A glass case outside the compliance office in the Gophers athletic department contains printouts of stories chronicling schools that have run afoul of NCAA laws.
There has been no shortage of examples to choose from in the past year, and the University of Miami provided a doozy this week. Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi, however, said he's not about to "throw darts" at anyone.
Though he and his staff have constant dialogue with their athletes and coaches about what is permissible contact and conduct with boosters, Maturi said it's virtually impossible to prevent someone from breaking rules if that is their intent.
"The key is convincing them that it's not worth the gamble," he said.
Athletic directors around the country undoubtedly are reviewing their policies and vigilance in wake of the scandal that has engulfed the Miami football program. Yahoo! Sports dropped a bombshell this week that detailed alleged violations by booster Nevin Shapiro, who claims he provided thousands of improper benefits to 72 football players over an eight-year span.
Shapiro said he showered current and former players with cash, prostitutes, jewelry, parties at his mansion and yacht and even paid for an abortion. Miami became the latest in a string of high-profile football programs that have been rocked by scandal amid rules impropriety.
"When we meet with the leadership of the booster clubs and go over the rules, when we meet with our student-athletes and have compliance sessions with our coaches, we can now say, 'Look, this is what can happen,'" Maturi said. "I don't think anybody, even our most fervent boosters, want to get caught doing this. The temptation to be a nice person and give a kid a $100 handshake or buy him a meal or give him a free lease on a car, you might think you're being a nice guy and think you have an 'in' to a high-profile athlete, [but] you're doing him and us far more harm than good."
Maturi and compliance director J.T. Bruett meet with every team before the season to go over issues such as extra benefits and what is acceptable in terms of interaction with boosters. They talk about it with head coaches at their monthly meeting.
Department officials meet with booster clubs in every sport to discuss NCAA rules. Season-ticket packages also include a brochure that outlines, among other things, what qualifies as an extra benefit.
Pleading ignorance doesn't pass muster anymore.
"I think you would be hard-pressed to find a student-athlete who says, 'Well, I just never really knew about that,'" Bruett said.
But Maturi and Bruett acknowledge that education sometimes is not enough. They can't hire detectives to track athletes and coaches 24 hours a day so they can only hope their message sticks.
Maturi is not naive to the realities that arise. He often uses a particular anecdote when he talks to his athletes: Imagine a table of Gophers fans who spot two football players eating at a Dinkytown restaurant and decide to pick up their tab.
"How many times do you think those kids are going to say, 'Oh no. I've got to pay for it myself. You can't do that,'" Maturi said. " I hope they do that, but come on. There's a reality here of how the world is. But we tell the kids if you want to keep playing and keep your eligibility, you have to pay for it."
Athletic departments walk a fine line because they need to make boosters -- especially those who contribute big bucks -- feel special and important. Shapiro told Yahoo! that he was allowed to lead the football team out of the tunnel and onto the field before two games.
Some Gophers boosters travel to road games with teams, and Maturi hosts a monthly dinner for boosters at his home.
"You just keep your ear to the ground and try and figure out if there is anybody out there that you feel might be a rogue booster," Bruett said. "That's really hard to determine. Those boosters are the people that are providing the financial benefit for the athletic program. But in the same vein you want to protect the integrity of the institution."
That requires department officials to keep their antennae up. If something doesn't look right or if they get anonymous tip, they check it out. If an athlete who usually drives a moped around campus is suddenly driving a car, they ask questions. The compliance office at times monitors athletes' Facebook and Twitter accounts.
"None of us like to have our integrity questioned," Maturi said. "And yet we try and tell our coaches that we're doing it to protect you as well as us. We have an obligation to ask. 'Oh, your dad is in town and it's your dad's car?' Then we have to follow through and make sure it is. We can't just believe them verbally. That sounds terrible because there's a message there that we don't trust you."
Yet nothing is guaranteed. There will always be coaches and athletes who break rules because they don't think they will be caught, or they just don't care.
Maturi said he wishes the violators could be held more accountable in those situations. In some cases, a coach has left for a better job while his previous school is forced to deal with NCAA violations conducted on his watch. Imagine how first-year Miami coach Al Golden feels right now.
"If your compliance program is really top-shelf and you're doing everything you're supposed to do, gosh you can't hang that school for the next 5 to 10 years," Maturi said. "It just isn't fair because the kids that are still playing are innocent. The kids coming to that institution are innocent. Probably the new coaches are innocent."