The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee” or “Panel” or “COI”) recently issued its findings and found that Georgia Institute of Technology (“Georgia Tech” or “institution”) committed violations of NCAA legislation. The case centered on impermissible countable athletically related activity (“CARA”) and coaching limitation violations that stemmed from the head coach’s general indifference to NCAA rules. These violations occurred from the 2016-17 academic year through February 2019. During this time, the head coach consistently required student-athletes to practice in excess of permissible limitations for CARA and did not provide them with a required day off. Relatedly, for over seven months, the head coach permitted graduate student managers to provide impermissible instruction, which caused the program to exceed the limit on countable coaches. Although this case does not involve a failure to monitor violation, the women’s basketball violations occurred and went undetected for more than two years due in part to Georgia Tech’s inattention to its women’s basketball program’s athletically related activities. These violations were found to be Level II.
The CARA and impermissible coaching activities demonstrated that the head coach failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance and monitor her program. The excessive CARA violations directly stemmed from the head coach’s disregard for hour limitations, regularly requiring her team to practice longer than scheduled and failing to provide her team with a required day off. Further, the head coach did not monitor the CARA logs filled out by her director of operations. The head coach’s direct involvement in the violations and general indifference to NCAA rules demonstrate that she did not meet the high standards the membership has established for head coaches. These violations were found to be Level II.
The case also involved post-separation conduct by the former assistant women’s basketball coach. Specifically, the assistant coach failed to meet his affirmative obligation to cooperate in the investigation when he refused to participate in follow up interviews with the enforcement staff on two separate occasions. Similarly, he refused to produce requested bank records. This violation was found to be Level I.
In addition to these violations, due to conflicting information in the record, the Panel did not conclude that the head coach provided two student-athletes with impermissible cash payments. And because the Panel did not conclude that the head coach provided impermissible cash payments, the Panel also did not conclude that the head coach provided false and misleading information regarding those payments.
After considering applicable aggravating and mitigating factors, the Panel classified this case as Level II-Standard for Georgia Tech, Level II-Standard for the head coach, and Level I-Aggravated for the assistant coach.
The Committee found Georgia Tech committed the following violations of NCAA legislation:
Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 18.104.22.168 (2016-17); 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199.4 (2016-17 through 2018-19); and 188.8.131.52, 11.7.3, 11.7.6 and 184.108.40.206 (2017-18 and 2018-19)
From the 2016-17 academic year through February 2019, the head coach consistently directed women’s basketball student-athletes’ participation in CARA beyond NCAA legislated daily and weekly hour limitations and did not provide the required days off during the season. Further, the head coach failed to ensure the accurate recording of student-athletes’ countable hours to the compliance staff. Lastly, between July 2018 and February 2019, the program routinely exceeded the limit on the number of coaches by two.
Georgia Tech agreed the violations occurred and that they are Level II. The head coach disagreed that violations occurred. The Panel concluded the violations occurred and are Level II.
A. For more than two years, the women’s basketball coaching staff amended the weekly practice schedule, requiring student-athletes to participate in approximately one additional hour of undocumented, impermissible CARA on practice days.
From the 2016-17 academic year through February 2019, under the head coach’s supervision, the women’s basketball program regularly deviated from scheduled practice time and required the team to practice longer than originally scheduled. This additional practice went undocumented. Regardless, it was countable activity and the additional undocumented activity exceeded CARA limitations. The conduct violated playing and practice season legislation outlined in NCAA Bylaw 17.
NCAA Bylaw 17 governs playing and practice seasons. Among other things, the NCAA Bylaw establishes when student-athletes may engage in CARA during and outside the playing season. NCAA Bylaw 220.127.116.11 restricts a student-athlete’s participation in CARA to four hours per day and 20 hours per week. Pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168.4, countable hours must be recorded daily for each student-athlete.
