The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee”) recently issued its findings and found that Henderson State University (“HSU”) committed major violations of NCAA legislation. The case centered on recruiting violations, extra benefits, impermissible tryouts, impermissible countable athletically related activities, unethical conduct, failure to promote an atmosphere for compliance and failure to monitor by the institution.
The Committee found that HSU committed the following violations of NCAA legislation:
Observation and participation in impermissible physical activities by prospects during official visits in violation of NCAA Bylaw 13.11.1, 13.11.2, and 126.96.36.199.
From the 2009-10 through 2011-12 academic years, women’s basketball coaches occasionally participated in and observed impermissible physical activities by prospects during official visits.
NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52 allows for tryouts under certain conditions. In this case, a determination of whether these conditions were met depended upon the completion of forms and paperwork associated with campus visits.
Some of the tryout activity observed by the coaching staff during campus visits might have been permissible if all aspects of the legislation had been followed. However, the coaching staff often did not complete the forms and paperwork to confirm that NCAA Bylaws 184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11 requirements were met. In the absence of completed visit and tryout forms, it is impossible to determine whether many of the tryouts were permissible, but some were clearly not.
For example, NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168-(e) requires that tryouts for the basketball team occur during a weekly CARA period. Because some of the official visit forms were not completed or were missing, the dates of the official visits are not known, so the institution is unable to determine if the tryouts occurred during a CARA period. However, according to student-athletes who were interviewed (prospects at the time of the violations) the majority of their visits occurred in March, April, and May, after their high school or junior college seasons were completed – another condition of the tryout legislation. The institution did not have any CARA records for the month of May because no formal practice occurred during that time. Therefore, basketball activity observed by the coaches during campus visits that occurred during the month of May were impermissible.
Another example in which the institution failed to meet a tryout condition relates to NCAA Bylaw 22.214.171.124-(c), a requirement that prospects engaging in tryout activities must have a medical examination on file with the host institution. Approximately 17 prospects participated in a tryout between 2009 and 2012. The institution only had four records on file for prospects who had undergone medical evaluations; at least 13 did not. Consequently, the tryouts for those 13 prospects violated NCAA legislation.
Impermissible text message and telephone calls in violation of NCAA Bylaws 126.96.36.199 and 13.4.5.
From 2009 through 2012, women’s basketball coaches sent impermissible text messages to several prospective student-athletes and exceeded the limits on telephone contacts.
Head coach 1 admitted that he occasionally sent texts, but not often. He maintained that his texting was limited to “administrative” or “logistical” purposes in order to obtain vital information such as birth dates and to coordinate travel and other arrangements associated with official campus visits, which he thought was permissible. In a September 18, 2012, interview with the institution’s outside consultant, head coach 2 initially denied texting prospective student-athletes. In an interview with the consultant the following day, head coach 2 admitted to texting prospects but did so only after a request was made by the consultant to review his telephone records. He ultimately did not contest that he sent numerous texts and placed impermissible telephone calls. A former graduate assistant women’s basketball coach, who sent impermissible texts to a prospective student-athlete, did not participate in the investigation.
NCAA Bylaw 13.4.5 (2009-10 through 2011-12 Division II Manual) generally prohibited text messaging to prospects during the timeframe of this case, the 2009-10 through 2011-12 academic years. Head coach 2 admitted that he texted 10 to 12 prospects each year over a two- to three-year period and sent at least two or more texts per prospect, thus violating this bylaw on many occasions.
NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52 (2009-10 through 2011-12 Division II Manual) specified that, after initially contacting a prospect (after July of following his/her junior year or the first day of his/her senior year of classes), coaches may only place one phone call per week to a prospect. Head coach 2 placed telephone calls more than once a week to several prospective students during the period from 2010 through 2012, thus violating this bylaw.
Impermissible transportation and use of coaches’ funds for personal use in violation of NCAA Bylaws 184.108.40.206.1, 220.127.116.11, and 13.14.1.
From 2009 through 2012, the women’s basketball program violated the provisions of NCAA recruiting legislation on several occasions through: (1) the provision of impermissible transportation; (2) the provision of two official paid visits for a prospective student-athlete; and (3) the impermissible use of coaches’ personal funds for recruiting purposes.
The institution violated NCAA bylaws when it allowed two student-athletes to transport a prospective student-athlete for an official visit. NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168.1 allows coaches to transport a prospective student-athlete and parents or legal guardians to and from the prospect’s educational institution to campus on an official visit. Such legislation is important for safety. The institution violated this provision when, in April 2011, it allowed two women’s basketball student-athletes to drive prospect 1 from her two-year college to the institution’s campus for an official paid visit. The bylaw does not allow student-athletes to provide such transportation, only coaches. Consequently, when the two student-athletes provided the automobile transportation for prospect 1 to the campus, a violation of NCAA Bylaw 22.214.171.124.1 occurred.
The institution violated NCAA bylaws that limit the financing of visits to campus when it allowed multiple paid visits for a prospect. NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199 specifies that a member institution may finance only one visit to its campus for a prospective student-athlete. Prospect 2 took two official paid visits to the institution in September 2011 and March 2012, respectively. Because the institution financed both visits, the institution violated NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52.
Generally, NCAA Bylaw 13.14.1 requires that an institution maintain responsibility for and control of all recruiting funds. In this instance, because the coaches frequently did not request pre-approval for travel, nor request reimbursement, there was little, if any control of these expenditures. Therefore, the institution violated NCAA Bylaw 13.14.1.
Impermissible out-of-season practice and observation in violation of NCAA Bylaws 17.1.2, 184.108.40.206, 17.3.6, and 17.3.7.
From 2009 through 2012, women’s basketball coaches and student-athletes engaged in impermissible CARA outside the institution’s playing season when women’s basketball coaches occasionally observed and/or supervised spring and summer out-of-season pick-up games and, in the summer of 2012, observed and/or supervised summer conditioning, weight training and basketball related activities that did not meet the requirements of the applicable legislation.
NCAA bylaws establish limits for CARA and pick-up games that the coaches observed were not an exception to out-of-season activities. NCAA Bylaw 17.02.1 defines CARA “as any required activity with an athletics purpose, involving student-athletes and at the direction of, or supervised by, any member or members of an institution’s coaching staff.” NCAA Bylaw 17.3.7 prohibits student-athletes and coaches from engaging in CARA outside the institution’s playing season, except as permitted in NCAA Bylaw 220.127.116.11. NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168 limits out-of-season athletically related activity to weight training, conditioning, team activities and/or skill instruction during the academic year. Out-of-season pick-up games observed by coaches are not included in the permissible exceptions. Therefore, coaches being present and observing pick-up games cause this activity to become CARA outside the institution’s playing season. When coaches observed these out-of-season pick-up games, they violated NCAA Bylaw 17.3.7.
Head coach 2 and an assistant coach admitted to being present, and the assistant coach reported that she supervised and conducted most of the conditioning sessions. Head coach 1 was not employed at the institution in 2012 when these violations occurred. The summer 2012 conditioning activities were violations because they occurred outside of the playing season and did not meet an exception. NCAA Bylaw 17.3.7 prohibits student-athletes and coaches from engaging in CARA outside the institution’s playing season, except as permitted in NCAA Bylaw 22.214.171.124 during the academic year. When coaching staff members observed and/or supervised activities that occurred over the summer, this constituted CARA outside the institution’s playing season, which is prohibited by NCAA Bylaw 17.3.7. Further, because these activities occurred over the summer and not during the academic year, they did not meet the exceptions permitted in NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199. As a result, the institution violated NCAA Bylaw 17.3.7.
Impermissible meals, transportation, the offer of a loan, and in-person contact with a prospect during a non-contact period in violation of NCAA Bylaws 13.02.4.2, 13.2.1, and 188.8.131.52.1.
From 2009 through 2012 head coach 2 committed recruiting violations when he: (1) provided impermissible meals to prospective student-athletes and their family members; (2) provided impermissible automobile transportation to prospective student-athletes; (3) made an offer of a monetary loan to a prospective student-athlete; and (4) had in-person contact with a prospective student-athlete during a non-contact period.
Other than during official visits, NCAA Bylaw 184.108.40.206.1 does not allow institutions to provide meals to prospects (and family members) with this exception; on one occasion during an unofficial visit. If a meal is provided during an unofficial visit the meal must be in an on-campus dining facility (or an off-campus establishment if on-campus facilities are closed). Any other instance in which a coach provides a meal to a prospect is a violation. Head coach 2 purchased meals for prospects during off campus recruiting trips on the following occasions: (1) in the spring of 2011, he purchased two meals for prospect 1; (2) in the spring of 2011, he purchased a meal for prospect 3; (3) In the fall of 2011 he purchased impermissible meals for prospect 5 and members of her family; and (4) again in the fall of 2011, he purchased impermissible meals for prospect 6 and members of her family. Because head coach 2 purchased meals for prospects or their families during recruiting trips and not during an unofficial visit, he violated NCAA Bylaw 220.127.116.11.1.
NCAA bylaws limit the provision of transportation to prospects. Transportation of prospects is generally prohibited under NCAA Bylaw 13.2.1, except in conjunction with visits to the institution’s campus. Head coach 2 provided impermissible automobile transportation to prospects on the following occasions: (1) in April 2011, he provided roundtrip automobile transportation for prospect 3 between her two-year institution and her home during a recruiting trip; and (2) in the fall of 2011 he provided roundtrip transportation for prospect 6 between her home and a local restaurant during a recruiting trip to prospect 6’s hometown. When head coach 2 provided automobile transportation to the prospects, he violated NCAA Bylaw 13.2.1.
Coaches are only allowed to offer athletics grants-in-aid during the recruitment of prospective student-athletes. NCAA Bylaw 13.2.1 prohibits coaches from offering any financial aid or other benefits to prospective student-athletes (or their family members and friends) other than expressly permitted by NCAA regulations. During a recruiting trip to Texas, in April 2011, head coach 2 offered a loan to prospect 3 and her parents for use in paying the cost of prospect 3’s travel between the institution’s campus and her hometown. When he offered the loan, head coach 2 violated NCAA Bylaw 13.2.1.
NCAA legislation sets forth recruiting periods and what activities can take place during the various periods. NCAA Bylaw 13.02.4.2 defines the evaluation period in recruiting. It also specifies that no in-person, off-campus recruiting contacts shall be made with prospective student-athletes during an evaluation period. In the summer of 2011, head coach 2 had an in-person conversation with prospect 4 during a recruiting trip. Because this conversation occurred during an evaluation period, head coach 2 violated NCAA Bylaw 13.02.4.2.
Unethical conduct in violation of NCAA Bylaws 10.1.1, 10.1, 10.1-(c), and 10.1-(d).
Head coach 2 failed to deport himself in accordance with the generally recognized high standards of honesty and sportsmanship normally associated with the conduct and administration of intercollegiate athletics for knowingly (1) offering a prospective student-athlete an improper inducement in the form of a loan; and (2) furnishing the institution false and misleading information concerning his involvement in matters relevant to a possible violation of NCAA legislation by indicating he did not send impermissible text messages (later recanted).
Failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance in violation of NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168.
Head coaches are expected to be proactive in establishing an environment in which rules compliance is valued and encouraged. NCAA Bylaw 22.214.171.124 sets forth this expectation and that head coaches are responsible for monitoring the activities regarding compliance of those the coach supervises. Head coach 2 failed in that regard. Head coach 2 either acknowledged, or did not contest, that he knowingly violated NCAA legislation, or was aware of violations, impermissible tryouts, impermissible text messages and telephone calls, impermissible recruiting activity and funding within the women’s basketball program, impermissible observation and/or supervision of out-of-season basketball activity; and recruiting violations individually committed by head coach 2. Involvement in, or knowledge of these violations reflect that head coach 2 failed to promote an atmosphere for compliance.
Failure to monitor in violation of NCAA Constitution 2.8.1.
From 2009 through 2012, the institution failed to monitor its women’s basketball program to assure compliance with NCAA legislation related to tryouts, communication with prospective student-athletes, recruiting and countable athletically related activities.
NCAA Constitution 2.8.1 requires all member institutions to monitor their athletics program and to identify and report instances in which rules compliance has not been achieved. In this case, there was a lack of consistent monitoring in a number of areas. For example, the compliance office did not sign travel requests or reimbursements, official or unofficial visit records and did not monitor whether basketball activities occurred during official visits, summer workout periods, or other CARA or non-CARA periods. A former compliance coordinator stated that he operated under the principle that the coaching staff members knew NCAA legislation and that they had a responsibility to self-report if they violated the legislation. This casual approach to compliance was a contributing factor in some of the violations in this case.
Further, the institution did not always follow its own administrative processes. For instance, incomplete forms such as contact and evaluation logs, official visit records and others were submitted, but no efforts were made to follow up and obtain complete information. In some cases, no forms were submitted at all e.g., no official visit forms were submitted for the 2010-11 academic year. Despite these failures and shortcomings, staff members in positions of authority did not recognize that these issues were significant and needed to be addressed and corrected.
As a result of the aforementioned violations, the Committee penalized HSU as follows:
1. Public reprimand and censure.
2. Two years of probation from July 29, 2014, to July 28, 2016.
3. The institution shall pay a fine of $2,500 to the NCAA.
4. The director of athletics, the chief athletics compliance staff member, the senior woman administrator and the faculty athletics representative shall attend an NCAA Regional Rules Seminar in 2015.
5. Limited grants-in-aid equivalencies in women’s basketball to 5.05 for the 2013-14 academic year.
6. Removed texting privileges of all women’s basketball coaching staff members’ cell telephones from November 12, 2012, to April 17, 2013, the date of the initial date of the spring 2013 NLOI signing period.
7. Prohibited all off-campus recruiting activities from November 12, 2012, to April 12, 2013, for women’s basketball coaching staff members.
8. Suspended all official visits from November 12, 2012, to April 17, 2013, the date of the initial date of the spring 2013 National Letter of Intent signing period.
9. Eliminated all tryouts on the institution’s campus per NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199 from November 12, 2012, to April 17, 2013.
10. Reduced the number of weekly CARA hours during the period of November 12, 2012, through the remainder of the 2012-13 basketball season from 20 to 17.5 – an approximate reduction of 40 hours until the end of the regular season.
11. Reduced the number of weekly CARA hours during the period following the NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Championship to one-week prior the institution’s final examination period from 8 to 5.5 – an approximate reduction of 15 hours.
12. Head coach 1 received a one-year show cause order.
13. Head coach 2 received a two-year show cause order.