The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee”) recently issued its findings and found that the East Carolina University (“ECU”) committed major violations of NCAA legislation. The case involved academic fraud by four (4) baseball student-athletes (student-athletes 1-4) and a women’s tennis student-athlete (student-athlete 5) who worked as an English tutor in the athletics department. Additionally, two of the baseball student-athletes violated NCAA ethical conduct legislation by providing false and misleading information to the institution regarding their involvement in the academic fraud and the extent of the impermissible academic assistance they received. 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 ECU committed the following violations of NCAA legislation:
1. Unethical Conduct in violation of NCAA Bylaws 10.1-(b)
a. During the 2009 fall semester student-athletes 1-5 violated the provisions of ethical conduct when they knowingly engaged in academic fraud. Student-athlete 5, while working as an academic tutor employed by the athletics department, wrote papers for student-athletes 1-4 and the work was submitted as their own.
b. The violations were discovered when student-athletes 1 and 2 told an athletics department intern that student-athlete 5 wrote an English paper for them. After meeting with athletics department officials, student-athletes 1 and 2 admitted to the impropriety as did student-athlete 5. During an interview with student-athlete 5, she indicated that she also provided impermissible academic assistance to student-athletes 3 and 4. Student-athletes 3 and 4 vehemently denied that student-athlete 5 provided anything more than “editorial suggestions.” An audit of student-athlete 5’s institutional email account showed that she wrote eight (8) papers for student-athlete 3 and five (5) papers and a PowerPoint presentation for student-athlete 4. Upon being re-interviewed, student-athletes 3 and 4 admitted that they provided false information regarding the number of times student-athlete 5 provided academic assistance to them, but maintained that student-athlete 5 did not write the papers at issue for them.
c. Ultimately student-athletes 1 and 2 were declared ineligible and suspended from the baseball team and student-athletes 3 and 4 were permanently dismissed from the baseball team.
2. Unethical Conduct in violation of NCAA Bylaws 10.1-(d)
a. On March 3, 18, and April 1, 2010, student-athlete 3 failed to deport himself in accordance with the honesty and integrity normally associated with the conduct required by NCAA legislation. Student-athlete 3 vehemently denied receiving academic assistance from student-athlete 5 and denied paying her to write papers on his behalf. During his third interview relating to academic fraud, student-athlete 3 admitted to providing false information, but insisted that he wrote the papers at issue and student-athlete 5 merely assisted him. Finally, in October 2010 in an interview with the NCAA enforcement staff, student-athlete 3 acknowledged committing academic fraud and that he paid student-athlete 5 for doing academic work on his behalf.
3. Unethical Conduct in violation of NCAA Bylaws 10.1-(d)
a. On March 3, 18, and April 1, 2010, student-athlete 4 failed to deport himself in accordance with the honesty and integrity normally associated with the conduct required by NCAA legislation. Student-athlete 4 vehemently denied receiving academic assistance from student-athlete 5 and denied paying her to write papers on his behalf. He claimed student-athlete 5 merely provided “minor editing” for his joint project with student-athlete 3. During his third interview relating to academic fraud, student-athlete 4 acknowledged he received “help” from student-athlete 5 on papers he had already “somewhat written.” Finally, in September 2010 in an interview with the NCAA enforcement staff, student-athlete 4 acknowledged committing academic fraud and providing false information to ECU officials.
The Committee noted that this case is unique because all violations committed were by individuals and no allegations were made directly against ECU. The Committee applauded ECU for acting appropriately during all phases of the investigation. Nonetheless, the Committee assessed penalties against ECU as follows:
1. Public reprimand and censure.
2. One year of probation from May 19, 2011 through May 18, 2012.
3. Student-athletes 1 and 2 were ruled ineligible for competition for the remainder of the 2009-10 baseball season and the entire 2010-11 season.
4. Student-athletes 3, 4, and 5 were ruled permanently ineligible and removed from the baseball and women’s tennis teams.
5. Prior to ECU discovering the violations and removing student-athletes 1-5 from competition, student-athletes 1-5 competed in several athletics contests. As a result, ECU vacated all wins in which student-athletes 1-5 competed during the 2009-10 academic year.