The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee”) recently issued its findings and found that Texas Southern University (“TSU”) committed major violations of NCAA legislation. The violations in this case included impermissible participation, academic improprieties and lack of institutional control. From the 2004-05 academic year into 2010-11, TSU permitted 129 student-athletes in 13 sports to compete and receive financial aid and travel expenses when they were ineligible to do so. Further violations included exceeding financial aid limits and failing to serve a penalty imposed by the NCAA Academic Performance Program. Particularly serious violations occurred when 1) from May through September 2009, the former head football coach allowed a representative of TSU’s athletics interests to recruit for his program; and 2) the former head basketball coach provided false or misleading information to the enforcement staff when he denied that he and the former head football coach engaged in actions intended to circumvent limits on men’s basketball financial aid counters. TSU has either been on probation or had violations occurring on campus, or both, for 16 of the last 20 years.
The Committee found that TSU committed the following violations of NCAA legislation:
1. Impermissible participation, financial aid, and travel expenses in violation of NCAA Bylaws 14.01.1, 14.01.2, 22.214.171.124, 126.96.36.199, 188.8.131.52, 184.108.40.206.2, 220.127.116.11-(a), 18.104.22.168, 14.5.1, 14.5.4, 22.214.171.124, 126.96.36.199, 14.5.6, 14.11.1, and 188.8.131.52
During the 2004-05 through 2010-11 academic years, TSU permitted 129 student-athletes to compete and receive athletically related financial aid and travel-related expenses while ineligible to do so. The majority of the student-athletes were ineligible due to making insufficient satisfactory progress toward a degree, while others were ineligible because they did not satisfy transfer requirements.
The Committee noted that TSU’s failures were attributed to a number of factors including the lack of personnel in compliance and the registrar’s offices with knowledge of the application of NCAA legislation. The then athletics compliance officer was the sole member of the compliance staff and had full responsibility for monitoring over 300 student-athletes per year. At the hearing before the Committee, TSU’s president acknowledged that insufficient resources had been allocated to the compliance effort in previous years.
2. Exceeding financial aid limitations in violation of NCAA Bylaw 184.108.40.206
During the 2008-09 through 2010-11 academic years, TSU exceeded the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (“FCS”) limit of 30 initial counters of athletically related financial aid. During the 2009-10 academic year, TSU also exceeded the FCS annual equivalency scholarship limit of 63.
During the 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11 academic years, TSU provided athletically related aid to 48, 43, and 33 initial counters, respectively, in the sport of football. The FCS limit is 30. Also, in 2010-11, TSU awarded 64.03 equivalency financial aid awards to counters in football. The limit is 63 per year. The former head football coach believed NCAA Bylaws provided an exception to the initial counter rule and he was provided a favorable interpretation of the rule by the compliance coordinator. The compliance coordinator doidnot recall such a conversation. The president of TSU believed that the former compliance coordinator and former head football coach were aware of the applicable rules and the overages were the result of collusion between them.
3. Failure to serve penalty and exceeding countable athletically related activities violation of NCAA Bylaws 15.01.8, 17.01.2, 220.127.116.11, and 18.104.22.168.2
During the 2009-10 academic year, TSU failed to serve its NCAA Division I Academic Performance Program Occasion-Two Historical Penalty for men’s basketball. Specifically, the penalty required the men’s basketball team to limit athletically related aid to 11 counters and restrict its allowable countable athletically related activities to five days per week. In fact, the team awarded athletics aid to 13 counters. Further, the men’s basketball team took only one day off from countable activities during seven weeks and took no days off during one week.
TSU learned in November 2008 that it would be penalized with the loss of two men’s basketball grants for the 2009-10 academic year, allowing it to award no more than 11. The penalties, levied under the NCAA Academic Performance Program, also included reductions in daily and weekly practice hours. During the year the penalty was served, the team was to practice no more than five days per week for a total of no more than 16 countable hours. The reductions were designed to give the men’s basketball student-athletes more time to devote to their studies.
