Rules are mostly made to be broken.
Most everyone has heard the quote from great American General Douglas MacArthur.
But not all have heard MacArthur's quote it in its entirety: "Rules are mostly made to be broken and are too often for the lazy to hide behind.''
Lazy is not a good thing when it comes to athletics and is certainly a frowned-upon characteristic when it comes to athletic compliance in the billion-dollar world of SEC football.
So it is that athletic director Mike Hamilton, caretaker of the University of Tennessee's $98.1 million athletic budget, keeps a close eye on all facets of his program.
"We have to be diligent about following the rules from day to day,'' Hamilton said. "I do believe it's inevitable in our industry, with the annual rulebook changes and the size of the rulebook (427 pages), that you will have some secondary violations.''
Secondary violations are relatively commonplace; they are considered inadvertent and mostly harmless. Major violations, by contrast, involve a willful breaking of rules or gross oversight, and are often accompanied by probationary periods and severe sanctions.
Hamilton said UT compares the number of secondary violations it has committed with other SEC schools each year.
"We're somewhere in the middle,'' Hamilton said, referring to the number of secondary violations committed in all scholarship sports over the past year in the SEC.
UT, however, leads most SEC schools in football-related secondary violations since Lane Kiffin was hired as coach on Dec. 1, 2008, according to information obtained through Freedom of Information requests by the News Sentinel. Tennessee has had six. Ole Miss is next with five.
Alabama and Auburn did not respond to the FOI requests and Vanderbilt, as a private school, is not subject to FOI requests.
Kiffin admits he has made some mistakes, but he does not believe the number to be over the top.
"We've had some secondary violations, but I don't believe it's an inordinate amount,'' he said. "They aren't deliberate, but unfortunately they happen.''
Most would have assumed Kiffin and his new, aggressive coaching staff would make a few mistakes while feeling their way through the SEC.
Few could have guessed, however, that ESPN's bright lights would be shining when Kiffin committed a violation during taping for an "Outside the Lines" special that aired June 6.
Kiffin welcomed a recruit into his office while the cameras rolled, and the footage was shown at the end of the special.
NCAA bylaws clearly state that media is not allowed to be present during a recruiting contact.
UT's compliance team didn't need to do much of an investigation before self-reporting the latest of Kiffin's six violations in seven months on the job.
"We gave complete access to our program to ESPN, so Lane was miked-up for two or three days non-stop,'' Hamilton explained. "This obviously occurred during those couple of days.''
ESPN's Web site, in promoting the "Outside the Lines" program, asked, is Kiffin "a careless maverick or (is) this part of his plan.''
In the eyes of the NCAA and its interpretation of the rules, it makes a difference.
"The definition of a secondary violation is that it is isolated and inadvertent,'' said SEC associate commissioner Greg Sankey, who has worked with governance and compliance issues in the league since 2002.
"So the matter of it not being inadvertent or knowingly committed would certainly raise the question by definition of the bylaw.''
The answer to that question could result in a major violation.
Tennessee has built a great deal of equity in the college football world since the SEC expanded in 1992, winning at a proud clip, producing NFL players like few other schools and all the while avoiding being put on probation because of a major rules violation.
"We take compliance and NCAA rules very seriously, and we have had a tradition of running a clean program,'' Hamilton said. "We believe this is one of those places you can win without bending the rules.''
That perception has become endangered, as evidenced by a recent Florida Times-Union Web site headline which read: "UT's Lane Violation.''
Kiffin has largely ignored his critics, at most, shrugging in their direction.
The 34-year-old coach - youngest in the BCS Conference ranks - said his controversial statements aimed at other SEC programs have been calculated.
It's part of what appears to be a successful plan to gain more national attention and improve recruiting.
Hamilton stands behind Kiffin's concept, citing the influx of excitement and energy that has flowed through the Tennessee football program since the hire was made on Dec. 1, 2008.
"I'm excited about the direction of our football program,'' Hamilton said. "Unquestionably, we have a lot of energy around our program. I can see that in the recruiting process.''
Hamilton also points out that under Kiffin, UT has been "fortunate to have one of our best GPAs we've had in a long time,'' and "discipline problems off the field have been managed the right way.''
Kiffin believes those are key elements of what he's trying to accomplish in addition to returning the Vols to their winning ways.
"When I judge a program, especially in its first year, I look at what's important and that's how the student-athletes are doing off the field,'' he said. "The facts that our football team had its highest GPA in four years last semester and it's been seven months and we haven't had an arrest are very powerful statements about what we are trying to do at Tennessee.''
Hamilton does not believe Kiffin's calculated actions have included intentional acts of committing secondary violations.
"Where I would become concerned is if we have a consistent pattern of secondary violations, or if we get to a place where I believe we have intentionally violated the rules,'' he said. "But I think we are talking about mistakes that have been made along the way. I don't think in any situation there was an intentional violation of a rule.''
With a seemingly proliferation of secondary violations being committed across the board in college football, some higher profile than others, fans have been left to sort out much for themselves.
Many talk radio callers have asked, "If there's not a penalty or punishment involved, who cares?''
Sankey warns that such logic is too close to the flame.
"I understand there's a risk-reward evaluation that takes place, but that may not be properly placed,'' he said.
"We take those issues seriously, there are actions included on each. Some of those may be corrective without penalties, and others there are penalties.''
Those could range from a letter of reprimand to the loss of recruiting opportunities.
"Any time you commit a violation,'' Sankey said, "you put yourself at risk. Period.''