Athletics administrators can — and should — set the tone for student-athlete accountability as a priority, despite the highly competitive environment.

That’s according to four athletics directors who shared their expertise with College Athletics and the Law. Brad Bates is AD at Boston College. Stan Morrison was AD at the University of California Santa Barbara and UC Riverside before retiring in 2011. Vincent Nicastro is AD at Villanova University. And Troy Tucker is AD at Northampton Community College and a member of the CATL Advisory Board.

Check out their game plan below for achieving student-athlete accountability on your campus:

1. Know what you stand for. It’s important to develop your own definition of success.

2. Set the tone. It starts with recruiting. Tell coaches that even great athletes must be committed to the program and the college. ADs and coaches should address all student-athletes on the first day of the semester or season. Morrison speaks openly about his zero-tolerance policy, the bystander rule, “no means no,” protected sex, morals, values and parents’ expectations.

3. Get it in writing. Prior to joining a team, have student-athletes sign an oath. Tucker’s includes a pledge to pursue excellence in the classroom and in competition, hold themselves to the highest standards of sportsmanship, and demonstrate character and accountability while being positive role models in the community.

4. Set the example. “Coaches who allow their student-athletes to get away with unacceptable behavior, or who behave poorly themselves, are only perpetuating the notion that those types of actions are acceptable,” Tucker said.

5. Emphasize accountability. Clarify that participating in sports is a privilege that brings opportunities and responsibilities. Explain how student-athlete misconduct can damage the reputations of institutions, coaches, teams and players.

6. Increase athletes’ awareness of being in the public eye. Find practical ways to demonstrate they’re “perpetually in the spotlight and one bad decision can have very public ramifications that follow them throughout their lives,” Bates said. Showcase a history of bad decisions and public consequences involving other student-athletes.

7. Tap existing resources. Implement programming that fosters accountability by accessing expertise, speakers, grants and other resources that already exist on your campus or at conference offices, the NCAA, governing bodies and local organizations.

8. Consider legal concerns. Always make sure consequences and procedures comply with the Clery Act, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, free speech rights, and due process requirements. Seek guidance from your general counsel, student affairs’ officials and faculty athletics representatives.

9. Bring student-athlete leaders into the process. Ask them to help establish policies and rules for all student-athletes.

10. Avoid bans on social media or alcohol use. “Lean on the university code/values and let the students know there are consequences if they’re in violation,” Nicastro said.

11. Ensure consequences are consistent, fair, educational and informed. “If we are genuinely conscious of student development, then our actions and consequences should serve as developmentally meaningful,” Bates said. Make sure everyone knows your rules, policies, philosophy and institutional mission in advance. Document hearings, meetings and discussions. Act quickly. Try to prevent resentment.

12. Don’t play favorites. Consider individual circumstances but provide the same consequences for top players as for those who don’t play as much. Other players, faculty and staff will see you’re serious about discipline and not just giving lip service.

13. Encourage diligence and courage in setting and enforcing standards. “When you don’t uphold the standard with consequences, you lose the entire team and they become dysfunctional,” Morrison said. “Leadership must be diligent in helping those who fall to stand up and come back again and again.”

14. Limit second chances. “If you give third chances, you will lose all credibility,” Morrison said.

15. Support coaches. Make sure they know you’re available for consultation. Support a coach’s consequences, even if they differ from others’ approaches, Morrison said.

16. Meet with student-athletes who receive game-related discipline. “This reinforces to the student-athlete that I do mean what I say, but it also gives them a chance to give me their side of what happened,” Tucker said.

17. Teach the art of apology. “Kids don’t know how to tell their teammates and coaches they’re genuinely sorry for screwing up. ADs can teach that behind closed doors,” Morrison said.

For more information, contact Bates at, Morrison at, Nicastro at, or Tucker at