The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee” or “COI” or “panel”) recently issued its findings and found that Missouri State University (“Missouri State” or “MSU” or “institution”) committed violations of NCAA legislation. This case involved impermissible recruiting inducements, impermissible benefits, countable athletically related activity (“CARA”) outside the legislated playing season, and impermissible coaching activity in the women’s volleyball program at Missouri State. COI concluded that the former head women’s volleyball coach was at the center of these violations, and her personal involvement demonstrated that she did not meet her legislated responsibility as a head coach. Additionally, the institution failed to monitor the women’s volleyball program over the approximately three-year period of the violations. Finally, after separating from the institution, the head coach violated the principles of ethical conduct and cooperation when she provided false or misleading information during her interviews with the NCAA enforcement staff.
After considering applicable aggravating and mitigating factors, the panel classified this case as Level I-Standard for Missouri State and Level I-Aggravated for the head coach.
The Committee found Missouri State committed the following violations of NCAA legislation:
Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 220.127.116.11.3 (2015-16 and 2016-17); 13.2.1, 18.104.22.168-(h) and 13.15.1 (2015-16 through 2018-19); 22.214.171.124-(g) (2016-17 and 2017-18); 12.11.1 and 16.8.1 (2016-17 through 2018-19); 126.96.36.199 (2017-18 and 2018-19); and 188.8.131.52-(e), 184.108.40.206-(k), 220.127.116.11, 18.104.22.168-(d) and 22.214.171.124.1 (2018-19)
During the last three years of her employment at Missouri State, the head coach provided, arranged for or permitted approximately $16,200.00 in impermissible recruiting inducements and benefits for prospective and enrolled women’s volleyball student-athletes. As a result of the inducements and benefits, 13 student-athletes competed in a total of 150 contests while ineligible. Missouri State agreed that Level I violations occurred. The head coach agreed in part but disputed certain aspects of the allegations. She did not take a position on violation level. The panel concluded the violations occurred and are Level I.
From March 2016 through July 2019, the head coach and her staff provided approximately $16,200.00 in recruiting inducements and extra benefits to prospective and enrolled student-athletes consisting principally of free and reduced-cost lodging, free tutoring and other academic assistance, and expenses related to the team’s foreign tour. These inducements and benefits enabled student-athletes to come to campus during summers and get in extra workouts through participation in strength and conditioning workouts and camps. They also assisted prospects in meeting academic eligibility requirements and allowed two student-athletes to participate in the team’s foreign tour who would not have been permitted to do so otherwise. The conduct violated NCAA Bylaws 13, 16 and 17, and it rendered 13 student-athletes ineligible, thus requiring withholding under NCAA Bylaw 12.
NCAA Bylaw 13 governs recruiting. When prospects come to campus for unofficial visits, NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199.3 permits them to stay in the dorm room of an enrolled student-athlete so long as the prospect pays the regular institutional rate for such lodging. NCAA Bylaw 13.2.1 prohibits institutional staff members from being directly or indirectly involved in arranging or providing benefits to a prospective student-athlete that are not otherwise available to prospective students generally. Specifically prohibited benefits include cash or like items (NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52-(e)); free or reduced-cost services, rentals or purchases of any type (NCAA Bylaw 184.108.40.206-(g)); free or reduced-cost housing (NCAA Bylaw 220.127.116.11-(h)); and expenses for academic services such as tutoring or test preparation to assist in the completion of initial-eligibility requirements (NCAA Bylaws 18.104.22.168-(k)). Similarly, NCAA Bylaws 13.15.1 and 22.214.171.124 prohibit institutions from paying or arranging financial assistance for a prospect’s precollege expenses, including academic expenses or services to assist the prospect in completing initial eligibility requirements.
Benefits and expenses for enrolled student-athletes are governed by NCAA Bylaw 16, with NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199 providing the general rule that a student-athlete shall not receive any extra benefit. The bylaw defines “extra benefit” as any special arrangement by an institutional employee to provide a student-athlete with a benefit not expressly authorized by NCAA legislation. NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52-(d) identifies transportation (e.g., a ride home with a coach) as an example of a specifically prohibited extra benefit. Pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 16.8.1, an institution may provide actual and necessary expenses only to eligible student-athletes who represent the institution in practice and competition. Institutions must also withhold ineligible student-athletes from competition under NCAA Bylaw 12.11.1.
