Jonathan Duncan has 18 months to prove he can run the NCAA's enforcement department effectively, efficiently and within the rules.
Then President Mark Emmert will decide whether the new interim top cop should stick around permanently.
After three full days in his new job, Duncan told The Associated Press he's been told he'll have a year and a half to restore the public image of an enforcement division reeling from the embarrassment of a botched investigation at the University of Miami.
"I think we can get a lot done in that time," Duncan said as he confirmed the 18-month time frame.
It won't be easy for the outsider.
He takes over from Julie Roe Lach, the first female enforcement chief who was a popular figure within NCAA headquarters. She was forced out March 1, less than two weeks after the governing body released a report showing the NCAA paid Nevin Shapiro's attorney to collect evidence in the Miami case despite objections from the NCAA's legal department -- and in violation of the NCAA's own rules.
Shapiro, who is serving a 20-year prison term for masterminding a $930 million Ponzi scheme, alleges he provided dozens of Miami football and basketball players with improper benefits from 2002 to 2010 while playing the role of rogue booster.
Emmert told reporters Feb. 18 that the case would proceed.
Miami President Donna Shalala has argued the Hurricanes already have suffered enough with self-imposed penalties and that the school should not face any additional NCAA sanctions.
Duncan declined to comment specifically on the Miami case though he acknowledged he is "getting up to speed" on multiple infractions cases. But the offer to lead the enforcement division came as a "surprise," Duncan said. He would not say when Emmert offered him the job.
He's taking over a department in turmoil.
Two key enforcement division leaders, including Lach, have left in the past nine months. The NCAA also has lost two investigators over the past year, is facing its biggest scandal in recent memory and Duncan has already noted that the department is in need of both stability and a morale boost.
"I'm not going to go very far into internal personnel matters, but these department members are professionals, they are skilled, trained, experienced individuals," Duncan said. "But they're human and the recent events have had an effect on them. But they are committed, hard-working and I have confidence that we can move forward and do this very difficult task that we have to do."
Duncan has practiced at a Kansas City law firm, Spencer Fane Britt & Browne, since 2003 and spent the previous five years at another Kansas City law firm, Husch Blackwell.
He also understands how the NCAA works. He first represented the NCAA in litigation in 1998 and has provided counsel to a variety of NCAA committees and working groups while also working on reinstatement cases over the past 15 years.
His initial goal at the NCAA is to restore the public trust in his department by making good decisions.
Duncan intends to spend these first weeks collecting feedback from member schools, brushing up on the enforcement changes approved last fall, reviewing the department's policies and procedures and, of course, ensuring that all of his employees adhere to the rules.
If all goes well over the next 18 months, the career attorney just might become a permanent fixture in Indianapolis.
"I have spoken with President Emmert and we share a vision for a process that is fair and provides service to the membership," he said. "Not just in regards to enforcement but to all of the national office functions and making sure we are doing what the membership wants to do. That is the focus for me and the national office as a whole. It is always looking to improve."