The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee” or “Panel”) recently issued its findings and found that Florida International University (“FIU” or “Institution”) committed violations of NCAA legislation. This case involved the now-former head women’s basketball coach providing an impermissible cash benefit to a student-athlete at FIU. 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 accepted the Institution’s self-imposed penalties and corrective actions, and proposed additional penalties to the Institution and for the actions of the former head coach. Both the former head coach and Institution objected to the proposed additional penalties. Following an expedited penalty hearing, the Panel retained the contested penalties. Therefore, both the Institution and former head coach have the opportunity to appeal those penalties.
All parties agreed that the former head coach provided $600.00 cash to one of his student-athletes. The payment rendered her ineligible for competition. She used the money to pay an institutional debt so that she could register for a mini-term course she needed to retain eligibility. The former head coach then allowed her to compete in 18 games while ineligible. The actions of the former head coach constituted unethical conduct and established a failure to promote an atmosphere of rules compliance in the women’s basketball program. The Panel agreed that the former head coach’s conduct constituted Level II violations of NCAA legislation. After considering the aggravating and mitigating factors, the Panel classified this case as Level II – Standard for the institution and Level II – Aggravated for the former head coach’s conduct.
The Committee concluded that FIU committed the following violations:
Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 12.11.1, 16.01.1, 16.8.1, 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199 (2015-16) (Level II)
The Institution, the former head women’s basketball coach (“former head coach”), and the NCAA enforcement staff agreed that the former head coach provided an impermissible extra benefit of $600.00 cash to a women’s basketball student-athlete (“student-athlete”) on December 17, 2015. Specifically, the student-athlete needed to complete successfully a 2015 winter term course to be academically eligible for the 2016 spring semester; however, she was unable to register for the course due to an outstanding balance on her student account of $555.00. The former head coach provided her with $600.00 cash, which she used to pay the outstanding balance on her account. The student-athlete registered for the winter term class, where she earned an A and maintained her academic eligibility for the 2016 spring semester. She subsequently competed in ten (10) home and eight (8) away contests while ineligible.
Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 10.1-(c) and 188.8.131.52 (2015-16) (Level II)
The NCAA enforcement staff proposed and the Institution and the former head coach agreed that between December 2015 and March 2016, the former head coach violated the principles of ethical conduct and failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within his program. Specifically, the former head coach knowingly provided the student-athlete an impermissible benefit in the form of $600.00 cash. In addition, the former head coach also did not demonstrate that he promoted an atmosphere of compliance when he knowingly provided an impermissible benefit to the student-athlete; allowed her to compete in eighteen (18) contests while she was ineligible; and failed to report the violation of NCAA rules, either to the Institution or the NCAA, until confronted about it.
Aggravating and Mitigating Factors in accordance with NCAA Bylaws 19.9.3 and 19.9.4
Aggravating Factors for the Institution
(1) A history of Level I, Level II or major violations by the institution. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3-(b).
(2) Multiple Level II violations by the institution. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3-(g).
(3)Person of authority condoned, participated in or negligently disregarded the violation(s) or related wrongful conduct. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3-(h).
Mitigating Factors for the Institution
(1) Prompt acknowledgement of the violation(s), acceptance of responsibility and imposition of meaningful corrective measures and/or penalties. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.4-(b).
(2) Affirmative steps to expedite final resolution of the matter. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.4-(c).
(3) An established history of self-reporting Level III or secondary violations. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.4-(d).
Aggravating Factors for the Former Head Coach
(1) Unethical conduct. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3-(e).
(2) Multiple Level II violations by the involved individual. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3-(g).
(3) Person of authority condoned, participated in or negligently disregarded the violation(s) or related wrongful conduct. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3-(h).
Mitigating Factors for the Former Head Coach
(1) Prompt acknowledgement of the violation(s) and acceptance of responsibility. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.4-(b).
As a result of the foregoing, the Committee penalized FIU as follows:
1. Public reprimand and censure.
2. The Institution shall pay a $5,000 fine.
3. Two years of probation from April 28, 2017, through April 27, 2019, or completion of the final penalty, whichever is later.
4. The former head coach was informed in writing by the NCAA that the Panel prescribed a two-year show-cause order pursuant to Bylaw 184.108.40.206.
5. The Institution shall vacate all victories in which the student-athlete competed while ineligible and adjust the former head coach’s record at the institution to reflect the vacated contests.