Multiple student-athletes, including almost two-thirds of the student-athletes interviewed, reported that they routinely practiced one hour per day longer than scheduled and practices regularly lasted longer than scheduled. Likewise, several student-athletes detailed individual practice days lasting an hour or more than scheduled on multiple occasions. Three women’s basketball staff members confirmed that the team exceeded practice hours to some degree. The practice overages resulted in regular instances of daily CARA exceeding the allowable maximum of four hours. Similarly, the multiple instances of exceeding the four-hour daily limits resulted in the women’s basketball program exceeding the 20 hour per week limitation during most weeks of the championship segment. Georgia Tech’s failure to provide student-athletes with a required day off further contributed to excessive CARA.
Relatedly, the women’s basketball program submitted inaccurate practice logs to the compliance staff. Those logs reflected scheduled or anticipated practice time rather than time actually practiced. The head coach assigned responsibility for recording and reporting CARA to the DOBO, who was not present for practices or other athletically related activities. The DOBO relied on coaches to tell her if practices deviated from the schedule and did not proactively inform coaches when student-athletes were approaching CARA limits. However, the assistant coaches denied providing such information to the DOBO. Instead, the logs listed each women’s basketball student-athlete as having practiced for the exact same amount of time as her teammates for each practice activity over the course of the championship segments of three seasons. In other words, the logs reflected identical CARA times for each student-athlete for more than two years. The identical practice durations listed in the CARA logs directly conflict with what the vast majority of women’s basketball student-athletes reported to Georgia Tech and the NCAA enforcement staff.
Although the student-athletes approved the practice logs submitted to compliance, several reported approving hour totals they knew were incorrect because they were concerned about retaliation from the head coach. In addition, the head coach had a tense relationship with compliance and the Georgia Tech administration. At one point, the head coach told the team not to trust or communicate with the associate athletics director for compliance or the senior woman administrator. Although the CARA violations directly stem from the head coach’s requirement that her team practice beyond legislated limits, the panel is troubled that the identical nature of the CARA logs never raised red flags for the Georgia Tech compliance office for more than two years. Regardless of the tense relationship, had Georgia Tech’s compliance office flagged the practice logs as potentially problematic, it could have inquired about the women’s basketball practice schedule, discovered the violations earlier and prevented additional violations from occurring. That simply did not happen here, and as a result, the violations continued to occur for more than two years. The excessive practice violated multiple provisions of NCAA Bylaw 17, including daily and weekly limitations.
COI has consistently concluded that CARA violations occur when a student-athlete exceeds CARA limitations and a staff member fails to record countable hours. University of California, Santa Barbara (“UCSB”) (2019) (concluding CARA violations occurred when the head track coach monitored student-athletes’ summer and day off training activities, which converted the activities into impermissible CARA in excess of legislated limitations); Texas Christian University (“TCU”) (2018) (concluding, via summary disposition, that the head swimming and diving coach and his staff directed or supervised student-athletes’ participation in CARA that exceeded daily and weekly limitations and failed to ensure accurate recording of CARA); and San Jose State University (2018) (concluding, via summary disposition, that the head baseball coach and his staff directed or supervised student-athletes’ participation in CARA that exceeded daily and weekly limitations and failed to ensure accurate recording of CARA).
Pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 19.1.2, the Panel concluded that the violations are Level II. Because the women’s basketball student athletes were engaging in countable activity at times when it was prohibited, Georgia Tech gained more than a minimal competitive advantage over other institutions that were adhering to CARA limitations. Furthermore, this activity spanned more than two years and was therefore not isolated or limited in scope. In previous cases where CARA violations occurred over an extended period, the COI has concluded the violations were Level II. UCSB (concluding that CARA violations occurring over a two-and-a-half-year period were Level II); San Jose State (concluding that CARA violations occurring over a six-and-a-half month period were Level II); and California State University, Sacramento (2018) (concluding that CARA violations occurring over a span of three-and-a-half years were Level II). The CARA violations in this case are consistent with the scope and nature of violations regularly designated as Level II in previous cases.
B. For more than a two-year period, the head coach amended the team’s weekly practice schedule, requiring student-athletes to participate on scheduled days off each week during the regular season resulting in CARA violations.
From 2016-17 through February 2019, student-athletes did not receive a day off each week. Despite what was documented on the women’s basketball practice schedule, at the direction of the head coach, the women’s basketball program required and tracked student-athlete activities on designated days off. Because the additional activity was not initiated and requested solely by student-athletes, the conduct resulted in violations of NCAA Bylaw 17.
