Bumped...Fanpost written at my request - Paragon
At issue in the most recent allegation against USC is NCAA bylaw 18.104.22.168.1.4, which reads as follows:
22.214.171.124.1.4 Use of Outside Consultants. An institution may use or arrange for a temporary consultant to provide in-service training for the coaching staff, but no interaction with student-athletes is permitted unless the individual is counted against the applicable coaching limits. An outside consultant may not be involved in any on- or off-field or on- or off-court coaching activities (e.g., attending practices and meetings involving coaching activities, formulating game plans, analyzing video involving the institution’s or opponent’s team) without counting the consultant in the coaching limitations in that sport. (Adopted: 1/10/92, Revised: 3/10/04)
This section was revised (couldn't link directly, you'll need to click on the link when you go to that page) on March 10, 2004 to add the italicized section at the end. Prior to this, the section consisted only of the first sentence.
On its face, this section can be read to restrict a temporary consultant from attending a practice, presumably even open practices such as USC's. It is interesting to compare this to similar, but not identical, restrictions on the activities of institutional staff members.
126.96.36.199.1.1 Noncoaching Activities. Institutional staff members involved in noncoaching activities (e.g., administrative assistants, academic counselors) do not count in the institution’s coaching limitations, provided such individuals are not identified as coaches, do not engage in any on- or off-field coaching activities (e.g., attending meetings involving coaching activities, analyzing video involving the institution’s or an opponent’s team), and are not involved in any off-campus recruitment of prospective student-athletes or scouting of opponents. A noncoaching staff member with sport-specific responsibilities may not participate with or observe student-athletes in the staff member’s sport who are engaged in nonorganized voluntary athletically related activities (e.g., pick-up games). (Adopted: 1/16/93, Revised: 1/10/95, 12/13/05, 4/27/06 effective 8/1/06)
Note the differences in the bolded portions. Temporary consultants are not allowed to be involved in any on- or off-field coaching activities, while staff members are not allowed to engage in the same. The examples given for being involved include "attending practices and meetings involving coaching activities", while the examples being given for engaging include just attending meetings involving coaching activities. Since the list of examples is broader for temporary consultants than for institutional staff members (setting aside the clarity issues resulting form the use of "and") it’s not unreasonable to think that they intended for temporary consultants to be more restricted than staff members, as a temporary consultant may look more like a coach.
Without the parenthetical, I don’t think most people would have interpreted the Temporary Consultant bylaws to mean that attending a practice (especially for a school like USC with open practices) would constitute being involved in coaching activities, particularly when much of the other sections of these bylaws speaks to interaction with the players. Both of these sections are subsections under the general restriction on coaching numbers, and the parent section reads as follows:
188.8.131.52.1 Countable Coach. An athletics department staff member must count against coaching limits as soon as the individual participates (in any manner) in the coaching of the intercollegiate team in practice, games or organized activities directly related to that sport, including any organized staff activity directly related to the sport.
The parenthetical in the Temporary Consultants bylaw adds some surprising breadth to that restriction, and not just with respect to attending practices.
A very strict reading of these bylaws would seem to prohibit anyone engaged in consulting (or academic counseling) from watching football games on television( or at least from watching them using a TiVo and rewinding to see a play), as there’s almost guaranteed to be a game with your team or an opponent worth watching on a given weekend, at least for BCS conference teams. Anyone capable of being hired as a consultant probably can’t help but analyze video when they watch it, so reading the restrictions that broadly doesn’t make much sense.
Nevertheless, these bylaws can certainly be read to prohibit a temporary consultant from even attending an open practice. Given the breadth of other activities which would be prohibited, that may not be what the NCAA intended, but without any other information, there could be something to this. While interaction with athletes is important, the analysis cannot end there, as even activities which clearly aren't interacting with athletes are banned, such as video analysis.
People have mentioned the use of Alex Gibbs, but the last two sentences of this bylaw were not added until the revision on May 10, 2004, and it’s these sentences which really fleshed out these restrictions. If I recall correctly, that happened very early on, I think before 2004, when those activities would not have been prohibited.
I'm not too good at tracking down NCAA interpretations, but I did find this presentation (link to .PPT file) on the NCAA website, which looks like it was given by NCAA personnel. It seems that this is a recent document, as there are 2009 dates in the presentation. Of particular interest is slide 21, which reads as follows:
Use of outside consultants
Temporary training to coaching staff only.
No interaction with SAs permitted.
No involvement with on- or off- field coaching activities.
May observe practice, but not participate.
Official interpretations (7/2/03, Item Ref. 1a and 1/8/03, Item Ref. 1).
This appears to speak directly to the practice issue. Someone smarter than myself can comment on whether or not this counts for anything, but it would seem to indicate that the NCAA doesn't read this rule in the broadest possible reading.
It's not an open-and-shut case in either direction, although that presentation is potentially illuminating. I haven't looked into the "formulating game plan" issue as much, but it sounds from the examples in that presentation that providing advice with respect to particular players would be acceptable, so long as it's provided to the coach and not the players (slide 28). I may touch on that further in the comments when I have some time. Given the bylaws, I think there's potentially a legitimate question here, but that it's likely to be resolved in favor of USC, especially if guidance like the linked presentation has been provided to member institutions by the NCAA.
Made a couple edits for the purposes of clarity.