Finally, NCAA Bylaw 17 governs playing and practice seasons, with NCAA Bylaw 17.29 specifically addressing foreign tours. Pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 184.108.40.206.1, an incoming freshman or transfer student-athlete may represent the institution in a foreign tour that occurs the summer prior to enrollment so long as the student-athlete is eligible to compete during the academic year immediately following the foreign tour.
The head coach and her staff violated multiple provisions of NCAA Bylaws 13 and 16 when they arranged free and reduced-cost housing during prospects’ unofficial visits and during summers.5 Specifically, by arranging for 15 prospects to stay in enrolled student-athletes’ dorm rooms during unofficial visits without paying the institutional rate for the lodging, the women’s volleyball program violated NCAA Bylaws 13.2.1, 220.127.116.11-(h) and 18.104.22.168.3. Similarly, violations of NCAA Bylaws 13.2.1, 22.214.171.124-(h), 13.15.1 and 126.96.36.199 occurred when the head coach and her staff arranged for prospects to stay with enrolled student-athletes free-of-charge during the summers of 2016, 2017 and 2019, and when the head coach permitted prospective and enrolled student-athletes to stay at a reduced rate in her rental property during the summer of 2018.
With respect to academic assistance, the coaching staff’s arrangement of cost-free TOEFL tutoring for student-athlete 1 constituted a recruiting inducement—specifically, a free service—prohibited under NCAA Bylaws 13.2.1 and 188.8.131.52-(g). Likewise, when the coaching staff assisted student-athlete 2 in completing her high school coursework in order to meet initial eligibility requirements, they provided an impermissible recruiting inducement under NCAA Bylaw 184.108.40.206-(k) and violated NCAA Bylaws 13.15.1 and 220.127.116.11.
Additional NCAA Bylaw 13 and 16 violations occurred when the head coach sold team apparel to a prospect and her family at a discounted rate (NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168-(g)) and when the operations director and her roommate provided student-athlete 1 with one night of cost-free housing upon her arrival in the United States (NCAA Bylaw 22.214.171.124), three hours of free private volleyball lessons (NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199), and 100 miles of cost-free automobile transportation (NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52-(d)).
Finally, as it relates to the foreign tour, the head coach and her staff violated NCAA Bylaw 184.108.40.206.1 when they permitted student-athlete 2—an academic nonqualifier—to travel with the team on a foreign tour. By permitting student-athlete 2 to travel and paying for her trip and related expenses with institutional funds, the institution provided a recruiting inducement in violation of NCAA Bylaw 13.2.1. Relatedly, when the head coach applied a $500 advance credit to student-athlete 3 to allow her to participate in the foreign tour, the head coach provided a benefit that was not available to other student-athletes who did not meet the fundraising requirement for the tour. The enforcement staff and institution agreed that this constituted an impermissible inducement in violation of NCAA Bylaw 220.127.116.11-(e).
The impermissible recruiting inducements and extra benefits rendered 12 women’s volleyball student-athletes and one beach volleyball student-athlete ineligible. Those student-athletes went on to compete in 150 contests and receive competition-related expenses while ineligible. When Missouri State failed to withhold the ineligible student-athletes from competition and provided them with actual and necessary expenses, the institution violated NCAA Bylaws 12.11.1 and 16.8.1, respectively.
Missouri State agreed that the impermissible recruiting inducements and extra benefits collectively rose to a Level I violation. The panel concurs. See NCAA Bylaw 19.9.1-(i) (establishing that collective Level II and/or Level III violations may constitute a Level I violation). Taken separately, the individual violations are not severe Level I breaches of conduct. However, in the aggregate, they constitute a three-year pattern of systemic violations in the women’s volleyball program. Moreover, it is a pattern of violations that provided or was intended to provide distinct competitive and recruiting advantages to the institution. For example, by arranging free and reduced-cost summer housing, the women’s volleyball program made it easier for incoming prospects and enrolled student-athletes to come to campus and participate in summer conditioning and volleyball camps. In this way, the student-athletes were able to engage in extra workouts outside the playing and practice season. Additionally, by providing tutoring and academic assistance to student-athletes 1 and 2, the coaching staff intended to help those student-athletes meet admission and initial eligibility requirements.
