The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee”) recently issued its findings and found that Southeastern Louisiana University (“SELU”) committed violations of NCAA legislation. This case centered on impermissible athletically related activity that took place outside of SELU’s declared playing season during the spring and summer of 2013. It also included impermissible lodging and tryouts for prospective student-athletes. A former head women’s volleyball coach arranged and, in some instances, observed the impermissible athletically related activity. Much of this impermissible activity also involved a former volunteer assistant women’s volleyball coach. Because of her activities and involvement, the former volunteer assistant women’s volleyball coach became a countable coach under NCAA legislation – a status that the head coach knew. Finally, the case involved the unethical conduct of the former head women’s volleyball coach because he provided false information when asked about the role and responsibility of the former volunteer assistant women’s volleyball coach.
SELU agreed with all five of the violations set forth in this decision and the corresponding violation levels. The former head women’s volleyball coach substantially agreed with four of the five violations, including that he failed to fulfill the NCAA legislated responsibilities of the former head women’s volleyball coach. He did not agree that he committed unethical conduct by providing false information. He also contended that the violations in this case were Level III or Level IV violations.
The Committee concluded that the former head women’s volleyball coach committed Level II violations of NCAA legislation when he arranged and, in some cases, attended on-campus open gyms, off-campus adult gyms and camps in which impermissible athletically related activities occurred. SELU committed Level II recruiting violations when prospective student-athletes participated in impermissible tryouts and received impermissible lodging from current student-athletes. Further, the former head women’s volleyball coach committed a Level II violation when he failed in his responsibilities as a head coach. Finally, the head former women’s volleyball coach committed a Level I violation when he provided false information regarding his knowledge of the role and responsibilities of the former volunteer assistant women’s volleyball coach.
Violations of NCAA Bylaws 220.127.116.11.1, 17.02.1, 18.104.22.168.1.1, and 17.24.11 (2012-13 NCAA Division I Manual)
In the summer of 2013, the head coach, the assistant coach and the volunteer coach engaged in impermissible athletically related activities. The impermissible activities occurred at open gym sessions, adult gym sessions and the institution’s summer camp.
NCAA Bylaw 22.214.171.124.1 states that an individual becomes a coach “as soon as the individual participates (in any manner) in the coaching of the intercollegiate team in practice, games or organized activities directly related to that sport.” Bylaw 17.02.1 states that countable athletically related activities “include any required activity with an athletics purpose involving student-athletes and at the direction of, or supervised by, one or more of an institution’s coaching staff.” NCAA Bylaws 126.96.36.199.1.1 and 17.24.11 specify that student-athletes and coaches may not participate in any countable athletically related activities outside the playing season during any institutional vacation period and/or summer. Although each case is unique in its facts, the committee has consistently held institutions responsible for adhering to NCAA Bylaw 17 playing season requirements for out-of-season athletically related activities.
The volunteer coach was a countable coach under NCAA legislation. The head coach contended that the volunteer coach was not in a coaching status when she conducted the Wednesday evening open gym sessions. However, the volunteer coach attended, conducted and participated in open and adult gym sessions where she provided instructions to student-athletes. Further, she also provided instruction to student-athletes at the institution’s summer camp. Finally, the assistant coach, volleyball student-athletes and the volunteer coach, herself, viewed the volunteer coach as a member of the coaching staff. When the volunteer coach engaged in coaching related activities at the open gyms and camps, she became a countable coach pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52.1.
During the summer of 2013, members of the volleyball program participated in athletically related activities outside of their playing season at open gyms, adult gyms and summer camp skill instruction. These activities involved coaching staff members arranging, attending, monitoring and, in some cases, instructing student-athletes. The activities were “practice like” and the head coach either observed or, if he was unable to attend, inquired as to which student-athletes attended. Therefore, when the volleyball coaching staff members and student-athletes participated in these activities, they engaged in countable athletically related activity under NCAA Bylaw 17.02.1.
Additionally, the open gyms, adult gyms and skill instruction provided by the coaching staff members at the institution’s summer camp occurred outside of the institution’s declared playing season. Pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 17, these activities were countable athletically related activities. Therefore, the institution’s coaching staff violated NCAA Bylaws 184.108.40.206.1.1 and 17.24.11 when they engaged in countable athletically related activities outside of the institution’s declared playing.
