The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions (“COI” or “Committee” or “panel”) is an independent administrative body of the NCAA comprised of individuals from the Division I membership and the public. COI decides infractions cases involving member institutions and their staffs. This case involves Texas Christian University (“TCU” or “Institution”). The conduct at issue in this case was related to a broader scheme that involved money and influence at the intersection of collegiate and professional basketball. The scheme resulted in the arrest and prosecution of multiple individuals—including college basketball coaches—on conspiracy and bribery charges and led to significant reforms to strengthen the NCAA Collegiate Model. This case centered on the conduct of a former assistant men’s basketball coach at TCU, who was involved in the scheme to accept money in exchange for steering student-athletes to a business management company. The case also involved allegations related to the assistant coach’s cooperation and truthfulness during the institution’s and NCAA’s investigations in this matter.
The Committee concluded TCU committed the following violations of NCAA rules:
Violations of NCAA Division I Manual 10.01.1, 10.1. 10.1-(d) and 11.1.3 (2016-17)
The assistant coach attended a meeting with the agent associate and representatives of the agent associate’s new business management company. At the meeting, the assistant coach discussed specific men’s basketball student-athletes with whom he had relationships and touted their athletics ability and professional potential. At the conclusion of the meeting, he accepted $6,000. Following the meeting, he communicated with the agent associate regarding potential meetings with some of these student-athletes. TCU agreed that the conduct established Level I violations. The assistant coach disputed the violations. The panel concluded that the violations occurred, and they are Level I for both TCU and the assistant coach.
Beginning in late July 2017 and continuing through September 2017, the assistant coach participated in a scheme to direct men’s basketball prospects and student-athletes to a management company led by his friend, the agent associate. The agreement originated during a meeting with the agent associate and representatives of his newly formed management company, where the assistant coach suggested that he could steer student-athletes to the management company when they turned professional. The assistant coach accepted $6,000 cash at the conclusion of the meeting. Following the meeting, he followed through on the agreement by facilitating contact between the agent associate and the family of a student-athlete and by facilitating a meeting between the agent associate and a TCU student-athlete. The agent associate was arrested before the meeting could occur. The assistant coach’s conduct resulted in Level I violations of NCAA Bylaws 10 and 11.
NCAA Bylaw 10 governs ethical conduct in collegiate athletics, with NCAA Bylaw 10.01.1 generally requiring student-athletes and athletics staff to act with honesty and sportsmanship at all times. NCAA Bylaw 10.1 identifies several categories of unethical conduct, including the receipt of benefits by an institutional staff member for facilitating or arranging a meeting between a student-athlete and an agent, financial advisor, or representative of an agent or financial advisor. Bylaw 11 governs the conduct of athletics personnel. Under NCAA Bylaw 11.1.3, athletics department staff members are prohibited from representing, either directly or indirectly, any individual in the marketing of their athletics ability or reputation to an agent, and from accepting compensation for such services.
The assistant coach’s actions during the July 28, 2017, Las Vegas meeting established violations of NCAA legislation. During the meeting, the assistant coach touted the abilities of a TCU student-athlete and the assistant coach’s cousin, who was a student-athlete at another institution. Specifically, he represented that they would both do well in the NBA draft, with his cousin being a potential top 10 pick. He also represented his own ability to “get shit done.” The assistant coach verbally indicated his agreement as the agent associate detailed the management company’s desire for access to TCU student-athletes, the plan to pay the assistant coach on a monthly basis to provide that access, and the management company’s commitment to continuing the payments even if the assistant coach left TCU for another institution. The assistant coach indicated that this type of arrangement would meet his needs as he was looking for a “set group” to work with for the duration of his coaching career and did not want to deal with a lot of other people, i.e., other agents and financial advisors. At the end of the meeting, the assistant coach accepted $6,000 cash from the management company.
Over the next two months, the assistant coach took affirmative steps to follow through on his agreement with the management company. First, he facilitated a call between his cousin’s father and the agent associate. Then he facilitated a meeting between the agent associate and a TCU student-athlete. The agent associate’s arrest prevented that meeting from occurring. When the assistant coach accepted money in exchange for agreeing to arrange or facilitate meetings between representatives of the management company and student-athletes, he violated NCAA Bylaws 10.01, 10.1 and 10.1-(d). Furthermore, in touting the student-athletes’ professional potential to the management company representatives, the assistant coach represented the student-athletes in marketing their athletics ability and reputation in violation of NCAA Bylaw 11.1.3.