The COI has previously concluded that impermissible inducements and/or benefits constitute Level I violations when they are particularly extensive in duration, value, or scope, or where they confer substantial advantages on the institution. See University of California, Sacramento (Sacramento State) (2018) (concluding in a case resolved via summary disposition that Level I violations occurred because the impermissible benefits involved a significant monetary value and provided several advantages to the institution, including easing the transition for incoming student-athletes by securing housing arrangements for them, providing access to training opportunities for prospects to improve their performance before arriving on campus and facilitating a talented prospect’s relocation to the area of campus by arranging access to housing and training); University of Mississippi (2017) (concluding that a booster’s provision of impermissible transportation, meals, lodging, and payment of cell phone bills for four football prospects constituted a collective Level I violation because it provided a substantial recruiting advantage to the institution, occurred over the course of a full academic year and involved multiple coaches, prospects and a booster); and Lamar University (2016) (concluding in a case resolved via summary disposition that Level I violations occurred when the head men’s golf coach provided or arranged for approximately $15,500 worth of impermissible benefits to three student-athletes). Thus, consistent with these cases and NCAA Bylaw 19.1.1, the panel concluded that the impermissible recruiting inducements and extra benefits establish a collective Level I violation.
Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 13.11.1, 18.104.22.168.1, 17.25.11 and 17.25.12 (2015-16 through 2018-19); 11.01.6, 11.3.1, 22.214.171.124 and 11.7.6 (2016-17 through 2018-19); and 11.7.1 and 126.96.36.199-(a) (2018-19)
For a three-year period, the head coach directed women’s volleyball student-athletes’ participation in CARA outside of the legislated playing season, and the women’s volleyball program exceeded the permissible number of countable coaches. Missouri State agreed the violations occurred and that they are Level II. The head coach partially agreed but disputed certain aspects of the allegations. The panel concluded the violations occurred and they are Level II.
From 2016 through 2019, the head coach and her staff directed prospective and enrolled student-athletes who worked at the institution’s summer volleyball camps to participate in impermissible CARA outside the legislated playing season. Coaching staff observed the prospects’ participation in these activities, thus turning them into impermissible tryouts. Also, during this period, from February 2017 through January 2019, the head coach provided monthly compensation and cost-free housing to three volunteer assistant coaches. She also permitted a former volunteer assistant coach to provide instruction to the team without designating her as a volunteer assistant. The compensation and coaching activity caused the women’s volleyball program to exceed the permissible number of countable coaches over multiple seasons. This conduct violated NCAA Bylaw 17 CARA limitations, NCAA Bylaw 13 tryout legislation, and countable coach limitations under NCAA Bylaw 11.
NCAA Bylaw 17 governs playing and practice seasons. Pursuant to NCAA Bylaws 188.8.131.52.1 and 17.25.11, student-athletes and members of the coaching staff may not engage in CARA outside the playing season or during any institutional vacation period and/or summer. NCAA Bylaw 17.25.12 establishes that enrolled volleyball student-athletes may not participate as campers during the institution’s camps or clinics. Pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 13.11.1, an impermissible tryout occurs when an institution conducts any physical activity at which one or more prospects demonstrate their athletics abilities.
NCAA Bylaw 11 establishes coaching staff limitations and addresses other athletics personnel matters. NCAA Bylaw 11.7.1 requires institutions to specifically designate the individuals—whether compensated or uncompensated—who will engage in coaching activity. Consistent with NCAA Bylaw 11.3.1, the institution shall remain in control of the athletics personnel it employs and the compensation each employee receives. A coach who does not receive compensation is defined as a volunteer coach under NCAA Bylaw 11.01.6. NCAA Bylaw 11.7.6 limits a women’s volleyball team to no more than three coaches. Under NCAA Bylaw 184.108.40.206-(a), an institutional staff member or any other individual outside the institution with whom the institution has made arrangements must count against this coaching limit if the individual provides technical or tactical instruction to a student-athlete at any time.
For four summers, the head coach failed to run her volleyball camps in a manner that complied with CARA and tryout legislation. Stated differently, she essentially used summer camps as additional practice time for her student-athletes and as tryouts for prospects. The head coach directed prospects and student-athletes to engage in volleyball activities in the same manner as campers, which violated NCAA Bylaw 17.25.12. These activities included joining the camp attendees for scrimmages and drills, and meeting individually or in small groups with a coach to practice with teammates. Because this activity occurred during the summer, i.e., outside the legislated playing season, it constituted impermissible CARA in violation of NCAA Bylaws 220.127.116.11.1 and 17.25.11. Furthermore, when coaching staff members observed prospects’ participation in this activity, it converted the activity into an impermissible tryout in violation of NCAA Bylaw 13.11.1.
COI has previously concluded that CARA violations occur when coaching staff members create a perception or expectation that student-athletes must participate in training activities during the summer or otherwise outside of the legislated playing season. See University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) (2019) (concluding that a head track coach violated CARA legislation when he monitored student-athletes’ summer training logs and provided feedback in such a way that the student-athletes believed the training to be mandatory). Here, women’s volleyball student-athletes and a former assistant coach reported that the head coach directed student-athletes’ participation in camp activities and gave the impression that the activities were required. Accordingly, the conduct violated CARA legislation.
The head coach also took actions that were directly contrary to legislated coaching limitations. For a period of nearly two years, the head coach provided compensation ranging from $100.00 to $500.00 per month to three coaches who were intended to be volunteers. She also arranged for them to live cost-free either with another assistant coach or at one of her rental properties. When the head coach provided these individuals with compensation and free housing, they could no longer be defined as volunteer coaches under NCAA Bylaw 11.01.6. Rather they became countable coaches. At this time, however, the women’s volleyball program was fully staffed with three countable coaches. Thus, the head coach’s actions caused the institution to exceed the permissible number of countable coaches in the women’s volleyball program in violation of NCAA Bylaw 11.7.6. The head coach’s provision of compensation to the volunteer coaches also violated the NCAA Bylaw 11.3.1 principle that the institution shall remain in control of who it employs and the salary it pays.
The program further exceeded its limit on countable coaches in 2018 when the head coach paid a former assistant volunteer coach to attend practices and work with the team’s outside hitters. The head coach paid the former assistant volunteer $500.00 per month and provided her with free lodging in one of the head coach’s rental properties. However, the head coach could not designate her as a volunteer assistant coach because that role was already filled. Nonetheless, the head coach paid the former volunteer assistant to work with the team, providing tactical and technical instruction in violation of NCAA Bylaws 11.7.1, 18.104.22.168-(a) and 11.7.6.
COI has previously concluded that NCAA Bylaw 11 violations occur when volunteer coaches are compensated. See California Polytechnic State University (1995) (concluding the head baseball coach violated NCAA Bylaw 11 when he paid a total of $8,327 to five volunteer baseball coaches who were not eligible to receive compensation due to their volunteer status). In more recent cases, the COI has routinely concluded that institutions violate NCAA Bylaw 11 when they exceed the permissible number of countable coaches. See Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) (2021) (concluding that non-coaching staff members performed coaching activity, thereby causing the institution to exceed countable coach limits); University of Connecticut (2019) (same); and University of Oregon (2018) (same). As in these cases, the impermissible compensation and coaching activity related to volunteer women’s volleyball coaches violated NCAA Bylaw 11.
Pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 19.1.2, the panel concluded that the CARA and coaching activity violations are Level II. Because women’s volleyball student-athletes were engaging in CARA outside the legislated playing season, Missouri State gained more than a minimal competitive advantage over other institutions that were adhering to CARA limitations. Likewise, the head coach’s compensation of volunteer coaches brought additional coaches into the program, over and above the number of coaches permitted by NCAA legislation. Furthermore, the conduct was not isolated or limited in scope as it occurred over a three-year period. COI has routinely concluded that CARA and coaching activity violations are Level II. See UCSB; Georgia Tech; Connecticut; and Oregon. Consistent with these cases and Bylaw 19.1.2, the panel concluded that the violations in this case are likewise Level II.
Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaw 22.214.171.124 (2015-16 through 2018-19)
The head coach’s direct involvement in and awareness of the inducement, benefit, CARA and coaching activity violations demonstrated that she failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance and monitor her program. Although the head coach disputed certain aspects of the underlying violations, she agreed that she was ultimately responsible for any violations that occurred in her program. The head coach did not take a position on violation level. The panel concluded that a Level I violation occurred.
From March 2016 through July 2019, the head coach failed to meet her responsibility to promote an atmosphere of compliance in her program and monitor her staff. Among other things, the head coach was involved in facilitating free and reduced-cost housing, directed the provision of academic assistance for two prospects, defied the senior associate AD’s directive that a nonqualifier was not permitted to participate in the team’s foreign tour, and disregarded her staff’s concerns when they told her she was not running camps in compliance with NCAA rules. In all of these situations, the head coach made decisions on her own without consulting the institution’s compliance office. The panel concludes that the head coach’s conduct violated NCAA Bylaw 11 head coach responsibility legislation.
NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199 establishes two affirmative duties for head coaches: (1) to promote an atmosphere of rules compliance and (2) to monitor individuals in their program who report to them. The bylaw presumes that head coaches are responsible for the violations in their programs. Head coaches may rebut this presumption by demonstrating that they promoted an atmosphere of compliance and monitored their staff.
