The NCAA Committee on Infractions Has Spoken: Bluefield State College (Division II)

The NCAA Division II Committee on Infractions (“COI” or “Committee”) is an independent administrative body comprised of individuals from the NCAA Division II membership and the public charged with deciding infractions cases involving member institutions and their staffs.  This case involved improper certification violations at Bluefield State College (“BSC” or “institution”). The underlying violations occurred largely due to compliance-related shortcomings in staffing and systems. Those shortcomings demonstrated that BSC failed to monitor its certification process. COI considered this case through the cooperative summary disposition process in which BSC and the NCAA enforcement staff agreed to the primary facts and violations as fully set forth in the summary disposition report (“SDR”). COI proposed additional penalties for BSC, which the institution accepted. Therefore, institution has no opportunity to appeal.

The Committee concluded that BSC committed the following violations:

Violations of NCAA Division II Manual Bylaws 14.3.2.1.1, 14.3.5.1 and 14.5.4.3 (2017-18); 12.1.1, 12.1.1.1.3, 14.2, 14.2.2 and 14.5.1 (2017-18 and 2018-19); 14.12.1 and 16.8.1 (2017-18 through 2019-20); 14.3.2.1 and 14.4.3.1 (2018-19); 14.4.3.2 and 14.4.3.4 (2018-19 and 2019-20); and 14.1.7.1 (2019-20)

The institution and NCAA enforcement staff agreed that during the 2017-18 through 2019-20 academic years, the institution improperly certified 21 student-athletes in eight sports as eligible for competition, which resulted in 28 violations of amateurism certification, academic certification and progress-toward-degree legislation. As a result, the student-athletes competed and received actual and necessary expenses while ineligible or not certified. The student-athletes competed in a total of 225 contests while ineligible or not certified.

  • During the 2017-18 through 2019-20 academic years, one softball student-athlete, one men’s golf student-athlete, one men’s basketball student-athlete and one women’s volleyball student-athlete, respectively, practiced and competed prior to having their amateurism certified. NCAA Bylaws 12.1.1 and 12.1.1.1.3 (2017-18 and 2018-19).
  • During the 2017-18 and 2018-19 academic years, five student-athletes in four sports practiced and competed after the 45-day certification period without completing NCAA initial eligibility certification. NCAA Bylaws 14.3.5.1 (2017-18) and 14.3.2.1 (2018-19).
  • During the 2017-18 academic year, one baseball student-athlete competed as a partial qualifier. NCAA Bylaw 14.3.2.1.1 (2017-18).
  • During the 2017-18 and 2018-19 academic years, one women’s cross country student-athlete and one baseball student-athlete, respectively, practiced and competed after exhausting 10 semesters of competition. NCAA Bylaws 14.2 and 14.2.2 (2017-18 and 2018-19).
  • During the 2018-19 academic year, one women’s volleyball student-athlete participated in competition while no longer in academic good standing with the institution. NCAA Bylaw 14.4.3.1 (2018-19).
  • During the 2019-20 academic year, one women’s volleyball student-athlete participated in practice and competition while no longer enrolled full time at the institution. NCAA Bylaw 14.1.7.1 (2019-20).
  • During the 2018-19 and 2019-20 academic years, four student-athletes in three sports competed after not completing nine hours in the previous regular full-time academic term. NCAA Bylaw 14.4.3.2 (2018-19 and 2019-20).
  • During the 2018-19 and 2019-20 academic years, five student-athletes in five sports competed after not completing 24 hours in the two previous regular full-time academic terms. NCAA Bylaw 14.4.3.4 (2018-19 and 2019-20).
  • During the 2017-18 and 2018-19 academic years, one men’s basketball four-year transfer student-athlete and one baseball four-year transfer student-athlete, respectively, competed without completing an academic year in residency at the institution. NCAA Bylaw 14.5.1 (2017-18 and 2018-19).
  • During the 2017-18 academic year, one men’s basketball two-year nonqualifier transfer student-athlete competed without obtaining the required six transfer credit hours of English, three transfer credit hours of math and three transfer credit hours of science. NCAA Bylaw 14.5.4.3 (2017-18).

Violations of NCAA Constitution 2.8.1 (2017-18 through 2019-20)

The institution and NCAA enforcement staff agreed that from the 2017-18 through 2019-20 academic years, the scope and nature of the violations detailed above demonstrate that the institution violated the NCAA principle of rules compliance when it failed to adequately monitor its certification processes and ensure compliance with NCAA amateurism, initial eligibility, continuing eligibility and transfer legislation. Specifically, the institution did not provide the necessary supervision of its NCAA certification system to verify the accuracy of student-athlete certification. This resulted in multiple student-athletes participating while ineligible or not certified.