The assistant coach has denied any responsibility for these violations. He claimed he did not accept a bribe or enter into an agreement with the management company because he did not retain possession of the money. Further, he argued that he did not facilitate or arrange any meetings with student-athletes. These claims are not supported by the record, and they are inconsistent with decisions in recent cases involving similar circumstances.
First, the assistant coach’s claim that he did not keep the money is immaterial to whether a NCAA Bylaw 10 violation occurred. He took possession of the money in conjunction with discussions regarding specific student-athletes and later took steps to connect the agent associate with those student-athletes. By definition, this is a violation of NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(d) and the more general NCAA Bylaw 10.01.1. The management company representatives targeted the assistant coach for his ability to direct potential clients to them. By the conclusion of the July 2017 meeting, they understood that he would do just that, and they paid him accordingly. From the management company’s perspective, the transaction was complete at that point, and this would be the first in a series of payments that would establish a business relationship with the assistant coach. By any measure, the assistant coach’s conduct violated NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(d).
Second, whether any meetings occurred between the agent associate and a student-athlete is likewise irrelevant to the NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(d) analysis. Case specific guidance in the recently decided University of South Carolina, Columbia (2021) case identified that a NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(d) violation occurs when an institutional staff member accepts benefits for the purpose of arranging a meeting between a student-athlete and an agent or advisor, regardless of whether any meetings actually occur. See also University of Southern California (USC) (2021) (concluding a NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(d) violation occurred notwithstanding that the involved individual did not arrange or facilitate any meetings following his acceptance of the bribe money).
It is beyond dispute that the assistant coach facilitated a meeting between the agent associate and a TCU student-athlete. The agent associate may have initiated the conversation about the meeting, but the assistant coach quickly responded and informed the agent associate that the student-athlete would be available to meet on the designated date and would be “a layup” for the agent associate. Before the COI, the assistant coach maintained that this was simply an exchange of information between a coach and an agent, which is not a violation of NCAA legislation. But the record demonstrates that the assistant coach’s conduct went beyond a mere exchange of information. The assistant coach arranged to introduce the student-athlete to the agent associate, and he did so after having accepted $6,000 from the agent associate’s management company for this very purpose. In this way, the assistant coach’s conduct is distinguishable from the conduct of the assistant coach in Creighton University (2021), where the COI concluded that the assistant coach violated NCAA Bylaws 10.01 and 10.1, but not 10.1-(d). The Creighton coach remained silent during the meeting with the management company representatives and did not discuss prospects or student-athletes. Following the meeting, he did nothing to further the management company’s business model. This behavior stands in contrast to the assistant coach in this case, whose conduct clearly constitutes “facilitating or arranging a meeting” as contemplated by NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(d).
Finally, with respect to NCAA Bylaw 11.1.3, the assistant coach claimed there could be no violation where (1) no student-athletes or prospects consented to his representation, and (2) he did not receive compensation because he gave the $6,000 payment to the agent associate. The panel found neither argument to be persuasive. Regarding the first argument, the assistant coach imputes a requirement that does not exist in NCAA Bylaw 11.1.3. Nowhere in the bylaw does it state that there has to be a representation agreement in place—or even that the student-athlete has to be aware of the representation—in order for a violation to occur.
As to the assistant coach’s second argument, as discussed above, there is no information in the record to corroborate that he gave the money to the agent associate following the meeting. And in any event, the plain language of NCAA Bylaw 11.1.3 does not require that an individual retain possession of the compensation they receive in order for a violation to occur. Thus, consistent with recent cases involving similar circumstances, the panel concludes that the assistant coach’s conduct violated NCAA Bylaw 11.1.3. See USC, South Carolina and Oklahoma State University (OSU) (2020); but see Creighton (neither alleging nor concluding a violation of NCAA Bylaw 11.1.3 where the assistant coach did not make representations regarding the abilities or potential of student-athletes during his meeting with the management company).
Pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 19.1.1, the NCAA Bylaw 10 and 11 violations are Level I because the conduct seriously undermined or threatened the integrity of the Collegiate Model and involved an ethical conduct violation. TCU agreed that the conduct established an ethical conduct violation and was Level I. Relevantly, the COI has also concluded that similar conduct establishes Level I violations for involved individuals and their institutions. See Creighton; USC; South Carolina; University of Alabama (2020); and OSU. In these cases, the COI specifically concluded that institutional staff members who accepted money from individuals affiliated with the agent associate, his management company or other professional services organizations committed Level I violations for the actor and the institution. Here, TCU agreed and accepted responsibility for the Level I violation committed by its employee. Accordingly, and consistent with NCAA Bylaw 19.1.1, the panel concluded the violation is Level I for both the assistant coach and TCU.
Violations of NCAA Division I Bylaws 10.01.1, 10.1, 10.1-(a) and 10.1-(c) (2017-18 and 2018-19)
The assistant coach committed additional unethical conduct violations during TCU’s investigation. First, in 2017, he provided false or misleading information—both verbally and on a written questionnaire—when he denied accepting money in exchange for providing access to student-athletes. Then, when his involvement with the agent associate’s scheme came to light in 2019, he refused to participate in an interview with the institution. TCU agreed that the conduct established Level I violations. The assistant coach disputed the violations, but argued that if any violation did occur it was Level III. The panel concluded that violations occurred, and they are Level I.
The assistant coach failed to meet the membership’s expectations for conduct during an institution’s investigation in two ways. First, he provided false or misleading information when he verbally denied any knowledge of or involvement in the bribery scheme and when he later declined to answer questions on a compliance questionnaire regarding acceptance of money in exchange for access to student-athletes. Second, he failed to furnish information relevant to the institution’s investigation when he refused multiple requests to interview with TCU. The assistant coach’s conduct violated NCAA Bylaw 10. As mentioned, NCAA Bylaw 10 establishes ethical conduct standards, and NCAA Bylaw 10.01.1 requires all institutional staff members to act with honesty and sportsmanship. Specific examples of unethical conduct include refusal to furnish information relevant to an investigation of possible violations when requested to do so by the NCAA or the individual’s institution (see NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(a)) and knowingly furnishing to the NCAA or the individual’s institution false or misleading information concerning an individual’s involvement in or knowledge of potential violations (see NCAA Bylaw 10.1- (c)).
In an effort to uncover any potential connections between the college basketball scandal and the TCU men’s basketball program, the institution questioned the coaching staff verbally and in writing. On both occasions, the assistant coach did not tell the truth. First, when the athletics director questioned him verbally during the staff meeting immediately following the arrests, the assistant coach denied any knowledge of the agent associate and any involvement in the events that led to the arrests. Then, on October 2, 2017, the assistant coach intentionally failed to answer two questions on a compliance questionnaire that would have revealed his involvement in the scheme. After TCU eventually discovered his involvement in March 2019 by way of the superseding indictment, the assistant coach refused multiple requests by TCU to participate in an interview. When the assistant coach denied any involvement with the agent associate’s scheme— both verbally and by failing to respond to questions on the compliance questionnaire—he provided false or misleading information in violation of NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(c). In refusing to interview, the panel concluded he failed to provide information relevant to the institution’s investigation, a violation of NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(a).
The assistant coach has argued that he should not be held responsible for these violations because he was acting on the advice of counsel, who directed him not to answer any questions related to the SDNY matter. The panel recognizes that following counsel’s advice—particularly where there is a possibility of criminal prosecution in a parallel proceeding—is a legitimate consideration. However, individual decisions related to outside legal proceedings do not absolve individuals from their obligations under NCAA bylaws. Individuals always have a choice whether to follow their counsel’s advice. When individuals make the choice to elevate their interests in outside proceedings over their obligations under NCAA bylaws, there can still be NCAA consequences. See Creighton (concluding the assistant coach violated Bylaw 10 when he provided untruthful information on a compliance questionnaire related to his interaction with agents); University of Connecticut (2019) (stating that “[t]here is no automatic exception for reliance on the advice of counsel” and concluding that the former head men’s basketball coach violated Bylaw 10.1-(a) when he refused to participate in a second interview on the advice of counsel due to his involvement in separate legal proceedings); and University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (2000) (concluding an academic counselor violated NCAA Bylaw 19.01.3—precursor to NCAA Bylaw 19.2.3—when he refused to participate in an interview on the advice of counsel due to an ongoing federal investigation). As in these cases, the assistant coach violated NCAA Bylaw 10 when he provided untruthful information to the institution and refused to participate in an interview.
