The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee” or “Panel”) recently issued its findings and found that San Jose State University (“SJSU” or “Institution”) committed violations of NCAA legislation. This case involved the women’s basketball program at SJSU. It centered on the head coach failing to meet his responsibility to set an atmosphere for rules compliance by conducting impermissible out-of-season countable athletically related activities (CARA) over three semesters and directing a nonqualifier student-athlete to participate in team CARA. The head coach later provided false or misleading information regarding the nonqualifying student-athlete’s participation. The Panel concludes the violations are Level II and Level III. The Committee found SJSU committed the following violations of NCAA legislation:
Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 184.108.40.206.2 and 17.3.6 (2012-12 and 2012-13)
More than four women’s basketball student-athletes participated in skill-related instruction sessions during the fall semesters of 2011 and 2012, as well as the spring semester of 2013. Because teams in sports other than baseball and football are limited to no more than four student-athletes participating in the sessions at those times, the activities violated NCAA Bylaw 17.
NCAA Bylaw 17.3.6 precludes student-athletes in the sport of basketball from engaging in athletically related activities that are subject to daily and weekly limitations except as permitted in NCAA Bylaw 220.127.116.11. NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168.2, which governs sports other than baseball and football, provides that, prior to September 15 and after April 15, no more than four student-athletes may be involved in skill related instruction at any one time. When the former head coach conducted women’s basketball skill-related instruction sessions in the fall semesters of 2011 and 2012, and the spring of 2013, with more than four student-athletes, the Institution violated these bylaws.
The Panel concludes the violations are Level II. When more than four student-athletes drill together, the coaches are able to simulate game situations and observe more team members working with and against each other. This provides more than a minimal competitive advantage over institutions that adhere to NCAA legislation.
Violations of NCAA Bylaw 22.214.171.124 (2013-14)
During his tenure at the Institution, the former head coach failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the women’s basketball program in two areas: (1) instructing and permitting student-athlete 1 to participate in team activities, knowing that student-athlete 1 was not permitted to be involved in the activities; and (2) conducting, with his coaching staff, the activities that resulted in the violations above, knowing that no more than four student-athletes were permitted to participate at the same time. The Institution and enforcement staff substantially agreed to the facts and that Level II violations occurred. The former head coach agreed that more than four student-athletes participated in skill-related instruction at times they were precluded from doing so, but he claimed he did so only after he received permission from the athletics administration. He did not agree that he instructed and permitted student-athlete 1 to participate in impermissible activities. The Panel concludes the violations occurred.
During his tenure at the Institution, the former head coach knowingly instructed student-athlete 1 to engage in impermissible activities and knowingly conducted impermissible activities with his staff. The former head coach’s actions demonstrated that rules compliance was not of foremost importance in the administration of the women’s basketball program and violated NCAA Bylaw 11.
NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199, adopted by the NCAA membership in 2005, places specific responsibilities on head coaches to promote an atmosphere for rules compliance within their programs and among all staff members who report to the head coach.11 The Committee has consistently held that strict adherence to full rules compliance must be of foremost importance to head coaches as they administer their programs. St. Peter’s University (2016) (concluding that a head coach failed to promote an atmosphere for rules compliance when he, among other actions, allowed two nonqualifier student-athletes to practice and/or compete); Southeast Louisiana University (2015) (concluding that a head coach who was involved in impermissible practice sessions with his staff and student-athletes failed to meet head coach responsibilities).
The former head coach instructed student-athlete 1 to engage in drills, weights/conditioning and skill-related instruction with the rest of the team in April 2013, a time when she was precluded from such activities due to her status as a nonqualifier. Further, along with his staff, the former head coach conducted off-season skill-related instruction sessions with more than four student-athletes at a time during the preseason of the 2011-12 and 2012-13 academic years and the postseason of 2012-13. By his knowing involvement in these impermissible activities, the former head coach did not set a proper tone for rules compliance in his program. His actions violated NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52.
The Panel concludes the violation was Level II. The former head coach directing student-athlete 1 to participate in team CARA resulted in Level III violations. When he allowed more than four student-athletes to participate in off-season drills, Level II violations resulted. Because an underlying violation was Level II, the former head coach’s failure to meet his responsibilities as a head coach was also a Level II violation.
Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 10.01.1, 10.1 and 10.1-(d) (2013-14 and 2014-15)
In 2013 and 2015, the former head coach violated the NCAA principles of ethical conduct and failed to deport himself in accordance with the generally recognized high standards of honesty and sportsmanship normally associated with the conduct and administration of intercollegiate athletics when he knowingly provided the NCAA enforcement staff and/or Institution with false or misleading information regarding his knowledge of and/or involvement in violations of NCAA legislation. The Institution and enforcement staff substantially agreed to the facts and that violations occurred. The former head coach did not agree to the facts or that violations occurred. The Panel agrees to the facts and concludes that the former head coach committed Level II violations.
The former head coach violated NCAA ethical conduct legislation when he falsely claimed to be unaware that student-athlete 1 participated in team drills, weights/conditioning and skill-related instruction sessions during April 2013. The former head coach directed student-athlete 1 to participate in the activities during an academic year when she was a nonqualifier serving her year in residence. His false statements violated NCAA Bylaw 10.
