The NCAA Division II Committee on Infractions (“Committee”) recently released its findings and found that Morehouse College (“MC”) committed major violations of NCAA legislation. This case involved the football, cross-country, basketball, golf and baseball programs. After the investigation concluded the case was submitted to the Committee through the summary disposition process, which is an alternative to a formal hearing before the Committee that may be utilized when the NCAA enforcement staff, the member institution, and involved individuals agree to the facts of an infractions case and that those facts constitute major violations of NCAA legislation.
The Committee found that MC committed the following violations of NCAA legislation:
Violations of NCAA Division II Manual Bylaws 14.01.1, 184.108.40.206-(b), 14.11.1 and 220.127.116.11 (2010-11 through 2013-14); 18.104.22.168-(a), 22.214.171.124.5 and 126.96.36.199 (2011-12); 188.8.131.52.5 (2010-11 through 2013-14); and 14.01.2.1 (2011-12 and 2012-13)
MC and the NCAA enforcement staff agreed that during the 2010-11 through 2013-14 academic years, MC permitted 29 student-athletes to compete and receive impermissible travel expenses even though the student-athletes were academically ineligible because they (1) did not meet NCAA progress-toward-degree requirements and/or (2) were not in good academic standing per institutional policy. In addition, seven student-athletes with remaining eligibility competed after becoming academically ineligible and before MC became aware of the violations and sought reinstatement of the student-athletes’ eligibility. In total, MC permitted the 29 student-athletes to represent the institution in 323 contests and receive travel expenses for 169 contests while academically ineligible during the four-year period.
The vast majority of the student-athletes who competed while ineligible, 27 out of 29, did so as the result of eligibility certification violations resulting from a failure to meet credit hour requirements. This occurred because MC improperly allowed three remedial courses to be used in the calculation of student-athletes’ fulfillment of credit hours that were applied to progress-toward-degree requirements and continuing eligibility, in violation of NCAA Bylaw 184.108.40.206.5. In turn, the impermissible use of these remedial courses caused student-athletes to have insufficient credit hours for academic eligibility in violation of NCAA Bylaws 220.127.116.11-(a) and 18.104.22.168-(b). Both bylaws set forth credit hour requirements student-athletes must meet for eligibility.
Two student-athletes who were not in good academic standing with MC also competed while ineligible. NCAA Bylaw 22.214.171.124 requires that, in order to be eligible for competition, student-athletes must be in good academic standing as established by the institution for all students. Because these two student-athletes competed while they were not in good academic standing, MC violated NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199.
In addition, among the 29 ineligible student-athletes were three who failed to designate a degree program. NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52.5 mandates that, by the beginning of a student-athlete’s third year of enrollment, the student-athlete shall have designated a degree program. Because the three student-athletes had not designated a degree program by the beginning of their third year of enrollment, MC violated NCAA Bylaw 184.108.40.206.5.
Also, within the group of 29 student-athletes were seven with remaining eligibility who competed after becoming academically ineligible, but before the institution became aware of the violations and sought reinstatement of their eligibility. NCAA Bylaws 14.01.1 and 14.11.1 require institutions to withhold ineligible student-athletes from competition. Because MC did not withhold the seven student-athletes after they failed to meet academic eligibility requirements, MC violated NCAA Bylaws 14.01.1 and 14.11.1.
Moreover, because MC allowed student-athletes to receive impermissible travel expenses while ineligible, violations of NCAA extra benefit legislation also occurred. NCAA Bylaw 220.127.116.11 allows institutions to provide actual and necessary travel expenses (e.g., transportation, lodging and meals) to student-athletes for participation in athletics competition, but only if student-athletes are eligible for competition. Because the 29 student-athletes received travel expenses associated with competition while they were academically ineligible, MC violated NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168.
Violations of NCAA Division II Manual Bylaw 22.214.171.124 (2009-10 through 2013-14) (Secondary Violations)
MC and the NCAA enforcement staff agreed that during the 2009-10 through 2013-14 academic years, the director of athletics improperly signed prospective student-athletes’ written offers of athletically related financial aid, even though the signature of the chair of the regular committee or other agency for the awarding of financial aid to students generally, or the chair’s official designee, was required by NCAA legislation. NCAA Bylaw 15.2.3 requires that “the chair of the regular committee or other agency for the awarding of financial aid . . . or the chair’s official designee, shall sign the written statement.” Moreover, the bylaw specifies, “the signature of the director of athletics does not satisfy this requirement.” (emphasis added). Because the director of athletics signed the financial aid awards during the four-year period, MC violated NCAA Bylaw 15.2.3.
Violations of NCAA Division II Manual Constitution 2.8.1 (2009-10 through 2013-14)
The NCAA enforcement staff and MC agreed that from the 2009-10 through 2013-14 academic years, the scope and nature of the violations above demonstrated that MC did not properly monitor its athletics programs, as demonstrated by its failure to (1) establish an adequate system for ensuring compliance with NCAA eligibility requirements, (2) provide adequate NCAA rules education and training to institutional staff members to ensure that the athletics programs operated in compliance with NCAA rules and (3) ensure that the appropriate staff member signed prospective student-athletes’ written offers of athletically related financial aid.
NCAA Constitution 2.8.1 requires institutions to comply with all applicable rules and regulations of the NCAA. It also requires institutions to monitor their athletics programs to assure compliance and to identify and report to the NCAA instances in which institutions were not in compliance. In this case, MC did not have processes in place for ensuring compliance with NCAA bylaws governing academic eligibility. MC’s eligibility certification process was dependent upon a computer software program that erroneously allowed remedial courses to fulfill progress toward degree requirements in violation of NCAA eligibility legislation. Only one individual staffed MC’s compliance office and his workload was extremely heavy. Consequently, MC audited only 10 to 15 percent of student-athletes’ academic transcripts to verify that their earned credit hours complied with NCAA progress-toward-degree requirements and continuing eligibility legislation. Significantly, institutional procedures did not include verification of the compliance officer’s certification of student-athletes’ progress-toward-degree requirements. It was only after MC received the letter of concern from an attorney and conducted an internal eligibility audit that MC discovered the violations. A routine review of all student-athletes’ transcripts would have revealed that MC had improperly included remedial courses in student-athletes’ earned credit hours. In addition, MC allowed two student-athletes who were not in good academic standing to compete while academically ineligible. These breakdowns in the institution’s eligibility certification process demonstrated a failure to monitor in violation of NCAA Constitution 2.8.1.
Additionally, over the course of four years, MC’s director of athletics improperly signed prospective student-athletes’ written offers of athletically related financial aid in violation of NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199. The fact that NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52 expressly prohibits directors of athletics from signing these documents and the fact that this occurred over four years, demonstrated that the institution failed to monitor in violation of NCAA Constitution 2.8.1.
Finally, from 2004 through 2014, the athletics department did not provide NCAA rules education to staff members from other departments and offices who were involved in the eligibility certification process, most notably the registrar. The registrar admittedly did not understand NCAA progress-toward-degree legislation. This unfamiliarity with the applicable eligibility legislation was the direct result of a lack of appropriate education and training that the athletics department should have provided. Because MC failed to educate individuals involved in the eligibility certification process, it violated its duty to monitor under NCAA Constitution 2.8.1.
As a result of the aforementioned violations, the Committee penalized MC as follows:
1. Public reprimand and censure.
2. Three years of probation from July 15, 2015, through July 14, 2018.
3. A financial penalty of $5,000.00.
4. MC shall vacate all wins in which ineligible student-athletes competed.
5. Within one year following the release of the decision in this case, MC shall undertake a comprehensive audit of its athletics compliance program. The audit shall be conducted by an outside agency and include, at minimum, eligibility certification, financial aid administration and compliance education.
6. MC’s director of athletics, compliance officer, registrar and director of financial aid shall attend a NCAA Regional Rules Seminar in 2016.