The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee” or “Panel”) recently issued its findings and found that Appalachian State University (“App State” or “Institution”) committed violations of NCAA legislation. This case involved a text message violation committed by a former assistant football coach at App State. The Panel considered this case through the cooperative summary disposition process in which all parties agreed to the primary facts and violations, as fully set forth in the summary disposition report (SDR). The Panel proposed further penalties to the Institution and the former assistant coach. Because they agreed to the violation and penalties, there is no opportunity to appeal.
All parties agreed a former assistant coach engaged in impermissible text communications with the mother of a prospective student-athlete. In fall 2012, the prospect and his family took an unofficial visit to the institution. Even though the Institution was not recruiting the prospect, the former assistant coach knowingly sent the prospect’s mother 416 impermissible text messages over a four-month period. Generally, the text messages related to the admissions process and seeking the prospect’s enrollment at the Institution. Others were personal in nature. The parties agreed the conduct violated existing recruiting bylaws. The Panel agreed a Level II violation occurred.
The Panel accepted the parties’ factual agreements and that violations occurred in this case. Based on the timing of the violations, the Panel used the current penalty guidelines. After considering the aggravating and mitigating factors, the Panel classified the case as Level II-Mitigated for the Institution and Level II-Standard for the former assistant coach. Utilizing the penalty guidelines and NCAA bylaws authorizing additional penalties, the Panel prescribed the following core penalties: a financial penalty for the Institution and a one-year show-cause order involving recruiting restrictions for the former assistant coach.
The Committee concluded that App State committed the following violations:
Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 188.8.131.52 (2012-13)
The NCAA enforcement staff, the Institution, and former assistant coach agreed that between December 2012 and March 2013, the former assistant coach violated NCAA recruiting communication legislation when he sent 416 impermissible text messages to a prospective student-athlete’s parent.
The former assistant coach knew he could not text prospects or their parents. He did so anyway. He exchanged text messages with the mother of the prospect after he met her, the prospect and the prospect’s father on their unofficial visit to the Institution in fall 2012. Shortly after the unofficial visit, the former assistant coach cautioned the mother that they were not supposed to text under NCAA rules. He justified his actions by claiming that as long as nobody knew, it was fine.
The impermissible communication continued for roughly four months and went undetected because the football program never identified the prospect as a “recruited prospect.” Therefore, the Institution’s monitoring software never recognized the text messages as impermissible. The absence of the “recruited prospect” designation, however, was not an exception to the prohibition. He was still a prospect under the bylaws. The former assistant coach asserted that the text messages were related to advice regarding general admission to the Institution. Others were personal in nature. Regardless, the text messages sent to the prospect’s mother were still prohibited.
Aggravating and Mitigating Factors in accordance with NCAA Bylaws 19.9.3 and 19.9.4
Aggravating Factors for the Institution
Aggravating Factors for the Former Student Athletic Trainer
19.9.3-(m): Intentional, willful or blatant disregard for the NCAA Constitution or Bylaws.
Mitigating Factors for the Institution
19.9.4-(b): Prompt acknowledgment of the violation, acceptance of responsibility and the imposition of meaningful corrective measures and/or penalties.
19.9.4-(d): Established history of self-reporting Level III or secondary violations.
19.9.4-(e): Implementation of a system of compliance methods designed to ensure rules compliance and satisfaction of institutional control standards.
19.9.4-(h): Other facts warranting a lower penalty range.
Mitigating Factors for the Former Student Athletic Trainer
As a result of the foregoing, the Committee penalized App State as follows:
1. Public reprimand and censure.
2. The Institution shall pay $5,000.00 to the NCAA.
3. The former assistant coach received a one-year show cause penalty. From December 2, 2016, to December 1, 2017, the Panel required that any institution hiring the former assistant coach restrict the former assistant coach from all recruiting activities until August 31, 2017.