TSU’s athletics director communicated the penalties to the former head basketball. Yet, the men’s basketball program simply failed to follow the restrictions and the athletics administration did not follow up to ensure the penalties were being followed.
4. Recruiting by a representative of institution’s athletics interest in violation of NCAA Bylaws 13.04.1, 13.02.14, 22.214.171.124, 126.96.36.199, 188.8.131.52.1, and 13.2.1
From May 20098 through September 2009, the representative had in-person recruiting contacts and recruiting phone calls with three four-year college prospective football student-athletes on behalf of TSU’s football coaching staff and paid for an airline ticket for the girlfriend of a prospective student-athlete.
Even though the former head football coach told the representative that he could not contact prospective-student athletes, the former head football coach and other coaches were aware that the representative was contacting prospective student-athletes and their parents. The coaching staff failed to dissuade the representative from making such contacts and, in fact, actively encouraged him to make contact with prospective student-athletes. The representative made contacts with four prospective student-athletes as follows: 1) from June 10 through July 18, 2009, the representative had 23 calls with prospect 1; 2) from August 23 through September 2, 2009, the representative had 18 calls with prospect 2 and 32 calls with prospect 2’s mother; 3) from August 28 through August 30, 2009, the representative had 25 calls with student-athlete 3 and 8 calls with student-athlete 3’s mother; and 4) on May 27, 2009, the representative delivered a financial aid agreement to prospect 4 before the prospect was released by his current institution. Additionally, the representative purchased a $55.00 airline ticket for prospect 4’s girlfriend. The ticket was purportedly purchased through an airline connection of the former head football coach.
5. Failure to promote an atmosphere for compliance in violation of NCAA Bylaw 184.108.40.206
The scope and nature of these violations are detailed above and demonstrate during the 2008-09 and 2010-11 academic years, the former head football coach failed to promote an atmosphere for compliance in the football program and monitor the activities regarding compliance by assistant football coaches. Specifically, the former head football coach failed to ensure the football program did not exceed NCAA limits on initial counters and failed to monitor communications between his staff and the representative.
6. Unethical conduct in violation of NCAA Bylaws 10.01.1, 10.1, and 10.1-(d)
On January 19, 2010, March 7, 2011, and January 9, 2012, the former head basketball coach 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 by knowingly providing false or misleading information concerning improperly awarded athletically related aid provided to men’s basketball student-athletes 1 and 2. Specifically, he stated that the young men were supposed to play football at the institution when he was aware that the young men 1) had only received football scholarships as a way to circumvent the grants-in-aid limits placed upon the men’s basketball program; 2) consistently attended men’s basketball practice and activities; and 3) did not participate in any manner in the football program.
Student-athlete 1 was interviewed and stated he stopped playing football in middle school and did not play in high school or in college. On a “spur of the moment” decision, student-athlete 1 presented to the football offices to inquiry about playing football, but was told his eligibility had expired. He further stated that he did not voice a desire to play football to the basketball staff and he was never recruited to play football. Ultimately, student-athlete 1 never participated in football related activities at TSU. He did not know he was on football aid until he was told at the book store that he was on a partial scholarship through the football program instead a full grant-in-aid package he previously had as a member of the basketball team.
Student-athlete 2 is an international student-athlete who had never played football and football was not played in his home country. When he arrived on campus, he was told he would receive a football scholarship, because there were no more men’s basketball grants available. He was not told he was expected to play football. In fact, he attended basketball practices during practice times for football. He never attended a football related activity.
7. Improper classification as multi-sport participants in violation of NCAA Bylaws 220.127.116.11, 18.104.22.168, and 22.214.171.124.1
During the 2008-09 and 2009-10 academic years, student-athletes 1 and 2 were impermissibly classified as multi-sport athletes and awarded grants-in-aid designated for the football program. Specifically, student-athlete 1 was classified as a multi-sport athlete for the 2008-09 academic year but did not participate in football. Student-athlete 2 was classified as a multi-sport athlete for the spring 2009 semester and 2009-10 academic year but did not participate in football.