As a result of the foregoing, the Committee penalized BSC as follows:

  1. Public reprimand and censure through the release of the public infractions decision.
  2. Probation: Three years of probation from November 11, 2021 to November 10, 2024.
  3. During this period of probation, BSC shall (a) continue to develop and implement a comprehensive compliance and educational program on NCAA legislation to instruct coaches, the faculty athletics representative, all athletics department personnel and all institutional staff members with responsibility for ensuring compliance with NCAA legislation on certification and recruiting; (b) submit a preliminary report to the Office of the Committees on Infractions (“OCOI”) by January 1, 2022, forth a schedule for establishing this compliance and educational program. The preliminary report must also include a copy of the recently completed outside audit, including all of the auditor’s recommendations and a reasonable schedule for when the recommendations will be completed and implemented during the probationary period; (c) file with the OCOI annual compliance reports indicating the progress made with this program by October 1. Particular emphasis shall be placed on rules education and monitoring related to certification and student-athlete eligibility. Moreover, BSC must include specific examples of certification and eligibility-related education provided to BSC coaching staff members regarding their responsibilities in signing off on eligibility checklists and ensuring that only eligible student-athletes represent the institution; (d) inform prospects in the eight affected sport programs in writing that Bluefield State is on probation for three years and detail the violations committed. If a prospect takes an official paid visit, the information regarding violations, penalties and terms of probation must be provided in advance of the visit. Otherwise, the information must be provided before a prospect signs a National Letter of Intent; and (e) publicize specific and understandable information concerning the nature of the infractions by providing, at a minimum, a statement to include the types of violations and the affected sport programs and a direct, conspicuous link to the public infractions decision located on the athletics department’s main webpage “landing page” and in the media guides for the affected sport programs. The institution’s statement must: (i) clearly describe the infractions; (ii) include the length of the probationary period associated with the case; and (iii) give members of the general public a clear indication of what happened in the case to allow the public (particularly prospects and their families) to make informed, knowledgeable decisions. A statement that refers only to the probationary period with nothing more is not sufficient.
  4. BSC shall pay a $2,000 fine.
  5. Vacation of records. BSC acknowledged that ineligible participation occurred as a result of the violations in this case. Therefore, pursuant to NCAA Bylaws 19.5.2-(g) and Executive Regulations 31.2.2.4 and 31.2.2.5, Bluefield State shall vacate all regular season and conference tournament records and participation in which ineligible student-athletes detailed in this case competed from the time they became ineligible through the time they were reinstated as eligible for competition. This order of vacation includes all regular season competition and conference tournaments. Further, if the ineligible student-athletes participated in NCAA postseason competition at any time they were ineligible, the institution’s participation in the postseason shall be vacated. The individual records of the ineligible student-athletes shall also be vacated. However, the individual finishes and any awards for all eligible student-athletes shall be retained. Further, the institution’s records regarding its athletics programs, as well as the records of the head coaches, shall reflect the vacated records and shall be recorded in all publications in which such records are reported, including, but not limited to, institutional media guides, recruiting material, electronic and digital media plus institutional, conference and NCAA archives. Any institution that may subsequently hire the affected head coaches shall similarly reflect the vacated wins in their career records documented in media guides and other publications cited above. Head coaches with vacated wins on their records may not count the vacated wins toward specific honors or victory “milestones” such as 100th, 200th or 500th career victories. Any public reference to the vacated contests shall be removed from the athletics department stationery, banners displayed in public areas and any other forum in which they may appear. Any trophies awarded by the NCAA in these sports shall be returned to the Association.
  6. BSC is required to provide COI with a copy of its outside audit and the recommendations contained therein as an attachment to its preliminary compliance report. BSC shall implement all recommendations made by the reviewer during the probationary period. As part of the annual reporting process, BSC must include updates on the status of the recommendations.
  7. During each year of the term of probation, the director of athletics and compliance director(s) shall attend NCAA Regional Rules Seminars. Moreover, during the first two years of probation, any and all individuals in the registrar’s office with certification-related responsibilities must also attend NCAA Regional Rules Seminars. Finally, representatives with athletics-related responsibilities in the institution’s financial aid office must attend one NCAA Regional Rules Seminar during the term of probation. The institution shall provide in its annual compliance reports a list of the sessions the associate athletic director for compliance attends at these seminars.
  8. Following the receipt of the final compliance report and prior to the conclusion of probation, BSC’s president shall provide a letter to the COI affirming that BSC’s current athletics policies and practices conform to all requirements of NCAA regulations.

For any questions, feel free to contact Christian Dennie at cdennie@bgsfirm.com.