This violation is not cured, as the assistant coach has argued, by his later cooperation with the enforcement staff’s investigation. An institutional staff member’s obligation to cooperate with his or her employer’s investigation is no less important than the obligation to cooperate with the enforcement staff. Member institutions have a responsibility to monitor their athletics programs to ensure compliance and to timely report any instances of non-compliance. They cannot carry out this responsibility without the full and timely cooperation of their staff members. A staff member’s failure to timely interview or provide truthful information significantly hinders the institution’s ability to ascertain whether violations have occurred and to promptly report those violations to the NCAA. When an investigation is delayed, valuable information can be lost. Additionally, there can be repercussions for the institution in the form of aggravating and mitigating factors should an infractions case ensue. As the COI has routinely emphasized, the responsibility to cooperate means full cooperation throughout the process. See Connecticut (concluding that the head men’s basketball coach failed to cooperate when he declined to participate in a second interview) and University of Louisiana at Lafayette (2016) (concluding that an assistant football coach failed to cooperate when he declined to participate in a third interview and furnish phone records after having participated in two interviews earlier in the investigation). Thus, the panel concluded assistant coach’s failure to cooperate with TCU is not cured by his eventual cooperation with the enforcement staff.
Because the assistant coach was employed at TCU at the time of the conduct, the violations apply to both the assistant coach and TCU. Pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 19.1.1, the violations are Level I because they seriously undermine and threaten the integrity of the Collegiate Model. See NCAA Bylaw 19.1.1- (d) (identifying individual unethical conduct or dishonest conduct as an example of a Level I violation). The COI has regularly concluded that Level I violations occur when individuals provide false or misleading information or refuse to participate in an interview. See Creighton (concluding that the assistant coach’s provision of untruthful information on a compliance questionnaire constituted a Level I violation); Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) (2019) (concluding that the assistant coach committed Level I violations when he lied in an interview and denied involvement in the underlying violations and attempted to persuade a student-athlete to lie); and Connecticut (concluding the head coach’s refusal to participate in a second interview constituted a Level I violation). As in these cases, the assistant coach’s provision of false or misleading information and refusal to interview constitute Level I violations.
Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 10.1, 10.1-(c), 19.2.3 and 19.2.3-(b) (2019-20)
After separating from TCU, the assistant coach engaged in additional unethical conduct when, during an interview with the NCAA enforcement staff, he provided false or misleading information regarding his agreement with the agent associate’s management company. The assistant coach disputed the violation. The panel concluded a violation occurred and it is Level I.
During the assistant coach’s August 6, 2019, interview with the NCAA enforcement staff, he denied accepting money and entering into an agreement to steer players to the management company. These denials are refuted by video surveillance and other information in the record—particularly the assistant coach’s own actions and statements. The panel concluded that the assistant coach’s statements during the interview constituted false or misleading information in violation of NCAA Bylaws 10 and 19. The violation is Level I.
As stated previously, NCAA Bylaw 10 establishes ethical conduct standards and NCAA Bylaw 10.01.1 requires all staff members to act with honesty and sportsmanship. Among other examples, NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(c) states that the provision of false or misleading information constitutes unethical conduct. Similarly, NCAA Bylaw 19.2.3 obligates current and former institutional staff members to cooperate with the objectives of the Association and its infractions program. Full cooperation includes timely participation in interviews and providing complete and truthful responses.
The assistant coach made statements during his August 6, 2019, interview that are not supported by the record in this case. He denied that he accepted $6,000 from the management company in exchange for his agreement to steer student-athletes to retain the management company’s services when they turned professional. Although he acknowledged that he physically took possession of the money, he claimed he did not “accept” the money because it was never intended for him, and he gave it to the agent associate following the meeting. He also denied that there was any agreement in place for him to continue receiving payments from the management company.