8. Lack of institution control in violation of NCAA Constitution 2.1.1, 2.1.2, 2.8.1, and 6.01.1; NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199.1-(d)
During the 2004-05 through 2010-11 academic years, TSU failed to exercise institutional control of its athletics program for the reasons detailed herein and above; by TSU’s failure to produce squad lists signed by the director of athletes in football and men’s basketball in either 2008-09 or 2009-10; and by TSU’s failure to adequately investigate an allegation of academic misconduct.
The Committee stated the failures at issue were due in significant part to 1) lack of NCAA rules education given to the individuals assigned athletics certification duties; and 2) TSU failing to ensure that the certification of student-athletes was performed by competent individuals properly trained in relevant NCAA legislation. The certifying officer had no previous NCAA rules education or experience before assuming the duties and was trained by the outgoing certification officer, who also had received virtually no training regarding the eligibility certification process.
Prior to the 2010-11 academic year TSU devoted insufficient resources to the compliance effort, with the full compliance function handled by the former director of compliance with occasional assistance from inexperienced volunteers and part-time employees. This left the former director of compliance with limited time to provide eligibility certification assistance. Further, the faculty athletics representative who was supposed to be the final authority in the certification process, stated at the hearing that she relied on the information supplied by the former director of compliance and signed the certification forms without verifying the accuracy of the information provided.
The Committee found that the following exhibited elements of lack of institutional control: 1) there was no viable system of rules compliance in place that could have detected the over award of initial counters in football; 2) TSU failed to serve its academic performance program penalty in men’s basketball; 3) TSU improperly classified two men’s basketball student-athletes as multi-sport athletes, which occurred due to an agreement between the former head football coach and former head basketball coach; and 4) TSU insufficiently investigated a significant instance of academic fraud that occurred at the institution in 2009 and involved 24 football student-athletes.
As a result of the aforementioned violations, the Committee penalized TSU as follows:
1. Public reprimand and censure.
2. Five years of probation from October 9, 2012 through October 8, 2017.
3. Pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52.1, the Office of the Committee on Infractions shall ensure that an in-person review of the institution’s athletics policies and practices is conducted annually, at the institution’s expense, through the term of probation. The reviews shall be conducted by an outside entity, approved in advance by the Committee, which travels to campus and confirms, through records reviews and personal observation, that the information contained in the institution’s annual compliance reports is accurate. Further, the reviewer shall generate a report of his/her findings, to be attached to the annual compliance reports and submitted to the Committee. Finally, the reviewer must agree to appear before the Committee if summoned over the term of probation to respond to questions regarding the institution’s adherence to the penalties and/or establishment of a viable, campus-wide rules compliance and education system.
4. TSU’s football team received a post-season ban for the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
5. TSU’s football team received a post-season ban for the 2012-13 season.
6. During the course of probation, TSU’s football team shall only compete against FCS member institutions.
7. Vacation of all team records for the 2006-07 through 2009-10 academic years in all sports, and vacation of all team records for the 2010-11 academic year in football and women’s soccer.
8. For the 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-17 academic years, in the sport of football, TSU shall be limited to no more than 65 overall counters, 25 initial counters, and 60 equivalency grants-in-aid per year.
9. Reduce by 2, from 13 to 11, the permissible number of grants-in-aid in the sport of men’s basketball for the 2012-13, 2013-14, and 2014-15 academic years.
10. Reduction in the available number of recruiting person days by 10 in the sport of men’s basketball from 130 to 120 for each of the 2011-12 and 2012-13 academic years.
11. During the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years, in the sport of football, TSU shall only use half the available evaluation days in both the spring and fall evaluation periods.
12. Reduction in official paid visits in the sports of football and men’s basketball for each of the 2011-12 and 2012-13 academic years. Official visits allowed shall not exceed 30 total per year in football and 9 total per year in men’s basketball.
14. The former head football coach received a 3 year show cause penalty from October 9, 2012 to October 8, 2015.
15. The former head basketball coach received a 3 year show cause penalty from October 9, 2012 to October 8, 2015.
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