In this case, the head coach cannot and did not make either showing. Her personal involvement in the violations demonstrated that she did not promote an atmosphere of compliance. As a longtime head coach, she should have been well acquainted with fundamental NCAA legislation in areas such as inducements, benefits, CARA and coaching limitations. Yet, the head coach disregarded those rules when, among other conduct, she facilitated free and reduced-cost housing, arranged tutoring, permitted a nonqualifier to participate in a foreign tour and directed impermissible CARA during camps. And in areas where she was not personally involved, the head coach failed to monitor her staff. Indeed, multiple women’s volleyball staff members were involved in the benefit, inducement and CARA violations.
The head coach also acted independently of the institution’s compliance office. She did not consult with compliance before acting, and she assumed that certain conduct was permissible because she had always done it that way. The head coach’s failure to adhere to well-known NCAA legislation and her resistance to consulting the compliance staff contributed to systemic violations within her program.
COI has consistently concluded that head coaches violate NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52 when they personally commit violations, involve staff members in violations, and fail to consult with compliance. See Siena College (2020) (concluding the head men’s basketball coach violated NCAA Bylaw 184.108.40.206 when he personally committed violations and did not check with compliance to determine whether his conduct was permissible) and UCSB (concluding the head track coach violated NCAA Bylaw 220.127.116.11 due to his personal involvement in CARA violations and failure to consult compliance). As in these cases, the head coach did not fulfill her duty to promote an atmosphere of compliance when she involved herself and her staff in violations and maintained a distant relationship with the compliance office.
Pursuant to Bylaws 19.1.1 and 19.1.2, the level of a head coach responsibility violation generally derives from the level of the underlying violations. Here, the violation is supported both by Level I and II violations; however, the Level I inducement and benefit violations were more extensive in scope and nature than the Level II CARA and coaching activity violations. Accordingly, the panel concluded that the head coach responsibility violation is Level I. See Mississippi (concluding that a Level I head coach responsibility violation occurred where it derived from underlying Level I violations involving coaching staff interaction with boosters).
Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Constitution 2.8.1 (2015-16 through 2018-19)
For more than three years, Missouri State failed to monitor the women’s volleyball program. The institution’s compliance office did not regularly interact with the program, did not spot check practices or camps, and did not adequately monitor housing. As a result, violations went undetected in the women’s volleyball program over multiple years. Missouri State disputed the allegation. The panel concluded that the violation occurred, and it is Level I.
From March 2016 through July 2019, Missouri State did not adequately monitor (1) prospects’ lodging during unofficial visits; (2) summer and off-campus housing for prospective and enrolled student-athletes; and (3) student-athlete participation in summer camps. The institution also provided insufficient rules education to coaching staff members. Missouri State’s failure to monitor violated its obligations under NCAA Constitution 2.8.1.
Article 2 of the NCAA Constitution sets forth core principles for institutions conducting intercollegiate athletics programs. NCAA Constitution 2.8.1 requires an institution to abide by all rules and regulations, monitor compliance and report instances of noncompliance.
Missouri State contested this allegation based in large part on its belief that the violations in this case were attributable to the actions of a rogue coach. The panel agreed that the head coach was inclined to act independently from—and at times in defiance of—the institution’s compliance office. However, the compliance office’s lax monitoring enabled the head coach’s independence.
When a compliance office does not monitor summer housing, ask follow-up questions regarding unofficial visits, or perform spot checks at practices or camps, it becomes easy to disregard rules and adopt practices and shortcuts that give your program a greater competitive or recruiting advantage. This does not excuse the head coach’s conduct. Rather, it demonstrates that compliance is a shared responsibility between coaching staff and the institution. Where, as here, both sides fail to meet that responsibility, it creates an environment where violations are likely to occur and proliferate.
Missouri State also asserted that there is no indication the violations occurred as a result of a lack of education, knowledge or understanding on the part of the head coach. Although it is true that the head coach was experienced and presumably knowledgeable regarding NCAA rules, it is equally true that the compliance office provided inadequate rules education. Providing education primarily via periodic emails—with little to no face-to-face interaction with the coaching staff—does not meet the standards to which the membership holds institutions under NCAA Constitution 2.
Although the panel is sensitive to the lack of compliance personnel and resources at Missouri State, this is not a valid excuse for failing to meet these baseline and fundamental standards, which are conditions of Division I membership. Simply put, compliance must be a top priority for Division I institutions. The panel commends Missouri State for the changes it has made to its compliance practices in the time since these violations were discovered, but it urges the institution to continue to evaluate the resources it devotes to its compliance program.
Failure to monitor violations are generally presumed Level II, but they may rise to Level I if the failure is substantial or egregious. See NCAA Bylaw 19.1.2-(b). Here, the panel concluded that Missouri State’s failure to monitor rises to a Level I violation. The institution failed to monitor in multiple areas and did not engage in basic standard industry practices such as spot-checking camps and practices and monitoring summer housing. As a result, the same violations occurred repeatedly for more than three years. The COI has previously concluded that Level I failure to monitor violations occur when the scope of the underlying violations is particularly significant. See Sacramento State (accepting the parties’ agreement in an SDR that the institutional failure to monitor was Level I where the violations touched on multiple areas of NCAA legislation and occurred over a five-year period). Likewise, the panel concluded a Level I violation occurred in this case.
Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 10.1, 10.1-(c) and 19.2.3-(b) (2020-21)
Following her separation from the institution, the head coach provided false or misleading information during her interview with the NCAA enforcement staff when she denied having knowledge of or involvement in certain violations. The head coach disputed the allegation. The panel concluded the violation occurred and is Level I.
During her August 18, 2020, interview with the enforcement staff, the head coach denied having any knowledge of or involvement in the following conduct: (1) arranging summer housing for women’s volleyball prospects in 2016, 2017 and 2019; (2) arranging TOEFL tutoring for student-athlete 1; and (3) permitting a former volunteer assistant coach to provide instruction during women’s volleyball practices. However, factual information in the record substantiates the head coach’s involvement in this conduct. Accordingly, the head coach’s denials violated NCAA principles of ethical conduct and the obligation to cooperate under NCAA Bylaws 10 and 19, respectively. NCAA Bylaw 10 requires current and former institutional staff members to conduct themselves in an ethical manner. Among other things, they must not knowingly furnish false or misleading information concerning their involvement in or knowledge of violations in accordance with NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(c). Further, under NCAA Bylaw 19.2.3, institutional staff members have an affirmative obligation to cooperate fully with the NCAA enforcement staff to further the objectives of the Association and its infractions program. NCAA Bylaw 19.2.3-(b) specifies that full cooperation includes providing complete and truthful responses.
The head coach failed to meet this obligation when she provided untruthful information during her interview with the enforcement staff. The head coach’s denials of involvement in specific violations are contrary to factual information in the record and are not credible. First, the head coach stated that she was not involved in arranging for incoming prospects to live cost-free with enrolled student-athletes during the summers of 2016, 2017 and 2019. However, three then prospects reported that the head coach either informed them they would be living with members of the volleyball team during the summer or presented it as an option. Second, with respect to student-athlete 1’s tutoring for the TOEFL exam, both the director of international services and assistant coach 1 recounted a meeting where the head coach proposed the tutoring plan. Finally, although the head coach initially denied in her interview that the former assistant volunteer coach participated in team practices, she later admitted in her NOA response that this happened. When the head coach failed to provide truthful and complete information during her interview, she violated principles of ethical conduct under NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(c) and failed to meet the NCAA Bylaw 19.2.3-(b) responsibility to cooperate.
COI has routinely concluded that individuals who provide false or misleading information during an investigation commit Level I violations of NCAA Bylaws 10 and 19. See Georgia Institute of Technology (2019) (concluding that an assistant men’s basketball coach engaged in Level I unethical conduct when he knowingly provided false and misleading information about his involvement in recruiting violations); University of Northern Colorado (2017) (concluding that two assistant men’s basketball coaches engaged in Level I unethical conduct when they knowingly provided false or misleading information about their involvement in completing or arranging for the completion of coursework for ineligible prospects); and Mississippi (concluding that athletics staff members engaged in Level I unethical conduct when they knowingly provided false or misleading information about their involvement in helping prospects obtain fraudulent ACT exam scores, arranging for impermissible meals, lodging and transportation for prospects, and arranging for boosters to have contact and communication with a student-athlete for the purpose of providing him cash payments). Consistent with these cases, and pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 19.1.1-(c) and (d), the panel concluded the violation is Level I.
Violations Not Demonstrated
As part of the collective allegation regarding coaching limitations, the NOA alleged that on October 13, 2018, the head coach permitted a former women’s volleyball student-athlete to sit on the team bench during a match and provide tactical or technical instruction to individual student-athletes. The NOA alleged that this conduct caused the institution to exceed the limit on countable coaches in violation of NCAA Bylaw 11. The panel concludes that the facts do not support this violation. As detailed previously, NCAA Bylaw 11.7.1 requires institutions to designate individuals who will engage in coaching activity. Women’s volleyball programs are limited to no more than three coaches pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 11.7.6, and NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168-(a) establishes that any individual who provides technical or tactical instruction to a student-athlete must count against this limit.
In support of this allegation, the enforcement staff relied on the former student-athlete’s interview, in which she described sitting on the bench during the match and conversing with her former teammates. Specifically, she stated that a few student-athletes asked her if she saw any open shots or holes on the court, and she gave her opinion in response. She specifically noted, however, that she did not give the student-athletes any instruction or suggest adjustments they should make. The student-athlete stated that she was aware she was not allowed to coach or provide instruction and was trying to be careful not to do that.
Institutions must be mindful of who is permitted to sit on the bench and what they are saying to student-athletes. However, the panel is not persuaded that stating a few isolated opinions on open shots or holes on the court equates to technical or tactical instruction. The conduct does not rise to the level of instruction seen in past cases where the COI has concluded coaching activity violations occurred. See Georgia Tech (2021) (concluding Level II violations occurred when the head women’s basketball coach permitted graduate managers to instruct student-athletes during shooting sessions and offer critiques during drills) and University of Hawaii at Manoa (2015) (concluding Level II violations occurred when a men’s basketball director of operations rebounded for student-athletes and offered them on-court instruction during practice). Thus, the panel concluded that the factual information in the record does not demonstrate that a NCAA Bylaw 11 violation occurred in this instance.
Aggravating and Mitigating Factors in accordance with NCAA Bylaws 19.9.3 and 19.9.4
Aggravating Factors for the Institution
19.9.3-(a): Multiple Level I violations by the institution;
19.9.3-(h): Persons of authority condoned, participated in or negligently disregarded the violation or related wrongful conduct;
19.9.3-(i): One or more violations caused significant ineligibility or other substantial harm to a student-athlete or prospect;
19.9.3-(k): A pattern of noncompliance within the sport program involved; 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;10 and
19.9.4-(h): The absence of prior conclusions of Level I, Level II or major violations committed by the institution.
Aggravating Factors for the Head Coach
19.9.3-(a): Multiple Level I violations by the involved individual;
19.9.3-(e): Unethical conduct, compromising the integrity of an investigation, failing to cooperate during an investigation or refusing to provide all relevant or requested information;
19.9.3-(h): Persons of authority condoned, participated in or negligently disregarded the violation or related wrongful conduct;
19.9.3-(i): One or more violations caused significant ineligibility or other substantial harm to a student-athlete or prospect;
19.9.3-(k): A pattern of noncompliance within the sport program involved; and
19.9.3-(m): Intentional, willful or blatant disregard for the NCAA constitution and bylaws.
Mitigating Factors for the Head Coach
19.9.4-(h): The absence of prior conclusions of Level I, Level II or major violations.
As a result of the foregoing, the Committee penalized Missouri State as follows:
1. Public reprimand and censure.
2. Probation: Three years of probation from November 4, 2021, through November 3, 2024.
3. Financial Penalty: Missouri State shall pay a fine of $5,000 plus one percent of the budget for the women’s volleyball program.
4. Competition Penalty: During the 2021-22 academic year, the women’s volleyball program shall end its season with the last regular-season contest and shall not participate in postseason conference or NCAA tournament competition. In accordance with NCAA Bylaw 14.7.2-(c), COI recommended that the NCAA Division I Committee for Legislative Relief waive the one-year residency requirement for transferring student-athletes whose institution was placed on probation which included a postseason ban penalty.
5. Scholarship Reduction: For one academic year during the period of probation, Missouri State shall reduce by five percent the amount of grants-in-aid awarded in the women’s volleyball program. Missouri State may take the reduction in either the 2022-23 or 2023-24 academic year. The reduction shall be based on the average amount of aid awarded in the women’s volleyball program over the previous four academic years.
6. Recruiting Restrictions: (a) During the 2019-20 academic year, Missouri State reduced by two the number of official paid visits in the women’s volleyball program. This represents a 12.5 percent reduction from the average number of visits provided by the program during the previous four years; (b) During the 2019-20 academic year, Missouri State prohibited unofficial visits in the women’s volleyball program for a period of three weeks. (Self-imposed.) For one academic year during the period of probation, Missouri State shall prohibit unofficial visits in the women’s volleyball program for an additional four weeks. Missouri State may implement the prohibition in either the 2021-22, 2022-23 or 2023-24 academic year; (c) During the 2019-20 academic year, Missouri State prohibited recruiting communication in the women’s volleyball program for a period of three weeks. (Self-imposed.) For one academic year during the period of probation, Missouri State shall prohibit recruiting communication in the women’s volleyball program for an additional four weeks. Missouri State may implement the prohibition in either the 2021-22, 2022-23 or 2023-24 academic year; and (d) During the 2019-20 academic year, Missouri State reduced evaluation days in the women’s volleyball program by five days. (Self-imposed.) For one academic year during the period of probation, Missouri State shall reduce evaluation days in women’s volleyball by an additional five days. Missouri State may take the reduction in either the 2021-22, 2022-23 or 2023-24 academic year.
7. Show Cause Order: For more than a three-year period, the head coach was personally involved in or aware of violations involving impermissible recruiting inducements, extra benefits, CARA and coaching limitations. As these violations demonstrate, the head coach failed to promote an atmosphere for compliance and monitor her staff during this time. She also violated principles of ethical conduct and failed to cooperate when she provided false or misleading information during her interview with the enforcement staff. Therefore, the head coach shall be subject to a five-year show-cause order from November 4, 2021, through November 3, 2026. Pursuant to COI IOP 5-15-3-1, if the head coach seeks employment or affiliation with an athletically related position at an NCAA member institution during the five-year show cause period, any employing institution shall be required to contact the Office of the Committee on Infractions (OCOI) to make arrangements to show cause why restrictions on all athletically related activity should not apply.
8. Head Coach Restriction: The head coach violated Bylaw 11 head coach responsibility legislation when she failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in the women’s volleyball program and failed to monitor her staff. Bylaw 22.214.171.124 and the Figure 19-1 penalty guidelines contemplate head coach suspensions to address head coach responsibility violations. Therefore, should the head coach become employed in an athletically related position at an NCAA member institution following the five-year show-cause period, the head coach shall be suspended from 50 percent of contests in the first season following the show-cause order. The provisions of this suspension require that the head coach not be present in the facility where the contests are played and have no contact or communication with women’s basketball coaching staff members or student-athletes during the suspension period. The prohibition includes all coaching activities for the period of time that begins at 12:01 a.m. on the day of the contest and ends at 11:59 p.m. that day. During that period, the head coach may not participate in any coaching activities including, but not limited to, team travel, practice, video study, recruiting and team meetings. The results of those contests from which the head coach is suspended shall not count toward the head coach’s career coaching record.
9. Vacation of Team and Individual Records: Missouri State acknowledged that 12 women’s volleyball student-athletes and one beach volleyball student-athlete competed while ineligible as a result of the impermissible inducements and/or benefits provided by the head coach and the women’s volleyball program. Therefore, pursuant to Bylaws 19.9.7-(g) and 126.96.36.199 and COI IOP 5-15-7, Missouri State shall vacate all regular season and conference tournament wins, records and participation in which ineligible student-athletes competed from the time they became ineligible through the time they were reinstated as eligible for competition.15 Further, if the ineligible student-athletes participated in NCAA postseason competition at any time they were ineligible, Missouri State’s participation in the postseason contests in which the ineligible competition occurred shall be vacated. The individual records of the ineligible student-athletes shall also be vacated. However, the individual finishes and any awards for all eligible student-athletes shall be retained. Further, Missouri State’s records regarding its women’s volleyball program, as well as the records of its head coach, shall reflect the vacated records and be recorded in all publications in which such records are reported, including, but not limited to, institutional media guides, recruiting material, electronic and digital media, plus institutional, conference and NCAA archives. Any institution that may subsequently hire the affected head coach shall similarly reflect the vacated wins in her career records documented in media guides and other publications cited above. Head coaches with vacated wins on their records may not count the vacated wins toward specific honors or victory “milestones” such as 100th, 200th or 500th career victories. Any public reference to the vacated records shall be removed from the athletics department stationery, banners displayed in public areas and any other forum in which they may appear. Any trophies awarded by the NCAA in the affected sport program shall be returned to the Association.
10. During the 2019 volleyball championship segment, Missouri State reduced CARA hours in women’s volleyball from 20-hour weeks to 18-hour weeks.
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