During the playing season, NCAA Bylaws 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199 require one day off per week, during which CARA is prohibited. During times when CARA is not allowed, student-athletes may engage in voluntary athletically related activity that they initiate on their own. Pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 17.02.19, an activity is voluntary if all of the following conditions are met: (1) the student-athlete is not required to report back to a coach or other athletics department staff member; (2) the activity is initiated and requested solely by the student-athlete; (3) the student-athlete’s attendance and participation in the activity is not recorded for purposes of reporting it to coaching staff members or other student-athletes; and (4) the student-athlete is not subjected to penalty if they choose not to participate in the activity.
The women’s basketball staff required additional athletically related activity on designated days off and observed those activities. Several staff members messaged student-athletes requesting that they shoot, workout or watch film at the practice facility on their designated days off. Because the women’s basketball staff—not the student-athletes—initiated the messages, the activity was not voluntary. Student-athletes confirmed that the activity was not voluntary when they reported that they believed they were required to attend these sessions.
Additionally, one or more staff members were present during athletically related activities. The women’s basketball staff’s attendance at these shooting sessions triggered countable activity and permitted them to evaluate and coach their student-athletes. These additional, undocumented practice sessions provided the Georgia Tech women’s basketball team with a competitive advantage over institutions who abided by limitations on athletically related activity. Furthermore, it subjected student-athletes to mandatory practice sessions at times when they were prohibited. Beyond merely attending these sessions, an assistant women’s basketball coach and the program’s graduate managers facilitated student-athlete workouts on the court. The head coach directed one of these managers to report back with information describing the volume and accuracy of shots taken by the student-athletes. Athletics department staff may not report voluntary activity information to a program’s coaching staff. Similarly, the women’s basketball program utilized shot-tracking technology during shooting sessions occurring on scheduled days off so the number, position and success rate of each student-athlete’s shots were recorded. This information was available to and reviewed by the coaching staff. Because information regarding voluntary workouts may not be recorded for the purpose of reporting it to the coaching staff, the women’s basketball program’s method of tracking student-athletes activity and making it available to the coaching staff rendered the sessions non-voluntary.
All of these activities ran contrary to the limitations placed on CARA in NCAA Bylaw 17. As such, the head coach, women’s basketball program and Georgia Tech violated NCAA Bylaws 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206.
COI has consistently concluded that Level II CARA violations occur when student-athletes do not receive one day off per week. TCU (concluding via summary disposition that the swimming and diving coaching staff impermissibly used a travel day as a day off); UCSB (concluding that the head track coach monitored student-athletes’ training activity when CARA was prohibited during weekly days off). Here, the Panel concluded the violations occurred and they are Level II.
C. Over a six-month period, the head coach permitted graduate managers to provide impermissible tactical or technical instruction during regular season practices and CARA held on scheduled days off.
Between July 2018 and February 2019, the head coach permitted non-coaching staff members to engage in activities that are exclusively reserved for countable coaches. As such, Georgia Tech exceeded the number of permissible coaches. The conduct violated coaching staff limitations in NCAA Bylaw 11.
NCAA Bylaw 11.7.3 prohibits a non-coaching staff member with sport-specific responsibilities from participating in on-court activities. In addition, NCAA Bylaw 11.7.6 limits a women’s basketball team to no more than four coaches. Under NCAA Bylaw 220.127.116.11, a staff member must count against this coaching limit if, among other things, the staff member provides technical or tactical instruction to a student-athlete at any time.
Although the graduate managers held sport-specific non-coaching positions, the head coach permitted them to provide tactical or technical instruction to student-athletes during regular team practices and workouts on scheduled days off. One graduate manager reported that he instructed student-athletes during shooting sessions on scheduled days off and approximately once or twice a week during practices. A second graduate manager reported that she communicated with student-athletes during drills at nearly every practice and offered critiques to student-athletes. As a result, the program exceeded legislated limits on countable coaches because non-coaching staff members instructed student-athletes during the 2018-19 year. At the infractions hearing, the head coach admitted that she allowed her graduate managers to engage in coaching activity.
COI has consistently concluded that Level II coaching activity violations occur when non- coaching staff members give instruction to student-athletes. Siena College (2020) (concluding that Level II coaching activity violations occurred when the operations director provided instruction to student-athletes that ranged from preparing and presenting scouting reports during film review to coaching in practices and games, which caused the men’s basketball program to exceed countable coach limits); University of Connecticut (2019) (concluding that Level II coaching activity violations occurred when a men’s basketball video coordinator engaged in impermissible coaching activities by giving instruction and feedback to student-athletes on or near the court and in the film room, causing the program to exceed countable coach limits); Oregon (2018) (concluding that Level II coaching activity violations occurred when an operations director and assistant strength coach in the men’s and women’s basketball programs participated in student-athletes’ voluntary workouts, provided instruction during drills and refereed during practices, which caused their programs to exceed countable coach limits). Thus, pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 19.1.2, the Panel concluded the violations occurred and are Level II.
Violations of NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168 (2016- 17 through 2018-19)
The head coach’s direct involvement in and knowledge of violations demonstrated that she failed to promote an atmosphere for compliance and monitor her program. She regularly and intentionally disregarded limitations on CARA and coaching activity. Georgia Tech agreed the violations occurred and that they are Level II. The head coach disagreed that violations occurred. The Panel concluded the violation occurred and is Level II.
For more than a two-year period, the head coach failed to meet the high expectations set for head coaches under the membership’s bylaws. Specifically, she failed to both promote an atmosphere of compliance and monitor her staff. The head coach blatantly disregarded certain fundamental and well-known CARA and coaching staff limitations. She was indifferent to others. Finally, due to a tense relationship with the institution’s compliance office, she took steps to distance her program from compliance. The panel concludes that the head coach’s conduct violated NCAA Bylaw 11. NCAA Bylaw 22.214.171.124 establishes two affirmative duties for head coaches: (1) to promote an atmosphere of compliance and (2) to monitor individuals in their programs who report to them either directly or indirectly. The bylaw also presumes that head coaches are responsible for the actions of those who report to them. The head coach may rebut this presumption by showing that she promoted an atmosphere of compliance and monitored her staff.
The head coach’s personal role in the violations and instruction to her team demonstrate that promoting an atmosphere of compliance was not a priority. At best, compliance was an afterthought. Her conduct demonstrates that she committed intentional violations and disregarded others. She also distanced her team from the compliance staff, expressly telling her student- athletes not to trust or communicate with compliance. In doing so, the head coach failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance. Similarly, the head coach failed to monitor her staff. She failed to ensure that her staff did not encourage, attend or seek information regarding day off workouts, which led to day-off activities becoming countable. Likewise, the head coach did not stop her graduate managers from routinely providing impermissible coaching instruction to student-athletes.
The head coach denied that she violated head coach responsibility legislation. Specifically, she disputed that she was directly involved in any violations. In addition, if violations occurred, the head coach asserted that she rebutted the presumption of responsibility by promoting compliance and adequately monitoring her staff. With respect to promoting compliance, the head coach argued that she: (1) communicated to her staff a commitment to compliance; (2) participated and ensured that her staff participated in regular meetings with compliance staff and the athletics director; (3) had a documented pattern of instructing coaches to routinely and proactively contact compliance staff with questions and concerns; (4) established a high level of engagement with compliance staff; and (5) neither failed to act in response to known risks nor was personally involved in the misconduct. With respect to monitoring her staff, the head coach argued that the enforcement staff’s charging guidelines establish that a head coach fulfills the duty to monitor when the coach is aware of and relies on compliance staff, who has access to complete and accurate information. The head coach contended that she knew of and relied on compliance systems to facilitate monitoring CARA. In addition, she ensured that compliance staff had access to all information regarding CARA and that the information was accurate.