These denials run counter to the factual information in this case. Video surveillance captured the assistant coach touting the abilities of specific student-athletes and prospects with whom he had relationships and suggesting that he could steer these players to the management company. During that same conversation, the agent associate stated twice that the management company would pay the assistant coach on a monthly basis and would continue to do so even if he left TCU for another institution. The surveillance also clearly showed the assistant coach accepting $6,000 cash from the management company, holding the money in his hand as he shook hands with a management company representative and then leaving the room with the money. There is no information in the record that corroborates the assistant coach’s claim that he gave the money to the agent associate following the meeting. Finally, text exchanges in the record document the affirmative steps taken by the assistant coach to facilitate contact between the agent associate and two of the student-athletes the assistant coach discussed during the Las Vegas meeting.
The events of July 28, 2017, created an agreement between the assistant coach and the management company. Whether the assistant coach kept the money is irrelevant. The management company representatives understood that they were paying the assistant coach in exchange for his agreement to steer players to them. At the point they paid the assistant coach, it solidified the business relationship.
In this way, the assistant coach’s conduct is different than that of the associate head coach in USC and aligns more closely with the conduct of the assistant coach in Creighton. In USC, the COI did not conclude that the associate head coach provided false or misleading information when his account and explanation around some facts and circumstances differed from the enforcement staff’s interpretation of the same events. In USC, the associate head coach admitted that he received payments in exchange for directing basketball players from USC to retain the services of certain financial advisors and business managers.15 He further acknowledged that his conduct could be viewed as developing a tacit understanding of an agreement. Although the associate head coach stated that the amount of money he received may have been different than his plea agreement, the COI explained that the slight variance was immaterial to whether a Level I violation occurred in an infractions case. The COI did not believe that the minor discrepancy rose to unethical conduct or a failure to cooperate.
Here, as in Creighton, the facts are different. Although the assistant coach acknowledged that he made the wrong decision in agreeing to attend the meeting, he has not acknowledged that his conduct established violations and ran afoul of core principles and standards of conduct. As such, the assistant coach’s denials establish a further violation—especially when his conduct demonstrated a clear and ongoing business relationship.
Pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 19.1.1, the violation is Level I because it seriously undermines and threatens the integrity of the Collegiate Model. See Bylaw 19.1.1-(d) (identifying individual unethical or dishonest conduct as an example of a Level I behavior). As noted above, the COI has regularly concluded that Level I violations occur when individuals provide false or misleading information. See Georgia Tech and University of the Pacific (2017). The assistant coach’s denials were at the very least misleading. More accurately, they were false. As such, the panel concluded Level I violations occurred.
Aggravating and Mitigating Factors in accordance with NCAA Bylaws 19.9.3 and 19.9.4.
Aggravating Factors for the Institution
19.9.3-(a): Multiple Level I violations by the institution;
19.9.3-(b): A history of Level I, Level II or major violations; and
19.9.3-(h): Persons of authority condoned, participated in or negligently disregarded the violation
or related wrongful conduct.
Mitigating Factors for the Institution
19.9.4-(c): Affirmative steps to expedite final resolution of the matter;
19.9.4-(d): An established history of self-reporting Level III or secondary violations; and
19.9.4-(f): Exemplary cooperation.
Aggravating Factors for the Assistant Head Coach
19.9.3-(a): Multiple Level I violations by the involved individual;
19.9.3-(e): Unethical conduct, compromising the integrity of an investigation, failing to cooperate during an investigation or refusing to provide all relevant or requested information;
19.9.3-(h): Persons of authority condoned, participated in or negligently disregarded the violation or related wrongful conduct;
19.9.3-(l): Conduct intended to generate pecuniary gain for the involved individual; and
19.9.3-(m): Intentional, willful or blatant disregard for the NCAA constitution and bylaws.
Mitigating Factors for the Assistant Head Coach
19.9.4-(f): Exemplary cooperation; and
19.9.4-(h): The absence of prior conclusions of Level I, Level II or major violations by the head track coach.
The Committee penalized TCU as follows: