The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee”) recently issued its findings and found that Southeastern Louisiana University (“SELU”) committed major violations of NCAA 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.
This case primarily involved the erroneous eligibility certification of 137 student-athletes in all 16 sports offered by the institution at the time. The violations occurred over five academic years and resulted in ineligible student-athletes receiving impermissible travel expenses when they accompanied their teams to away contests. The violations also demonstrated a lack of control over the athletics department by the institution.
The Committee found that SELU committed the following violations of NCAA legislation:
1. The institution erroneously certified student-athletes as eligible, allowed them to participate while ineligible and provided them impermissible travel expenses in violation of NCAA Bylaws 14.01.1, 188.8.131.52 (2007-08), 184.108.40.206.2 (2007-08), 14.2.1, 14.3.1, 220.127.116.11 (2007-10), 18.104.22.168-(a), (b), and (c), 22.214.171.124.2-(c) (2007-10), 126.96.36.199.2.1, 188.8.131.52.5 (2006-07), 184.108.40.206.6 (2008-09), 220.127.116.11.4 (2005-06), 18.104.22.168.5-(b) (2006-07), 22.214.171.124.6-(b) (2007-08), 126.96.36.199.7-(b) (2008-09), 188.8.131.52.8-(b) (2005-06), 184.108.40.206, 220.127.116.11, 18.104.22.168 (2007-08), 14.11.1, 15.01.5, 22.214.171.124 (2005-06).
The institution violated NCAA bylaws when it allowed 137 student-athletes in all 16 sports offered by the institution to practice, compete and receive athletically related financial aid even though they had not met various eligibility requirements. Every time one of the 137 ineligible student-athletes was allowed to compete, Bylaw 14.11.1 was violated.
Once a student-athlete drops a course and falls below full-time status, he or she is ineligible to participate. Because the institution in 2007-08 allowed a football student-athlete to participate at a time when he had dropped below full-time enrollment status, the eligibility bylaws were violated. Similarly, Bylaw 15.01.5 mandates that student-athletes meet all applicable NCAA, conference and institutional eligibility requirements before receiving athletically related aid. Because the student-athlete was receiving such aid at the time he was enrolled below full-time status, this bylaw was violated.
Two student-athletes, one football student-athlete and one men’s tennis student-athlete, competed more than five years after the beginning of the first semester in which they enrolled as full-time college students. Both also received athletically related aid after their eligibility expired in violation of Bylaws 14.2.1 and 15.01.5.
From 2007-08 through the 2009-10 academic years, the institution allowed four entering student-athletes who did not meet the definition of a “qualifier” as set forth in Bylaw 126.96.36.199 to receive institutional athletically related aid and participate in competition. Because the four student-athlete had not met all Bylaw 188.8.131.52 requirements, the institution violated the bylaw when it provided them athletically related aid and allowed them to compete.
In 2005 and 2007, respectively, the institution allowed a women’s volleyball student-athlete and football student-athlete to compete even though they had not completed 24 semester hours the previous academic year. From 2005-06 through 2009-10, 42 student-athletes competed despite failing to complete at least 18 hours in the two previous regular academic terms. During the same five academic years, the institution allowed 46 student-athletes to compete despite failing to complete at least six hours of credit in the preceding regular academic term in violation of Bylaw 184.108.40.206.
From 2007-08 through 2009-10, two transfer student-athletes were allowed to compete without having fulfilled credit hour requirements at their previous institutions. Specifically, they had failed to transfer the equivalent of 30 semester or 42 quarter hours. Because they had not met this progress-toward-degree requirement at their previous institutions, they violated Bylaw 220.127.116.11.2-(c). The institution also allowed a two-year college transfer football student-athlete who had been a nonqualifier coming out of high school to compete in 2007 even though he did not present enough credit hours upon his transfer. Because the student-athlete did not transfer at least 48 hours, he competed in violation of Bylaw 18.104.22.168. In the 2009-10 academic year, when the institution allowed a transfer student-athlete to compete despite not completing six hours of credit during the previous term of full-time enrollment at the previous institution as required by Bylaw 22.214.171.124.2.1.
From 2005-06 through 2009-10, 94 student-athletes competed even though they had completed less than the required percentage of course applicable to their degree programs. Because they had not completed the minimum percentage of requirements toward their degrees, they competed in violation of Bylaw 126.96.36.199. The institution also allowed 13 student-athletes to compete from 2005-06 through 2009-10 even though their grade-point averages were below the minimum established by Bylaw 188.8.131.52.
All but one of the 137 ineligible student-athletes received travel expenses when they traveled to, and participated in away contests. Because the 136 student-athletes were not eligible for competition when they received the travel expenses, the institution provided those expenses in violation of Bylaw 184.108.40.206.
2. Lack of institutional control in violation of NCAA Constitution 2.1.1, 2.8.1, and 6.01.1.
The institution lacked control over its department of athletics as a result of compliance personnel at the institution performing the certification duties without involvement of members of other campus departments. A crucial component of administrative control is the presence of a comprehensive, viable, campus-wide rules compliance system, administered by competent and trained personnel. In this case, the compliance officers performed the compliance function without any input or participation from other campus constituencies. Subsequently, when the compliance office erroneously interpreted and applied certain NCAA rules pertaining to eligibility, there were no safeguards, checks or other oversight within the system to detect errors. Further, the compliance office used the institution’s internal automated degree audit program to determine athletics eligibility, but that program was not designed to operate as an NCAA eligibility certification system. Consequently, the system did not identify the certification errors being made.
The addition of football in 2003, and the AMA request for academic data in 2008, without any corresponding increase in compliance personnel or resources, exacerbated the compliance problems. Turnover in the compliance office also contributed to the institution’s failure to develop and implement a viable compliance system. Finally, in 2008, when the former associate director of athletics began to suspect that student-athletes had been participating while ineligible, the institution failed to undertake a timely and comprehensive review of the certification process.
As a result of the aforementioned violations, the Committee penalized SELU as follows:
1. Public reprimand and censure.
2. Four years of probation from December 10, 2013 through December 9, 2017.
3. SELU shall vacate all wins from the academic years 2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10 in which ineligible student-athletes competed.
4. A fine of $25,000.00 paid to the NCAA.
5. The institution shall ensure that its external audit includes a comprehensive evaluation of the following processes: eligibility monitoring, financial aid awarding and monitoring, rules education, and the monitoring of recruiting activities and athletically related activities. The institutional shall abide by all recommendations of the reviewer.
6. Athletically related aid awarded shall be reduced as follows: 1) Baseball: 11.7 to 10.7 in 2013-14 and 2014-15; 2) Football: 63 to 60, 82 counters, and 29 initial counters in 2013-14, 60, 83 counters, and 29 initial counters in 2014-15, and 62 and 85 counters in 2015-16; 3) Men’s Basketball: 13 to 11 in 2013-14 and 12 in 2014-15 and 2015-16; 4) Women’s Basketball: 15 to 14 in 2013-14 and 2014-15; 5) Men’s Cross Country/Track and Field: 12.6 to 10.6 in 2013-14 and 2014-15 and 11.6 in 2015-16; 6) Women’s Cross Country/Track and Field: 18 to 17 in 2013-14, 2014-15, and 2015-16; 7) Men’s Golf: 4.5 to 4 in 2013-14 and 2014-15; 8) Softball: 12 to 10 in 2013-14 and 11 in 2014-15 and 2015-16; 9) Soccer: 14 to 13.25 in 2013-14 and 2014-15; and 9) Volleyball: 12 to 11 in 2013-14 and 2014-15.