The Panel concluded that the information in the record does not support the head coach’s assertions. She was personally involved in violations, disregarded others and set a tone that compliance could not be trusted. Likewise, her arguments related to monitoring also fall short. The head coach directed her team to practice over the hour limitations. The head coach knew that her team exceeded scheduled practice times on a regular basis. She knew or should have known that the forms provided to compliance were inaccurate. Even a cursory review of the CARA logs would have identified issues or raised concerns. The forms, however, did not identify overages. Thus, the head coach’s argument that she relied on compliance to monitor and identify CARA overages falls flat. The head coach had an independent, non-delegable duty and she failed to meet that duty.
Although the Panel was not persuaded by the head coach’s arguments, it remained concerned about Georgia Tech’s compliance office’s failure to identify any CARA issues. Like the head coach, the institution, through its compliance program, also has an affirmative obligation to implement an adequate system of compliance. It is inexplicable that the compliance office did not identify any red flags with respect to the women’s basketball program submitting identical CARA forms over more than a two-year period or that compliance did not identify excessive CARA, required day- off practices or non-coaching staff members participating in coaching activity through spot checks or other monitoring functions. Although the panel observes and remains concerned about these broader shortcomings, they in no way undermine the head coach’s failure to meet duties and responsibilities of head coaches under NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199.
In applying NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52, COI has generally considered the specific actions the head coach has taken to promote compliance and monitor his or her staff (i.e., what the coach did), as set against the underlying violations (i.e., what actually occurred). In recent cases, the COI has concluded that head coach responsibility violations occurred when coaches were personally involved in the violations, failed to ensure that their staff were not involved and failed to consult with compliance staff. Siena (concluding that the head men’s basketball coach violated head coach responsibility legislation when he personally involved himself in benefits and coaching activity violations and directed and permitted his staff to also violate legislation); UCSB (concluding that the head track coach violated head coach responsibility legislation when he personally involved himself in CARA violations and failed to consult compliance, and the head water polo coach violated head coach responsibility legislation when he personally involved himself in recruiting and benefits violations, failed to consult compliance and involved an assistant coach in the violations); Oregon (concluding that the head women’s basketball coach violated head coach responsibility legislation when he invited and permitted an assistant strength coach to participate in impermissible coaching activity); and University of Hawaii at Manoa (2017) (concluding that multiple Level II violations occurred and went undetected in the men’s basketball program in part to a strained relationship between the head coach and compliance). As in these cases, the COI concludes that a head coach responsibility violation occurred.
In accordance with NCAA Bylaw 19.1.2-(e), head coach responsibility violations are typically Level II when they result from underlying Level II violations. Accordingly, the head coach responsibility violation is Level II.
Violations of NCAA Bylaws 10.1, 10.1-(a), 19.2.3 and 184.108.40.206 (2017-18 through 2019-20)
The assistant coach refused to participate in interviews and provide requested documents. The Panel concluded these violations occurred and are Level I.
The assistant coach violated unethical conduct legislation and failed to cooperate when he declined two follow-up interview requests by the enforcement staff and failed to produce requested bank records. His conduct fell well short of his obligations outlined in NCAA Bylaws 10 and 19.
NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(a) obligates staff members to make complete disclosure of information concerning possible violations when requested by the enforcement staff. To further the mission of the infractions process, NCAA Bylaw 19.2.3 requires staff members to cooperate fully with and assist the enforcement staff during an investigation. Failure to cooperate is a legislated example of a Level I violation in accordance with NCAA Bylaw 19.1.1.
The Panel indicated the analysis here is simple: the assistant coach failed to meet his legislated responsibility to cooperate. Furthermore, the membership has identified an individual’s failure to provide the enforcement staff with complete information as an example of unethical conduct. The assistant coach violated Bylaws 10.1-(a) and 19.2.3.
COI has routinely emphasized that the responsibility to cooperate means full cooperation throughout the process. Connecticut (concluding that the head men’s basketball coach failed to cooperate when he declined to participate in a second interview after his termination from the institution); University of the Pacific (2017) (concluding that the head men’s basketball coach failed to cooperate when he did not participate in the investigation for nearly a year before resuming his participation); and University of Louisiana at Lafayette (2016) (concluding that an assistant football coach failed to cooperate when he declined to participate in a third interview and furnish phone records). In these cases, the COI concluded that the violations were Level I. Here the Panel concluded that the assistant coach failed to fully cooperate despite some initial cooperation with Georgia Tech, and the violation is Level I.
