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Why Auburn self-reported an NCAA violation for ‘$5 or $6’ players picked up off the ground

They did it because they had to.

NCAA Basketball: Auburn at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Some Florida fans got creative with a taunt after the Gators beat Auburn in Gainesville over the weekend. Here’s video showing fans chanting “FBI” and throwing what appears to be money at the Tigers players.

The video shows two Auburn players doing what pretty much anyone else would do: They picked the money up and pocketed it. The thing is, the cash was real, and because of that it could be viewed as an impermissible benefit by the NCAA. So Auburn did what they’re supposed to do, and self-reported an NCAA violation.

“It was real money, and I think there’s $5 or $6 that are out there, and because you guys know we’re compliant, we’ve actually turned that money over to compliance,” [coach Bruce] Pearl said. “Really. I don’t know, it was five or six bucks, but our people have the money. I don’t know what they’re going to do with it, probably give it to charity, but we’ve already self-reported.”

Pearl’s being a little tongue-in-cheek with his compliance comment. He was found to have concealed the fact that a barbecue held at his house back in 2008 was an NCAA violation. His Tigers program is also currently firmly in the crosshairs of the FBI’s probe into college basketball, and its already cost one of Pearl’s assistants his job.

The other underlying sentiment here is that schools pretty much have to self-report NCAA violations for things this banal as a defense mechanism. The NCAA relies on its member schools to self-report. Its enforcement arm has no subpoena power, and is largely a horse that must be led to water in order to drink. In fact, a West Coast Conference school a few years ago self-reported the fact that a college golfer used university water to wash her car as a secondary violation.

Typically, a school self reports these small things because if they’re turned in by another school (which also happens) the NCAA comes down harder if a penalty is levied because the school is seen as concealing information.