of recruiting policy, not just Purple Hearts and Diamond Darlings.

“We just want to make sure our support groups are under NCAA compliance,” Morrison said.

He said it is too early to speculate on whether the groups will disband or be drastically changed because athletics administrators are still in the early stages of discussion.

“We’re trying to take what we’re doing, see how we can improve it, how we can do better and just as importantly, how we can document it better as to what we’re doing in that process,” Morrison said. “You can do a lot of good things, but if you don’t have documentation of it, then one of the elements of compliance will be left out of the equation.”

Evans said the review has nothing to do with a phone call from a Mountain West Conference compliance official he received after an episode of the ESPN series “The Season” aired in which TCU football players were given baked goods by members of the Purple Hearts in November.

He said the show made it seem as if players received treats from the Purple Hearts every week, which would be a violation of NCAA rules, but in reality, Purple Hearts only give baked goods to team members once a year, which is allowed under the current parameters.

The conference is routinely alerted of potential violations and asks its institutions to internally review incidents based on media reports and appearances on a regular basis, Evans said.

“There’s articles in newspapers all over the country, there’s things that are run on newscasts, and people see things in backgrounds, or they think they see things,” he said “It’s very common that people call and just ask us to review and say, ‘We think we saw this. Can you clarify for us?’ That’s very common in this office.”

Javan Hedlund, MWC director of communications, said the conference office is usually in daily contact with its institutions about possible compliance issues, but could not comment on the specifics on the incident involving TCU and “The Season.”

An attempt to contact an MWC compliance official through Hedlund was not immediately successful.

Evans said the department has to be extremely careful in reviewing everything and everybody associated with it because TCU is already on probation because of track and field rules violations. He also said the department has to ensure all its student-athletes are in compliance and takes on additional responsibility when it has to monitor spirit groups as well.

“If they do something wrong, they’re part of our organization, somewhat,” Evans said, “So even though they’re not an athletic team, they’re still part. If we’re overseeing them, then we’re going to be responsible, so that’s why we have to educate them like we are our student-athletes – that these are things they can or cannot do.