The NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee (“Committee”) recently reviewed the Committee on Infractions’ (“COI”) decision relating to Arizona State University (“ASU”). The COI found that ASU violated multiple NCAA bylaws including telephone call limitations, coaching staff limits, use of outside consultants, payment for student-athlete work not performed, and ultimately found that ASU exhibited a lack of institutional control. The COI, therefore, issued substantial penalties including three years of probation and a 2011 postseason ban for the ASU baseball team.
ASU argued on appeal that the evidence presented to the COI does not support the findings that (a) the activities of the student managers constituted a major violation; (b) the delegation of responsibilities by the part-time strength and conditioning coach constituted either a major violation or a violation of Bylaw 11.7; or (c) the overpayment of student-athletes constituted a major violation. As such, ASU stressed that these findings were secondary violations, rather than major violations. The Committee disagreed with points (a) and (c) above and stated the evidence established that these violations were neither isolated nor inadvertent, and provided more than a minimal recruiting, competitive or other advantage. The Committee stated the overpayment of student-athletes via the Sandlot program lasted from September 2006 to November 2007, and involved 20 student-athletes who received $5,889.00 in overpayments during a 15-month period. Similarly, the activities of the student managers occurred over a significant period of time, and continued even after the head coach was admonished regarding the need to conform to the applicable rules.
As it pertains to point (b) above, ASU argued that the delegation of the part-time strength and conditioning coach’s responsibilities did not constitute a violation of Bylaw 11.7. The Committee stated an institution may contract with an outside strength and conditioning coach without having to count that person within the institution’s coaching limits, which ASU did here. However, ASU did not have contracts with the persons to whom the part-time strength and conditioning coach delegated his responsibilities. The Committee concluded in the absence of a contract with those persons they are considered countable coaches and cannot be excluded from the coaching limits. The Committee concluded however that the violation should be reduced to a secondary violation because the Committee found that it was (a) isolated and inadvertent; (b) intended to provide only a minimal recruiting, competitive or other advantage; and (c) did not include a significant recruiting inducement or extra benefit.
ASU also appealed the finding of lack of institutional control by arguing the evidence presented does not support a finding of lack of institutional control. The violations at issue included (a) failure to ensure adequate rules education and systems for monitoring telephone calls; and (b) failure to provide education to all members of the baseball staff (including managers and non-coaches) for a period of three years. The Committee concluded that the violations described by the COI supported a conclusion of lack of institutional control.
As it relates to the penalties imposed by the COI, ASU appealed the three-year probationary period and postseason competition ban by arguing that the imposition of both was an abuse of discretion. ASU argued that the COI report failed to explain or justify the COI’s deviation from the presumptive probation penalty of two years and that such failure constitutes an abuse of discretion. Also, ASU argued that, in order to impose a postseason competition ban, Bylaw 22.214.171.124-(f) requires a showing that (a) involved individuals remain active in the program; (b) a significant competitive advantage resulted from the violations; or (c) the violations reflect a lack of institutional control. After considering ASU’s arguments, the Committee affirmed the penalties imposed by the COI because (a) ASU is a repeat violator in accordance with Bylaw 126.96.36.199.2; and (b) the Committee’s affirmance of the COI’s finding of lack of institutional control.