The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee”) recently issued its findings and found that Northeastern State University (“NSU”) committed major violations of NCAA legislation. The case concerned agreed-upon violations in NSU’s women’s tennis program, including extra benefits and impermissible financial aid provided to student-athletes by the former head coach. The former head coach also used student-athletes as impermissible recruiters for the women’s tennis program. The parties agreed that the former head coach violated the principles of ethical conduct and failed to promote an atmosphere for compliance in the women’s tennis program. From 2009 into 2012, the former head coach provided six student-athletes with cash payments upon their arrival at NSU, paid various academic fees for four student-athletes, and provided restaurant meals, transportation, cost-free textbooks and miscellaneous gifts to student-athletes. He also used certain student-athletes in the recruitment of international prospective student-athletes. The former head coach was aware of the rules regarding benefits for student-athletes, and he failed to inquire whether he could use student-athletes as recruiters.
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 NSU committed the following violations of NCAA legislation:
1. The former head coach provided impermissible financial aid and impermissible extra benefits in violation of NCAA Bylaws 15.01.2, 15.01.3, 16.01.1, 16.02.3, 16.9(e), 18.104.22.168(a), 22.214.171.124, and 126.96.36.199(d).
The former head coach received regular NCAA rules education and was aware of the rules pertaining to financial aid and extra benefits. Nonetheless, he provided cash, textbooks, impermissible meal, transportation and miscellaneous gifts to student-athletes and paid some of their institutional fees.
The facts demonstrate that the former head coach provided six student-athletes with a total of $1,300.00 cash shortly after their arrival on campus for initial enrollment. Over the course of three fall semesters, he provided members of the women’s tennis team regular post-practice restaurant meals, and transportation to and from the meals, as well as miscellaneous gifts on birthdays and holidays. The former head coach also provided textbooks, or cash for the purpose of purchasing textbooks, to four student-athletes, and he paid certain institutional fees for four student-athletes. These were also benefits unavailable to the general student body and unauthorized by NCAA legislation. Further, the fees, textbooks and cash for textbooks were not provided as part of a financial aid package administered by NSU.
2. The former head coach used student-athletes on recruiting telephone calls in violation of NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52.1.
The former head coach directed enrolled student-athletes to participate as interpreters on recruiting phone calls to international prospective student-athletes who spoke the same language, thereby helping the former head coach overcome language barriers. From the spring of 2009 into the summer of 2012, four enrolled student-athletes participated on 13 calls to seven international prospective student-athletes, five of whom eventually enrolled at NSU. The former head coach was also present for, and participated in, the conversations.
The former head coach was aware of NCAA rules regarding extra benefits being provided to enrolled student-athletes. He chose to violate those rules by providing cash, textbooks, meals, transportation, and miscellaneous gifts to enrolled student-athletes. The former head coach had regular meetings with the senior associate director of athletics in which rules and regulations were covered, and he was kept updated through regular rules-related emails and other communications from the senior associate director of athletics. The former head coach, knowing the provision of such benefits was prohibited, nonetheless provided cash, textbooks, meals, transportation and gifts to enrolled student-athletes.
As a result of the aforementioned violations, the Committee penalized NSU as follows:
1. Public reprimand and censure.
2. One year of probation from July 3, 2013 through July 2, 2014.
3. The fall 2012 women’s tennis season was cancelled.
4. NSU shall vacate all wins in which student-athletes 1 through 11 competed while ineligible during the 2009-10 through 2012-13 women’s tennis seasons. Further, NSU’s participation in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 NCAA Division II women’s tennis championships shall be vacated.
5. The former head coach received a 2 year show cause penalty.