Lopiccolo v. American University: Loss of Scholarship Breach of Contract Claim Barred by Statute of LimitationsMarch 9, 2012
The NCAA Committee on Infractions Has Spoken: University of North CarolinaMarch 14, 2012
The NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee (“Committee”) recently reviewed and affirmed the Committee on Infractions’ (“COI”) decision relating to the Georgia Institution of Technology (“GT”).
COI found that GT violated multiple NCAA bylaws governing preferential treatment, impermissible tryouts, failure to cooperate, and failure to meet conditions and obligations of membership. At issue are the following:
1. COI’s finding of failure to cooperate based on the finding that GT staff members spoke to student-athlete 2 and told him the issues and related matters that would be discussed in his interview with the NCAA.
2. COI’s finding of failure to meet the conditions and obligations of membership based on the finding that GT did not withhold student-athlete 1 from competition when GT was made aware of information which raised serious questions about whether he was involved in violations of NCAA legislation and, thus, should have been declared ineligible.
3. COI’s imposition of penalties relating to vacation of all contests won by GT’s football team after November 24, 2009 (the day GT was alerted that student-athlete 1’s eligibility was in question) and ending with the conclusion of GT’s football season.
GT, therefore, set forth its appeal and stated the findings associated with items 1 and 2 above should be set aside because the findings are clearly contrary to the evidence presented and item 3 above should be set aside because the penalty is excessive and an abuse of discretion.
Failure to Cooperate
GT contends COI erred in its determination that it failed to cooperate with NCAA enforcement. GT’s director of compliance was instructed that information concerning the investigation could only be shared with GT’s president and director of athletics. The director of compliance relayed these instructions to both the president and director of athletics; however, the director of athletics did not follow these instructions and discussed the matter with the head football coach. In turn, the head football coach shared information with one of the student-athletes involved in the investigation.
GT admits the instructions were violated, but contends the violations should be overlooked. First, GT contends the director of athletics had to inform the head football coach to maintain a solid working relationship. Second, the decision to inform the head football coach was proper since the director of athletics was allowed to speak to the head football coach in another investigation. Third, the failure to follow the instructions provided by NCAA enforcement should be dismissed since it really did not affect the outcome of the investigation. The Committee failed to lend credence to GT’s argument and upheld this finding.
Failure to Meet the Conditions and Obligations of Membership
This finding is based on GT’s decision not to withhold a student-athlete from competition who was the subject of the investigation after the NCAA warned that his eligibility may have been compromised. The record reflects the director of compliance consulted with the ACC about withholding the student-athlete from competition and the ACC cleared the student-athlete to compete. There was a question as to whether GT presented all of the information to the ACC to make the decision.
GT’s president indicated it was his decision to allow the student-athlete to compete. The Committee, however, chastised members of the athletics department for failing to convey all of the information necessary for the president to make an informed decision.
The Committee concluded that the evidence supported COI’s finding.
The Penalty of Vacation of Records
GT asked the Committee to overturn the vacation of records penalty imposed by COI. GT alleges the requirement that it vacate all victories in which the student-athlete in question competed while ineligible is excessive and an abuse of discretion.
GT, first, argues it did not gain a competitive advantage by the student-athlete’s participation in the ACC championship game. The Committee concluded it was GT’s decision to allow the student-athlete to participate in the three games and it is clear that GT’s decision was incorrect. As a result, it is unfair for it to return and suggest that games in which the student-athlete competed should not be subject to penalty review.
GT, then, argues that none of the factors necessary to impose a vacation of victories penalty were present. As stated in the Southeast Missouri State University (“SEMO”) case, the factors that show the likelihood of a penalty is significantly increased when any of the following aggravating factors are present: 1) academic fraud; 2) serious intentional violations; 3) direct involvement of a coach or high-ranking school administrator; 4) a large number of violations; 5) competition while academically ineligible; 6) ineligible competition in a case that includes a finding of failure to monitor or a lack of institutional control; or 7) when vacation of a similar penalty would be imposed if the underlying violations were secondary. The Committee explained that the decision in SEMO does not require that any of the factors be present. Thus, the Committee does not have to decide if any of the factors are actually present, only if COI’s penalties were excessive and abuse of its discretion. The Committee concluded that the evidence supported COI’s finding.
In sum, the Committee denied GT’s appeal and the penalties assessed against it shall stand.