The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee”) recently issued its findings and found that the Samford University (“SU”) committed major violations of NCAA legislation. The case was narrow in scope involving violations of financial aid legislation. Specifically, during the 2007, 2008, and 2009 summer academic terms, SU provided impermissible athletically related financial aid to numerous prospective student-athletes prior to their initial full-time enrollment in violation of NCAA Bylaw 184.108.40.206.4-(b). None of the prospective student-athletes were enrolled in the specified minimum of six (6) credit hours during the summer term prior to full-time enrollment as required under NCAA legislation. Although the infractions were limited in terms of bylaws violated, the Committee found that the violations occurred over a significant period of time, three (3) years, and involved forty-nine (49) student-athletes. 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 SU committed the following violations of NCAA legislation:
1. Impermissible Financial Aid Provided to Prospective Student-Athletes in violation of NCAA Bylaw 220.127.116.11.4-(b)
a. The violations at issue date back to December 2006 when the current head football coach was hired and described to SU officials a practice of offer summer financial aid to football student-athletes to allow them to get acclimated to college life and the rigors of college football. During summer 2007, sixteen (16) football prospective student-athletes enrolled in summer school prior to full-time enrollment. Of the sixteen (16) enrolled prospective student-athletes, thirteen (13) enrolled in two (2) credit hours and three (3) enrolled in a one-credit-hour course. Shortly thereafter, prospective student-athletes in other sports also enrolled in summer courses prior to full-time enrollment. From summer 2007-summer 2009, a total of forty-nine (49) prospective student-athletes enrolled in summer courses ranging from as low as one (1) credit hour to a high of four (4) credit hours.
b. SU first discovered that it was in violation of NCAA financial aid legislation on August 11, 2010. While preparing a progress-toward-degree waiver, the associate director of athletics for compliance (“compliance director”) noticed that the student-athlete was enrolled in only one (1) credit hour during the summer term prior to his full-time enrollment. Subsequently, the compliance director conducted a review of all student-athletes who previously enrolled in summer school prior to full-time enrollment. After completing the analysis of all appropriate documentation, it was determined that forty-nine (49) prospective student-athletes improperly received athletically related financial aid for 2007, 2008, and 2009 summer terms prior to their full-time enrollment. In all instances, the forty-nine (49) prospective student-athletes failed to enroll in six (6) hours, as required by NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168.4, and in some instances prospective student-athletes also enrolled in a physical education activity course contrary to NCAA Bylaw 22.214.171.124.4.
c. Beginning in summer 2010, SU required all prospective student-athletes receiving athletically related financial aid for summer school prior to full time enrollment to take six (6) non-physical education credit hours pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199.4.
d. SU initially submitted a request for reinstatement and self-report of NCAA secondary violations to the NCAA. The student-athletes were subsequently reinstated, but the secondary infractions staff forwarded the report to the vice president of NCAA enforcement and the NCAA concluded that a major infractions investigation was necessary.
2. Failure to Monitor in violation of NCAA Constitution 2.8.1
a. SU and the NCAA enforcement staff agreed that, beginning in the 2007 summer academic term and continuing through the 2009 summer academic term, SU failed to monitor athletically related financial aid provided to prospective student-athletes enrolled in summer school prior to their full-time enrollment. The Committee noted that no member of the SU athletics department reviewed NCAA legislation or requested an interpretation of NCAA legislation relating to the financial aid legislation at issue. Additionally, SU did not develop a policy for prospective student-athletes enrolled in summer school and did not conduct rules education on the legislation at issue.
As a result of the foregoing, the Committee penalized SU as follows:
1. Public reprimand and censure.
2. Two years of probation from May 13, 2011 through May 12, 2013.
3. A fine of $15,000.00 to be paid to the NCAA, which represents $5,000.00 for each of the three (3) years in which SU impermissibly provided prospective student-athletes financial aid prior to the their initial full time enrollment.
4. The compliance director, head football coach, director of athletics, and all individuals involved in the process of enrolling student-athletes in classes shall attend an NCAA Regional Rules Seminar.
5. Within the next six (6) months, SU’s athletics department shall undergo a comprehensive compliance review by an outside agency of competent authority.