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NCAA's revamped enforcement department processing cases

Pat Forde
Yahoo Sports
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Mar 20, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; General view of the NCAA logo at BMO Harris Bradley Center before the 2014 NCAA Tournament second round game between the Wisconsin Badgers and the American University Eagles. (Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)

An annual rite of the opening week of college football is the last-minute, surprise withholding from competition of players due to NCAA eligibility concerns.

With the games upon us, expect the unexpected sight of some players not in uniform at kickoff this week.

Jon Duncan, NCAA director of enforcement, told Yahoo Sports Wednesday that there are some of those cases currently in play in Division I. He is forbidden by NCAA membership bylaws from speaking about specific cases, so the particulars are left open to guesswork at this moment. And the final decision on whether to sit players who might be ruled ineligible is left to the school itself.

"We have tried to prioritize institutions so they know as much as they can possibly know before the start of a football or basketball season," Duncan said.

That's a challenge, given the sheer workload facing enforcement at present. Duncan – with an assist from NCAA president Mark Emmert – wants the word out that contrary to popular belief, the enforcement staff is getting things done.

Duncan said there are 10 Division I cases that are being "taken to final disposition" at present, covering a total of 50 allegations. Eleven cases, with a total of 58 allegations, are in some stage of briefing before the NCAA Committee on Infractions – the group that decides penalties for schools. Of that total, Duncan said four or five cases totaling 36 allegations will be brought to conclusion by the end of the year.

And on top of that, Duncan estimated another 100-125 cases are in their formative stages at present.

"The pipeline is full for the foreseeable future," he said.

The complexity of some cases that involve potentially major violations at major programs has slowed the pipeline some. But the enforcement staff is up to the task of handling a high volume of cases, Duncan said.

Enforcement staffing is nearly back to 100 percent, down only two positions. And he likes the hires that have been made to fill spots left open by an exodus of experienced investigators in the wake of former director Julie Roe Lach's firing in February 2013.

"We've got the right people," he said.

Among the methods Duncan has used to get the new people up to speed was something of an "Enforcement Homecoming" at the NCAA earlier this year – an idea he credits to his associate directors. Seven former staff members who left the NCAA and went to work at member schools came back to share what they had learned working on campus that can be applicable to doing investigative work.

Duncan considers that symposium a success.

"I noticed the change in our staff immediately," he said.

The news Duncan wants known is that NCAA enforcement is alive and well and working cases all over the country – and the results of that work will be known more publicly and specifically soon.

As soon as this week, it seems, when football players may not be in uniform.

More NCAAF coverage:

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