Violations Not Demonstrated
The NOA alleged that, between July and November 2018, the head coach provided impermissible benefits in the form of approximately $600 cash to two women’s basketball student-athletes. Based on this allegation, the enforcement staff also alleged a post-separation allegation against the head coach. Specifically, the post-separation NOA alleged that on September 24, 2019, after her employment with Georgia Tech had ended, the head coach violated the NCAA principles of ethical conduct and failed to cooperate when she knowingly provided false or misleading information concerning her involvement in the impermissible benefits allegation. The Panel concluded that the facts do not support these violations.
NCAA Bylaw 220.127.116.11 restricts student-athletes from receiving extra benefits, which are special arrangements by an institutional employee to provide a student-athlete or his or her family or friends with an impermissible benefit. Institutions must withhold ineligible student-athletes from competition in accordance with NCAA Bylaw 12.11.1. Pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 16.8.1, an institution may provide actual and necessary expenses only to eligible student-athletes to represent the institution in practice and competition. Further, as previously mentioned, NCAA Bylaws 10.1-(a) and 19.2.3 require individuals to make complete and truthful disclosures to the enforcement staff about potential violations.
The case record contained an overwhelming degree of conflicting information with regard to the impermissible benefits allegations. The student-athletes who allegedly received the impermissible benefits provided conflicting and unsupported information during the interviews with the enforcement staff. Although the head coach acknowledged at the infractions hearing that she personally used cash instead of other means of payment, there is not sufficient support to demonstrate that she provided impermissible cash to her student-athletes. Therefore, and based on the available facts, the panel concludes the impermissible benefits violation did not occur. Because the panel does not conclude that the head coach provided the student-athletes with impermissible cash payments, the student-athletes did not become ineligible, compete while ineligible or receive impermissible actual and necessary expenses. Therefore, additional violations of NCAA Bylaws 12.11.1 and 16.8.1 did not occur.
It then follows that because the Panel concluded the underlying impermissible benefits violation did not occur, it did not conclude that the head coach provided false and misleading information in her interview with the NCAA enforcement staff. Therefore, the Panel did not conclude that post separation violations of NCAA Bylaws 10.1-(a) and 19.2.3 occurred.
Aggravating and Mitigating Factors in accordance with NCAA Bylaws 19.9.3 and 19.9.4
Aggravating Factors for the Institution
19.9.3-(b): A history of Level I, Level II or major violations by the institution; 19.9.3-(g): Multiple Level II violations by the institution;
19.9.3-(h): Persons of authority condoned, participated in or negligently disregarded the violation or related wrongful conduct; and
19.9.3-(m): Intentional, willful or blatant disregard for the NCAA constitution and bylaws.
Mitigating Factors for the Institution
19.9.4-(b): Prompt acknowledgement of the violation, acceptance of responsibility and imposition of meaningful corrective measures and/or penalties.
19.9.4-(c): Affirmative steps to expedite final resolution of the matter;
19.9.4-(d): An established history of self-reporting Level III or secondary violations; and
19.9.4-(f): Exemplary cooperation.
Aggravating Factors for the Head Coach
19.9.3-(g): Multiple Level II violations;
19.9.3-(h): Persons of authority condoned, participated in or negligently disregarded the violation or related wrongful conduct;
19.9.3-(m): Intentional, willful or blatant disregard for the NCAA constitution or bylaws.
Mitigating Factors for the Head Coach
19.9.4-(h): The absence of prior conclusions of Level I, Level II or major violations by the head coach.
Aggravating Factors for the Assistant Coach
19.9.3-(d): Obstructing an investigation or attempting to conceal the violation;
19.9.3-(e): Unethical conduct; and
19.9.3-(m): Intentional, willful or blatant disregard for the NCAA constitution or bylaws.
Mitigating Factors for the Assistant Coach
19.9.4-(h): The absence of prior conclusions of Level I, Level II or major violations by the assistant coach.
As a result of the foregoing, the Committee penalized Georgia Tech as follows: