The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee” or “Panel” or “COI”) recently issued its findings and found that the Ohio University (“Institution” or “Ohio”) committed violations of NCAA legislation.
Ohio and the NCAA enforcement staff agreed that from October 2015 through September 2018 the women’s volleyball coaching staff violated NCAA recruiting legislation by arranging and providing impermissible recruiting inducements in the form of airfare for one or both of the parents of eight prospective student-athletes to accompany the prospective student-athletes on their official paid visits. Ohio and the NCAA enforcement staff further agreed that the Institution failed to monitor and ensure compliance with NCAA legislation regarding official paid visits when it did not provide adequate NCAA rules education and training and failed to have an adequate system in place to monitor the provision of airline transportation during such visits in the women’s volleyball program.
This case originated in February 2019 during a conversation between the women’s volleyball coaches and a compliance staff member regarding compliance issues. During the conversation, the coaches noted that the women’s volleyball program paid for the airfare of a parent to accompany a women’s volleyball prospective student-athlete on an official paid visit. The compliance staff member knew such an arrangement was impermissible and ascertained from the head women’s volleyball coach that he misunderstood the applicable legislation. The coaching staff then informed the compliance staff that the provision of airfare to parents on official visits had occurred on several occasions over the past few years and voluntarily provided their recollection of those occasions. The Institution immediately began an internal investigation into the issue.
The Institution self-reported the violations April 18, 2019, and later requested reinstatement of four prospects’ eligibility who were then student-athletes. On November 18, 2019, the NCAA enforcement staff assigned an investigative team to review the case. The Institution and NCAA enforcement staff subsequently began a collaborative investigation.
The collaborative investigation confirmed the findings of the Institution’s internal investigation that one or two of the parents of eight women’s volleyball prospective student-athletes received the cost of impermissible airline transportation. Only four of the eight women’s volleyball prospective student-athletes enrolled at the Institution. The Institution and NCAA enforcement staff agreed that: (i) the violations were inadvertent and resulted from the head women’s volleyball coach’s misunderstanding of applicable legislation; (ii) the Institution did not provide sufficient NCAA rules education regarding official paid visits to staff members responsible for the expense approval process; and (iii) prior to the discovery of the violations, compliance staff members did not review expense reports requesting recruiting expenses reimbursement for NCAA compliance purposes. Furthermore, the compliance form used to track and monitor official paid visits did not identify or provide enough information regarding travel expenses for the Institution to determine if official paid visits were compliant with NCAA legislation.
This case was resolved through a negotiated resolution.
The Committee concluded that Ohio committed the following violations:
Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 13.2.1 and 220.127.116.11 (2015-16 through 2018-19) and 12.11.1 and 16.8.1 (2016-17 through 2018-19) (Level II)
Ohio and NCAA enforcement staff agreed that between October 2015 and September 2018 the women’s volleyball coaching staff arranged and provided approximately $4,408.00 in impermissible recruiting inducements in the form of airfare for one or both of the parents of eight prospective student-athletes to accompany the prospective student-athletes on their official paid visits to the institution. As a result of the impermissible inducements, four student-athletes competed in 83 contests over three academic years and received actual and necessary expenses while ineligible.
Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 2.8.1 (2015-16 through 2018-19) (Level II)
The Institution and the NCAA enforcement staff agreed that between October 2015 and September 2018, the scope and nature of the violations detailed above demonstrated that the Institution violated the NCAA principle of rules compliance when it failed to (a) provide adequate NCAA rules education and training to institutional staff members who had the responsibility to ensure compliance with NCAA official paid visits transportation legislation and (b) establish an adequate system for monitoring compliance with NCAA official paid visits transportation legislation in the women’s volleyball program.
Aggravating and Mitigating Factors in accordance with NCAA Bylaws 19.9.3 and 19.9.4
Aggravating Factors for the Institution
Multiple Level II violations by the institution. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3-(g).
Mitigating Factors for the Institution
Prompt acknowledgement of the violation, acceptance of responsibility and imposition of meaningful corrective measures. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.4-(b).
Affirmative steps to expedite final resolution of the matter. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.4-(c).
An established history of self-reporting Level III or secondary violations. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.4-(d).
The violations were unintentional, limited in scope and represent a deviation from otherwise compliant practices by the institution. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.4-(g).
The absence of prior conclusions of Level I, Level II or major violations committed by the institution. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.4-(h).
As a result of the foregoing, the Committee penalized Ohio as follows: