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by Eddie Bass

Several years ago, when he was

head basketball coach at Southwest Missouri State University, Charlie Spoonhour had what sounded like a good idea.

Many members of his team were away from their homes and were inclined to get homesick, particularly at holiday time.

Wouldn't it be a good idea, he reasoned, for SMSU basketball fans to invite members of the team, one or two at a time, to their homes for dinner?

It would be a welcome break for the student athlete and the basketball fan would have the pleasure of the player's company.

The idea became popular almost instantly. But someone wondered if maybe the dinners violated NCAA rules.

Rather than take a chance, the practice of encouraging such activity was discontinued. But it raised the point of how a seemingly harmless activity could result in compliance problems for the university.

SMSU has gone so far as to compile a booklet, which spells out NCAA rules, and has distributed it to contributors to the Bear Fund.

In a preface signed by Bill Rowe, director of athletics, and Dr. Mary Jo Wynn, senior associate director of athletics, the booklet points out that it "is intended to provide (Bear Boosters) with a basic understanding of NCAA rules and regulations. ... It covers most common situations encountered by alumni and friends and the rules governing these situations."

Rowe and Wynn make the flat statement that "we are committed to compliance with NCAA rules, and we want you to be also."

The NCAA regards alumni, boosters and friends of the university as being representative of athletics interests.

"The NCAA has explicit guidelines for what representatives of athletics interests, traditionally known as boosters can and cannot do," the folder points out.

Many of the NCAA regulations relate to recruiting.

It's interesting to note that a "prospective student athlete" is defined as "any student who has started classes for the ninth grade."

Only coaches and university staff members can be involved in the recruiting process.

"All boosters, alumni, friends and other representatives of athletics interests who are not employed by the university are prohibited from making contact with a prospective student athlete or his or her family for the purpose of encouraging the SMS athletics program," the pamphlet states.

NCAA rules also cover the student-athlete after he or she has been enrolled in the university.

It is a violation of NCAA rules to provide an "extra benefit" to an enrolled student athlete that is not available to all other students at the university.

Linda Dollar, longtime volleyball coach at SMSU, now is assistant director of athletics/compliance. Her telephone number is 836-6829.

If you have a question about a specific NCAA rule, it would be a good idea to give her a ring.

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