The Committee concluded that the facts as found constituted Level II violations because the violations were not isolated or limited and the conduct involved skill instruction with coaching staff members and student-athletes, provided the institution with more than a minimal advantage.
Violations of NCAA Bylaws 220.127.116.11.1, 17.02.1, 18.104.22.168.1.1, and 17.24.11 (2012-13 NCAA Division I Manual)
SELU and the head coach permitted prospects 1 and 2 to participate in impermissible tryouts and, the case of prospect 2, receive skill instruction. This conduct violated NCAA Bylaw 13.
NCAA Bylaw 13.11.1 prohibits member institutions from conducting any physical activity (e.g., practice session or test/tryout) at which prospective student-athletes demonstrate their athletics abilities. Further, NCAA Bylaw 22.214.171.124 allows prospective student-athlete visiting a member institution to participate in physical workouts or other recreational activities, if members of the coaching staff do not organize or observe such activities and the activities do not test the athletics abilities of the prospective student-athlete.
SELU and the head coach agreed that, during an unofficial visit to the institution’s campus, prospect 1 participated in an impermissible tryout. The prospect accepted an invitation from the head coach to join the volleyball team in an open gym session. The head coach and the assistant coach observed prospect 1 engage in volleyball activity through windows into the gymnasium. In Eastern Michigan University, Case No. M360 (2012), the Committee concluded that tryouts in the women’s basketball program constituted major violations of NCAA legislation. In Eastern Michigan, tryouts occurred under similar circumstances. In that case, coaches observed prospective student-athletes participating in summer voluntary activity though windows into the gym.
SELU and the head coach also agreed that prospect 2 engaged in an impermissible tryout while attending the institution’s summer volleyball camp. Prospect 2 received one-on-one instruction from the volunteer coach. The head coach directed the volunteer coach to conduct the instruction and both the head coach and the assistant coach viewed the activity, although the assistant coach did not stay for the entire instruction, as she believed it violated NCAA legislation. At one point during the volunteer coach’s instructional session, the head coach also provided instruction.
When prospect 1 participated in physical activity at the request of the head coach, and the head coach and the assistant coach observed the activity, an impermissible tryout occurred in violation of NCAA Bylaws 13.11.1 and 126.96.36.199. Further, when prospect 2 attended the camp, the head coach and the volunteer coach observed and provided direct instruction, a tryout occurred in violation of NCAA Bylaws 13.11.1 and 188.8.131.52.
The Committee concluded that the facts as found constituted a Level II violation because it was not isolated and limited. Further, multiple tryouts occurred at the direction of the head coach that provided the institution with more than a minimal advantage.
Violations of NCAA Bylaws 13.2.1 and 184.108.40.206-(h) (2012-13 NCAA Division I Manual)
SELU agreed that prospects 3 and 4, who were incoming freshman, received cost-free lodging from student-athletes. The head coach directed the two prospects to arrive on campus prior to the start of the 2013-14 academic year in order to participate in the institution’s summer volleyball camp. The assistant coach arranged for the two to reside with student-athletes because the dormitories had not yet opened. This arrangement violated NCAA Bylaw 13.
NCAA Bylaw 13.2.1 prohibits staff members from arranging for, or giving or offering to give, any financial aid or other benefits to a prospective student-athlete. NCAA Bylaw 220.127.116.11 lists specific benefits institutions may not provide to prospective student-athletes. Included in this list is “free or reduced cost housing.” NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168-(h). Because the assistant coach arranged for prospects 3 and 4 to receive cost-free lodging from student-athletes, the Committee concluded that a violation of NCAA Bylaws 13.2.1 and 22.214.171.124-(h) occurred.
The Committee concluded that the facts as found constituted a Level II violation of NCAA legislation. The housing was at the direction of the coaching staff and provided more than a minimal recruiting and competitive advantage because cost-free housing allowed the incoming freshmen student-athletes to arrive on campus early and participate in camp and skill instruction.
Violations of NCAA Bylaws 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52 (2012-13 and 2013-14 NCAA Division I Manual)
The head coach participated in or permitted violations of NCAA Bylaws 17 and 13 to occur in his program. His actions were inconsistent with NCAA Bylaw 11.
NCAA Bylaws 184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11 require head coaches to set an atmosphere of rules compliance within the program and monitor the activities of those who report to the head coach. The Division I Committee on Infractions noted that there is an elevated risk of violations when prospects are on campus prior to their first full-time enrollment. See Boise State University, Case No. M318 (2011) (concluding that the former head women’s tennis coach violated NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168 when, among other violations, he arranged for a prospect to participate in impermissible practice sessions with student-athletes that he observed.). With regard to impermissible countable athletically related activity, the head coach admitted that he and members of his coaching staff were involved in impermissible countable athletically related activity during the summer of 2013. The volunteer coach and the assistant coach were involved in these activities and the head coach observed some of them. Because these activities violated NCAA legislation and the head coach arranged them, the head coach failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance. Moreover, because the members of his coaching staff supervised and participated in the activities the head coach is responsible for their involvement as specified in Bylaw 22.214.171.124. In Eastern Michigan the committee concluded that the head women’s basketball coach violated NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199 (now NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52) when, among other violations, she failed to abide by the daily and weekly practice hour limitations and provide at least one day off per week without countable athletically related activities for some members of the women’s basketball team.
With regard to impermissible tryouts, the head coach admitted that he observed tryouts for prospect 1 in January 2013 and prospect 2 in July 2013. On both occasions, members of his staff also observed the tryouts. Further, during the July tryout, at the head coach’s request, one of his staff members provided instructions to prospect 2. The head coach also provided instructions on this occasion. As with the impermissible activities that occurred in the summer gym sessions, because the tryouts violated NCAA legislation and the head coach arranged them, the head coach failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance. Further, because members of his coaching staff observed and, in one of the instances, conducted this impermissible activity, the head coach is responsible for their involvement in violations as set forth in Bylaw 184.108.40.206.
Finally, the coaching staff arranged impermissible recruiting inducements in the form of cost-free housing for prospects 3 and 4, who were still prospective student-athletes. Although the head coach was not directly involved in this violation, he asked the two prospects to report to campus early, before the dormitories opened, in order to participate in the institution’s camp. After the prospects 3 and 4 arrived, the assistant coach arranged for them to reside with student-athletes.
In this instance, the head coach was responsible for prospects 3 and 4 arriving on campus early, yet he did not take steps to ensure that their housing complied with NCAA legislation. In fact, as previously documented, the head coach stated at the hearing that he “had too many things on (his) plate” to check the circumstances of the living arrangements for these prospects. Because the head coach took no action to confirm that the prospects’ housing arrangements complied with NCAA legislation, the head coach failed to establish an atmosphere of rules compliance within the program as required under Bylaw 220.127.116.11. Further, the assistant coach arranged for the prospects to reside with student-athletes. The head coach did not question the assistant coach about the prospects’ living arrangements. By not questioning her, the head coach failed to monitor the activities of the assistant coach, as required under Bylaw 18.104.22.168.
NCAA Bylaw 19.1.2-(e) states that a Level II violation may occur when a head coach fails to promote an atmosphere for compliance as the result of underlying Level II violations committed by individuals within the program. The Committee concluded that facts as found constituted a Level II violation.
Violations of NCAA Bylaws 10.01.1, 10.1, and 10.1-(d) (2012-13 NCAA Division I Manual)
In a February 20, 2014, interview with the enforcement staff, the head coach stated that the volunteer coach was not in a coaching status in June and July of 2013 and did not have a role with the women’s volleyball team. The head coach’s statement contradicted all other information obtained during the investigation. When the head coach provided false information relating to the role of the volunteer coach, he violated NCAA Bylaw 10.1.
NCAA Bylaw 10 defines ethical conduct required by all individuals who perform work for a member institution or in an athletics department. Specifically, NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(d) states that the provision of false or misleading information by institutional staff members to the NCAA constitutes unethical conduct.
The head coach claimed that the volunteer coach had no role with the team during the summer of 2013. In support of that position, the head coach relied on a May 20, 2013, letter from him to the director of athletics in which the head coach wrote that the volunteer coach was to be in a coaching status as of August 1, 2013. The head coach maintained that the volunteer coach came to the institution simply to “visit” and that she stayed “a couple of weeks.” The head coach stated that the volunteer coach came to SELU because she was “thinking about coaching.”
The head coach was the only individual who claimed that the volunteer coach was not in a coaching status during this time. Contrary to the head coach’s position, the volunteer coach stated that she was immediately in a coaching status and performed coaching duties.
The assistant coach confirmed that the volunteer coach was in a coaching status when she arrived on campus and that the head coach told both her and the volunteer coach that, in terms of position on the staff, there was “no difference” between the two.
Student-athletes also confirmed that the volunteer coach had a coaching role and performed coaching duties by conducting drills and performing other duties during summer gym sessions that were similar to those conducted in practice.
Documentary evidence reflected that the volunteer coach was in a coaching role. This included: (1) a travel itinerary created by the assistant coach and provided to the head coach and others in the athletics department identifying the volunteer coach as “assistant coach” in the travel party; (2) an email from the volunteer coach to the director of compliance introducing herself as the new assistant coach followed by the director of compliance labeling the volunteer coach as the “volunteer coach” on a conference form and (3) a coaching clinic flyer labeling the volunteer coach as “assistant coach.”
Because the head coach stated that the volunteer coach had no role with the team and the information presented demonstrated that the volunteer coach was, in fact, engaged in coaching activities at the request of the head coach, the panel concluded that the head coach provided false information to the NCAA and engaged in unethical conduct.
The Committee concluded that the facts constituted a Level I violation of NCAA legislation because it involved unethical conduct that undermined the integrity of the NCAA Collegiate Model.
Aggravating and Mitigating Factors in accordance with NCAA Bylaws 19.9.2 and 19.9.4.
Level I violations are severe breaches of conduct while Level II violations are significant breaches of conduct. The Committee concluded that this case involved impermissible countable athletically related activities, impermissible tryouts, recruiting inducements and a violation of head coach responsibility (Level II). It also involved the head coach’s provision of false information to the enforcement staff (Level I). Because the violations in this case occurred after the implementation date of the new penalty structure, the panel prescribed penalties under current NCAA Bylaw 19.9 and Figure 19-1 – Penalty Guidelines.
SELU Aggravating Factors: a history of Level I, Level II or major violations by the institution, sport program(s) or involved individual (NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3(b)); multiple Level II violations by the institution or the involved individual (NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3(g)); persons of authority condoned, participated in or negligently disregarded the violation or related wrongful conduct (NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3(h)); conduct or circumstances demonstrating an abuse of a position of trust (NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3(j)); and intentional, willful or blatant disregard for the NCAA constitution and bylaws (NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3(m)).
SELU Mitigating Factor: prompt self-detection and self-disclosure of the violations (NCAA Bylaw 19.9.4(a)); prompt acknowledgement of the violation, acceptance of responsibility and imposition of meaningful corrective measures and/or penalties (NCAA Bylaw 19.9.4(b)); exemplary cooperation (NCAA Bylaw 19.9.4(f)).
Head Coach Aggravating Factors: unethical conduct (NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3(e)).
Head Coach Mitigating Factors: none.
As a result of the aforementioned violations, the Committee penalized SELU as follows:
1. A one-year extension of probation from SELU’s 2013 infractions case. Consequently, the probationary period will conclude on December 9, 2018.
2. Financial penalty: SELU shall pay a financial penalty of $5,000.
3. Recruiting restrictions: A three-month reduction in recruiting one of the prospective student-athletes who the head coach engaged in an impermissible tryout.
4. Show cause: Two-year show-cause order for the head coach applicable to positions with responsibilities in a member institution’s athletics department.
5. Public reprimand and censure.
6. SELU reduced countable athletically related activities during the championship segment by four hours per week during the 2013-14 academic year. In total, the women’s volleyball program reduced countable athletically related activity by 215.55 hours for the 2013-14 academic year.