NCAA Bylaws 10.01.1, 10.1 and 10.1-(d) require institutional staff member to act ethically and with honesty at all times. In particular, NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(d) prohibits institutional staff members from knowingly furnishing false or misleading information to his/her Institution and/or the NCAA enforcement staff regarding the staff member’s involvement in, or knowledge of, possible NCAA rules violations. An institutional staff member who provides false or misleading information in an interview engages in unethical conduct. Southeastern Louisiana University (2015) (concluding that a head coach provided false information when he inaccurately described the duties performed by a volunteer coach in his program); University of Oklahoma (2011) (concluding that a coach engaged in unethical conduct when he failed to divulge knowledge of a violation and later lied about it); Indiana University (2008) (concluding that a head coach engaged in unethical conduct when he lied during an interview); Purdue University (2007) (concluding that an assistant coach engaged in unethical conduct when she denied her participation in academic fraud during an interview).
In the spring of 2013, following the women’s basketball season, the former head coach informed student-athlete 1 that she could participate in CARA with the women’s basketball team. For approximately two and one-half weeks starting April 2, when team off-season activities began, student-athlete 1 attended and took part in individual skill-related instructions sessions and weights/conditioning sessions. Members of the women’s basketball coaching staff, including the former head coach, witnessed her participate in at least some of the sessions. On at least one occasion, the former head coach specifically invited her to participate.
In two separate interviews with institutional athletics staff members held August 22 and 23, 2013, the former head coach stated that he was unaware that student-athlete 1 participated in team CARA during the 2013 spring semester. On May 13, 2015, the Institution and enforcement staff interviewed the former head coach. Again, he stated that he was unaware of student-athlete 1’s participation in team skill-related instruction and/or strength and conditioning activities in the 2013 spring semester.
The former head coach pointed to perceived inconsistencies in interviews of various individuals to support his assertion that the statements regarding him directing student-athlete 1’s involvement, and his knowledge of that involvement, were not credible. Student-athlete 1 was interviewed on four separate occasions by the Institution, enforcement staff and/or representatives of the former head coach. In each of those interviews, she was clear regarding the main facts – the former head coach informed her in the spring of 2013 after basketball season that she could participate in team activities and she proceeded to do so. The Panel considered that student-athlete 1 (as well as others, due to the passage of time) struggled to recall exact sequences and was mistaken regarding some information. For example, student-athlete 1 stated at one point that former assistant coach 1 was present when she broke her nose, when records showed he was out of town. In her second interview, she stated the former head coach told her she could lift with the team after she broke her nose. However, in all her statements she clearly recalled that she had not participated in team activities all year and only began to do so after the season once the former head coach said she could. Other student-athletes and former assistant coach 3 observed her participating. The former head coach also told the strength coach that student-athlete 1 could participate in team activities in April 2013. When the former head coach denied that he had told student-athlete 1 that she could participate in team activities, and was unaware that she did so, he provided false or misleading information in violation of NCAA Bylaws 10.01.1, 10.1 and 10.1-(d).
The Panel concludes that when the former head coach provided false or misleading information, he committed Level II violations. Under the circumstances of this case, his conduct did not rise to a Level I violation.
Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaw 184.108.40.206 (2012-13) (Level III)
The Panel concludes that in April 2013, student-athlete 1 participated in out-of-season countable strength and conditioning and skill-related instruction activities with the women’s basketball team on approximately nine occasions while serving a year in residence as a nonqualifier. The violation is Level III because: (1) student-athlete 1 could have (and at times did) participated in the activities on her own; (2) She did not participate in every session; (3) she stated that, when she did participate, she “jumped in and out;” and therefore (4) the Institution gained only a minimal competitive advantage.
Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaw 220.127.116.11.1.4 and 11.7.4 (2012-13) (Level III)
The parties agree that, on one occasion in April 2013, the former head coach used an outside consultant to provide on-court instruction to the women’s basketball team during a skill-related instruction session. As a result, the Institution exceeded the permissible number of countable women’s basketball coaches.
Aggravating and Mitigating Factors in accordance with NCAA Bylaws 19.9.3 and 19.9.4
Aggravating Factors for the Institution
19.9.3-(g): Multiple Level II violations.
Aggravating Factors for the Former Head Coach
19.9.3-(g): Multiple Level II violations.
19.9.3-(h): Persons of authority condoned, participated in or negligently disregarded the violation or related wrongful conduct.
19.9.3-(m): Intentional, willful or blatant disregard for the NCAA constitution or bylaws.
Mitigating Factors for the Institution
19.9.4-(b): Prompt acknowledgement and acceptance of responsibility and imposition of meaningful corrective measures and/or penalties.
19.9.4-(c): Affirmative steps to expedite final resolution of the matter.
19.9.4-(d): Established history of self-reporting Level III or secondary violations.
19.9.4-(h): Other factors warranting a lower penalty range.
The Institution reported the underlying violations to the NCAA and took meaningful corrective action by the end of September 2013. The NCAA enforcement staff did not act on the information for over 16 months, during which time the Institution had no resolution of the case.
Mitigating Factors for the Former Head Softball Coach
19.9.4-(h): Other factors warranting a lower penalty range.
As a result of the foregoing, the Committee penalized SJSU as follows:
1. Public reprimand and censure.
2. One year of probation from October 26, 2016, to October 25, 2017.
3. The Institution shall pay a $5,000 fine. The Institution shall submit payment of its financial penalty to the NCAA Accounts Receivable office no later than 45 days after the release of this decision. The payment may be submitted with the Institution’s preliminary probation report.
4. The former head coach received a one-year show cause penalty.