The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee”) recently issued its findings and found that Arkansas State University (“ASU”) committed major violations of NCAA legislation. The case involves thirty-one (31) student-athletes in six (6) sports competing while ineligible from 2005-06 through the fall semester of 2008-09. Additionally, the former director of technology in the College of Agriculture and Technology (“former director of technology”) changed the final grade in two (2) courses for a student-athlete and, thus, both instances resulted in academic fraud. After the investigation concluded the case was submitted to the Committee through the summary disposition process, which is an alternative to a formal hearing before the Committee that may be utilized when the NCAA enforcement staff, the member institution, and involved individuals agree to the facts of an infractions case and that those facts constitute major violations of NCAA legislation.
The Committee found that ASU committed the following violations of NCAA legislation:
1. Ineligible Participation and Extra Benefits in violation of NCAA Bylaws 14.01.1, 14.01.2, 14.4.1, 126.96.36.199-(b), 188.8.131.52 (2002-03), 184.108.40.206, 14.10.1, 14.11.1, 220.127.116.11, and 18.104.22.168
a. During the 2005-06 academic year through the end of the fall semester of the 2008-09 academic year, thirty-one (31) student-athletes competed while ineligible because they failed to meet the NCAA percentage-of-degree requirements in the degree programs in which they were officially enrolled. Additionally, some of the thirty-one (31) ineligible student-athletes received travel expenses while representing the institution in competition and, therefore, violated NCAA Bylaw 22.214.171.124.
b. ASU hired two (2) new academic advisors in 2008. As they reviewed their files, they noticed that several student-athletes did not meet NCAA percentage-of-degree legislation. As a result, they ran a thorough audit that revealed thirty-one (31) student-athletes in six (6) sports competed while ineligible. Twenty-one (21) of the thirty-one (31) ineligible student-athletes were transfer students. Nineteen (19) of the twenty-one (21) ineligible transfer student-athletes were ineligible, because former academic advisors improperly provided credit for all transferrable courses, rather than only courses that were degree applicable.
2. Failure to Monitor in violation of NCAA Constitution 2.8.1
a. The Committee found that the findings referenced above constituted a failure to monitor in the area of NCAA percentage-of-degree legislation. The Committee indicated that ASU failed to monitor in two (2) ways: 1) the certifying officer did not act as the final authority for eligibility-certification decisions; and 2) there was no meaningful oversight by the supervisors of the certifying officer and athletics academic advisors. The certifying officer monitored various aspects of student-athlete eligibility, including full-time enrollment, grade point average, and number of hours completed each semester, but did not monitor percentage-of-degree requirements. Additionally, the Committee found that the associate athletic director responsible for overseeing the academic advisors did not provide oversight and the registrar (the certifying officer’s superior) did not provide oversight.
3. Unethical Conduct in violation of NCAA Bylaws 10.1 and 10.1-(b)
a. In 2007, the former director of technology arranged for a student-athlete to obtain fraudulent academic credit by changing the student-athletes grade in two (2) courses.
b. In one instance, the former director of technology changed the student-athlete’s grade from “F” to “D” without the professor’s knowledge and ultimately provided additional opportunities for the student-athlete over the professor’s “strenuous objection.” Apparently, the student-athlete informed the director of technology that his apartment was burglarized and he was unable to complete his assignments. However, the former director of technology failed to conduct any investigation as to when the burglary occurred or identify any other relevant information. The former director of technology did not require the student-athlete to perform make-up work. He simply changed the student-athlete’s grade.
c. The director of technology again changed the student-athlete’s grade in a course without the professor’s knowledge. In this instance, the former director of technology changed the student-athlete’s grade from “F” to “C”. There was no basis provided to change this grade.
As a result of the aforementioned violations, the Committee penalized ASU as follows:
1. Public reprimand and censure.
2. Two years of probation from March 11, 2011 through March 10, 2013.
3. The number of grant-in-aids will be reduced as follows: football (2011-12) by one (1), men’s basketball (2011-12) by one (1), football (2012-13) by one (1), and men’s basketball (2012-13) by one (1).
4. ASU vacated the victories from all competitions in which the ineligible student-athletes competed as follows: football (2006) six (6) wins, (2005) four (4) wins; men’s basketball (2006-07) fifteen (15) wins, (2005-06) twelve (12) wins; baseball (2006-07) three (3) wins; and women’s soccer (2005-06) five (5) wins.
5. In January 2009, ASU paid a fine in the amount of $43,500.00, which represents the maximum fine for ineligible competition in secondary violations of the student-athletes identified in ASU’s January 29, 2009 self-report.
6. The President of the NCAA shall, pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199, forward a copy of the Committee’s findings to the appropriate regional accrediting agency.