The NCAA Division II Committee on Infractions (“Committee”) recently released its findings and found that the University of Alaska, Anchorage (“UAA”) committed major violations of NCAA legislation. The case involved UAA’s former head women’s basketball coach and a former women’s volunteer assistant basketball coach and the providing of impermissible benefits to two women’s basketball student-athletes. After promising two student-athletes “full ride” scholarships, but being unable to deliver funds covering a full grant-in-aid, the head coach provided money to the volunteer coach and instructed her to deposit it into the accounts of the two student-athletes. Additionally, a representative of UAA’s athletics interests provided extra benefits to women’s basketball student-athletes when he accompanied the team to away-from-home contests, which the parties characterized and concluded were secondary violations.
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. UAA and the head coach disagreed on some additional penalties proposed by the Committee, thus the Committee conducted an expedited penalty hearing.
The Committee found that UAA committed the following violations of NCAA legislation:
1. The head coach and volunteer coach provided extra benefits to two women’s basketball student-athletes in violation of NCAA Bylaws 16.02.3 and 22.214.171.124.
In the fall of 2011, the head coach provided the volunteer coach with cash and instructed her to deposit the money into the institutional and personal bank accounts of student-athletes 1 and 2. Acting on the instructions, in August 2011, the volunteer coach paid the balance of the student-athletes’ institutional fees, which totaled $1,365.00 each. Further, in September 2011, the volunteer coach deposited $500.00 into student-athlete 1’s personal bank account and $400 into student-athlete 2’s personal bank account.
In the winter of 2012, the head coach provided the volunteer coach with cash and instructed her to deposit the money into the personal bank account of student-athlete 1 and the institutional and personal bank accounts of student-athlete 2. Acting on the instructions, the volunteer coach subsequently deposited $1,800.00 into student-athlete 1’s personal bank account and $700.00 and $1,190.00 into student-athlete 2’s personal and institutional bank accounts, respectively.
2. The head coach engaged in unethical conduct and failed to promote an atmosphere for compliance in violation of NCAA Bylaws 10.01.1, 10.1, 10.1-(c), and 126.96.36.199.
During the recruitment of student-athletes 1 and 2, the head coach offered both of them what they described as “full ride” scholarships. Student-athlete 1 stated that she would not have considered attending UAA without the offer, while student-athlete 2 stated that she immediately chose to attend the institution as a result of the offer. Prior to student-athletes 1 and 2 arriving on campus, their families noticed that the amounts of aid listed in the scholarship papers they received did not represent a full grant-in-aid. When they inquired about the discrepancies, members of the women’s basketball coaching staff assured them that all costs would be covered once they enrolled. The student-athletes and their families were unaware of the manner by which the coaches covered the scholarship shortfall and that such behavior violated NCAA legislation.
Because the head coach’s promise and ultimate delivery of the benefits were significant factors in the student-athletes’ choices to attend UAA, UAA gained a significant recruiting and competitive advantage through these violations. Further, the head coach’s intentional violation of well-known and commonly understood rules regarding student-athlete benefits constituted unethical conduct. Additionally, the head coach failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance when he involved the volunteer coach in the commission of such violations.
3. Secondary violations in violation of NCAA Bylaws 16.02.3 and 188.8.131.52.
In November 2011, the representative of athletics interest provided extra benefits for 12 women’s basketball student-athletes while accompanying the women’s basketball team to away-from-home contests. Specifically, the representative arranged and paid for local transportation via shuttle bus, a pregame meal, and entertainment. The extra benefits were valued at $151.85 for each student-athlete.
As a result of the aforementioned violations, the Committee penalized UAA as follows:
1. Public reprimand and censure.
2. Two years of probation from May 2, 2014, through May 1, 2016.
3. The institution shall undergo an audit of its athletics policies and procedures, performed by an outside agency, prior to June 30, 2015.
4. UAA shall award no more than the equivalent of 9.26 women’s basketball grants-in-aid for the 2014-15 academic year. This amount represents a reduction of .74 from the allowable maximum of 10 grants. This penalty may be delayed one academic year if all grants for 2014-15 are already committed.
5. UAA shall vacate all women’s basketball wins from the 2011-12 regular season and conference tournaments in which student-athlete 1 participated from the time she became ineligible through the time her eligibility was reinstated.
6. The head coach received a two-year show-cause order. The show-cause period shall run from May 2, 2014, through May 1, 2016. During the first year this penalty is in effect, the head coach shall be suspended from all coaching duties for the first three conference games.
7. The volunteer coach did not receive a show-cause order. The Committee concluded that the volunteer coach had just begun her first coaching job, reported to the head coach, and would not have committed the violations but for his directive. However, a record of her violations will be maintained in the Office of the Committees on Infractions and will be available to member institutions who inquire into the volunteer coach’s infractions history.
8. UAA disassociated itself with the representative and will decline all assistance and prohibit all athletics benefits and privileges from and to the representative.
9. UAA shall pay a $5,000.00 fine to the NCAA.