The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee”) recently issued its findings and found that the Pepperdine University (“Pepperdine”) committed major violations of NCAA legislation. The violations in this case fell into two categories: 1) incorrect eligibility certification of transfer student-athletes; and 2) over awarding of financial aid due to incorrect application of certain financial aid legislation. 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 Pepperdine committed the following violations of NCAA legislation:
1. Improper Eligibility Certification in violation of NCAA Bylaws 126.96.36.199, 188.8.131.52.2, and 14.10.1
Beginning in the 2005-06 academic year and continuing through the 2009-10 academic year, the institution improperly applied the progress-toward-degree requirements to transfer student-athletes, resulting in 22 transfers being improperly certified as eligible for athletics competition.
When calculating progress-toward-degree requirements for incoming transfer student-athletes, the faculty athletic rep representative (“FAR”) only looked at the total number of hours the registrar’s office accepted for credit at Pepperdine. The FAR did not consult with the academic unit to determine which of the courses were acceptable to the student-athletes’ declared majors; instead he counted them all, which resulted in the institution counting too many hours as applicable to the majors of 22 transfer over a five-year period. All 22 of the transfer student-athletes were then allowed to compete when they were ineligible to do so.
2. Failure to Withhold Ineligible Student-Athlete From Competition in violation of NCAA Bylaw 14.11
During the 2009-10 academic year, the institution allowed a student-athlete to compete without seeking reinstatement following the student-athlete’s previous ineligible participation.
Prior to the violations being discovered, one of the 22 transfers subsequently regained his eligibility by passing a sufficient number of credit hours applicable to his major. Nonetheless, because this student-athlete was initially allowed to compete while ineligible, it was necessary that the student-athlete go through the reinstatement process to regain eligibility once the initial deficiency was “cured.”
3. Excessive Financial Aid in violation of NCAA Bylaws 184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11
Beginning in the 2007-08 academic year and continuing through the 2010-11 academic year, the institution exceeded its maximum team grant-in-aid limitations in the sports of baseball, men’s tennis, men’s volleyball, men’s water polo and women’s soccer.
These violations occurred due to deficiencies in the process used by the institution to award need-based financial aid. Because it has limited financial resources, the institution cannot fund all students with demonstrated financial needs. It therefore prioritizes, based on a set of criteria, which students will receive the aid. If students meet any of the listed criteria, they are categorized as a “1,” meaning they are guaranteed at least some need-based aid.
One way a student can be classified as a “1” is to possess a particular gift or talent that the institution desires to have represented in the overall student body. Such students earned classifications as “1T,” moving them to the top of the list to receive need-based aid. Each year from 2007-08 through 2010-11, the financial aid office designated 10-15 student-athletes as “1T” based on their athletics participation. Those student-athletes then received need-based aid in addition to any athletics aid awarded by their coaches. The need-based aid was not counted as athletics aid, as it should have been.
4. Failure to Document Non-Athletics Institutional Financial Aid in violation of NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168
From the 2007-08 academic year through 2009-10, the institution failed to document that exempt non-athletics institutional aid received by student-athletes was awarded without consideration of athletics ability.
Bylaw 22.214.171.124 allows institutionally-awarded financial aid that is not athletically related to be exempt from inclusion in athletics aid limits if the faculty athletics representative and director of financial aid certify that the aid was granted without regard to athletics ability. From the 2007-08 academic year through 2009-10, the institution did not record the necessary certification.
During the time the violations occurred, all compliance functions were performed by a long-time athletics administrator (“former associate athletics director”). The former associate athletics director used a personal system she developed for tracking financial aid and, when she left the department in 2010, other personnel were unable to figure out her methodology.
5. Failure to Maintain Squad Lists in violation of NCAA Bylaws 14.10.2 and 126.96.36.199
The institution failed to maintain squad lists for all sports for the 2007-08 and 2009-10 academic years, and failed to maintain squad lists for the sports of baseball, women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country, women’s swimming, men’s tennis, men’s and women’s track, men’s and women’s volleyball, and men’s water polo during the 2008-09 academic year.
Though the former associate athletics director stated that she maintained squad lists for all sports, an extensive search was conduct and none could be located.
6. Failure to Certify Compliance with NCAA Legislation in violation of NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52-(d)
In the 2010-11 academic year, the institution failed to execute the NCAA certificate of compliance. After the former associate athletics director left campus, the department failed to reassign her duty of completing the certification. As a result, the certification was not performed for the 2010-11 academic year.
7. Failure to Monitor in violation of NCAA Constitution 2.8.1
At various times from the 2005-06 academic year through 2010-11, the institution failed to monitor the athletics program by: 1) misapplying progress-toward-degree rules for transfer student-athletes; 2) failing to seek reinstatement for an ineligible student-athlete; 3) failing to comply with the maximum grant-in-aid requirements; 4) failing to maintain squad lists; 5) failing to document exempt non-athletes institutional aid; and 6) failing to execute a certificate of compliance.
The Committee stated “[i]t is the duty of every NCAA member institution to devote the resources necessary to put in place a thorough and comprehensive campus-wide compliance system operated by trained and competent personnel. The violations in this case occurred and remained undetected due to a failure of the institution to have in place a viable system of athletics compliance.” The Committee also pointed out 1) the methodology used to certify transfer student-athlete eligibility is flawed; 2) the FAR had no formal training or education in NCAA rules; 3) the financial aid office was lacking in NCAA rules education; 4) the athletics department and financial aid office failed to communicate regarding need-based financial aid; and 5) the institution did not reassign the responsibility of certifying compliance to another individual after the former associate athletic director left employment.
8. Secondary Violations in violation of NCAA Bylaws 184.108.40.206.3 and 14.3.1
During the 2009 fall semester, the institution cleared a men’s volleyball student-athlete to participate without receiving the required certification of amateur status from the NCAA Eligibility Center. In addition, during the 2011 fall semester, two women’s swimming student-athletes and one women’s cross country/track student-athlete participated without receiving certification of amateur status in her their respective sports. Finally, during the 2011 fall semester, a student-athlete on the baseball team participated in practice prior to the certification of his academic qualifications.
As a result of the aforementioned violations, the Committee penalized Pepperdine as follows:
1. Public reprimand and censure.
2. Three years of probation from July 3, 2012 through July 2, 2015.
3. Pepperdine will vacate all wins and team accomplishments earned during the 2007-08 through 2010-11 academic years for the sports of baseball, men’s tennis, and men’s volleyball.
4. Pepperdine will reduce the team grants-in-aid limitations for the following sports during the 2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14, and 2014-15 academic years:
Baseball = 2.48 grants-in-aid per year.
Men’s Tennis = 1.13 grants-in-aid per year.
Men’s Volleyball = 1.13 grants-in-aid per year.
Men’s Water Polo = 1.13 grants-in-aid per year.
Women’s Soccer = .88 grants-in-aid per year.