June 28, 2013
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN - For most of his adult life, Dave Didion has had a front-row seat as college athletics has gone through a sometimes painful growth spurt.
Didion has spent more than a quarter of a century working in compliance at universities and at the NCAA. After running Auburn's compliance operation from 1995-1999, he left to become enforcement director at the NCAA. And now he's back at Auburn, working side-by-side with senior associate athletics director Rich McGlynn.
Always outspoken, Didion left no doubt that he was distressed by the direction of the NCAA enforcement office and wanted no more part of it.
"For the longest time, if you asked me how my job was going at the NCAA, I would tell you I didn't have one," Didion said. "I didn't consider it a job. I really loved the work I did. I thought working in the enforcement department was a positive thing, helping schools figure out their problems and get back on the right track, draft notices of allegations and present them to the committee and let the committee do its job."
But things changed, and Didion finally decided he couldn't take it anymore.
"Things changed and the way the enforcement department did its work changed," Didion said. "It was not an enjoyable process anymore. It was drudgery. There were a lot of things that occurred I didn't agree with and a lot of changes that were made I didn't agree with, but I went along and tried to do the best I could. It got to the point where I just became miserable."
In an interview with AuburnTigers.com, Didion shared his thoughts about the NCAA and some of the major issues facing college football.
On the move to reduce the role of presidents in the NCAA and give more power to athletics directors
"I think presidents have shown pretty clearly they're not fully on top of athletic issues like conference commissioners and athletic directors are. I think they've made some decisions and made some changes that haven't really been as beneficial as they thought would be. There has to be some athletic input into the process from people who have been in the business for a long time. Fiscally or operationally, there has to be greater credence given to the voice from athletics.
"There is a disconnect most places between presidents and athletics. You have to figure out a way to bridge that disconnect. I don't have any magic words to say this is how you do it. There has to be more credence given to the athletic voice."
On NCAA president Mark Emmert creating a panel of athletics directors
"I know President Emmert has created that panel of athletic directors from whom he is going to get information, but listening to them and acting on it are two different things. If you are going to give them a voice, then give them a real voice. Listen to what they have to say and take it to heart. You have to understand you can't just push legislation through the presidents and hope it works anymore. It doesn't always."
On rules that would have allowed unlimited calls and text to recruits being overturned
"My personal feeling is I wish they would do away with all communication restrictions. If coaches want to text, text. If they want to call, call. If kids want to take the calls, take the calls. If they want to take the text, take the text. My experience is if you tell a coach `I'm not interested. Stop calling me,' they'll stop. If you enjoy the experience and you want to say `I got texted by Rodney Garner last night,' that's fine. It's your choice."
On importance of reporting secondary violations
"You can't run a Division I program and not have secondary violations. You just can't. You are going to violate a rule either because of a mistake or because you're just not thinking, because of some oversight. You are going to have violations. If you don't report any secondary violations, you are in big trouble, because then you're not paying attention to what is going on around you. If you are paying attention and people are working, you are going to have secondary violations. It's no shame. You don't want to keep reporting the same one over and over again, because then you have a problem."
On how he dealt with Auburn issues at the NCAA
"When it came to Auburn stuff, I had to wall myself off at the national office. I'm glad I did. I did not deal with Auburn. I was in the meetings where Auburn issues were talked about, but I didn't comment, didn't look into it and didn't have anything to do with it."
On the role of NCAA investigators and the Committee on Infractions
"If I supervised an investigation and it turned out we couldn't bring any allegations against the program, I'm OK with that. That's fine with me. I don't get paid by the allegation or by the finding. If it turns out an institution is operating properly, I'm good with that. Move on to the next case, because we had plenty of them waiting.
"If there were violations we believed occurred and believed we had the evidence to support it, we'd let the committee do its job. If I was involved in a case that we thought we had the evidence and the committee didn't make a finding, I'm OK with that too. I'd want to know why, where they thought the evidence was insufficient so we didn't make the same mistake again. These cases weren't personal."
On whether the NCAA targets certain coaches
"There were coaches who thought we were out to get them and coaches who thought the enforcement staff didn't like them. We always had to dispel that notion before the committee and say we bring these charges based on evidence, not on personal prejudice or rancor or any personal consideration. The evidence is the evidence. If we think it's sufficient, we'll bring the charge."
On whether some schools are sacred cows
"There is no such thing as a sacred cow. I thought that the NCAA dispelled that notion a long time ago. I heard that the enforcement staff would never touch Southern Cal, never touch Notre Dame, never touch so and so. It turns out all those schools have gone through major infractions cases.
"What is different is there are a lot of criticisms even from coaches that are friends of mine that `You guys make up your minds before you hear any evidence.' I would always say that is just crazy. We never do that. Now I can't say that anymore."
On how the enforcement process works
"You are not the judge and jury. You are an information gatherer. We go out and gather information, we report it to the Committee on Infractions in the form of allegations and then it's up to them. The committee is completely separate from the enforcement staff. I think most people don't understand that."
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: