The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee”) recently issued its findings and found that the University of Montana (“UM”) committed major violations of NCAA legislation. The case involved the provision of extra benefits to football student-athletes by representatives of UM’s athletics interests and, in one instance, an athletics department staff member. These benefits included free legal representation and bail bond payments provided by two athletics representatives. Other benefits included a small cash loan, free clothing, storage of personal belongings, meals, lodging, transportation, and laundry services. Additionally, the head coach and other institutional officials knew the circumstances that resulted in some of the violations but failed to appropriately respond. Consequently, two former student-athletes competed in regular season and postseason contests while ineligible. As a result, institutional officials, on behalf of UM, and the head coach in his individual capacity agreed that each failed to monitor. Finally, UM exceeded coaching staff limitations when the football program paid an undergraduate student to engage in activities that are supposed to be performed exclusively by countable coaches.
The Committee found that UM committed the following violations of NCAA legislation:
1. Representatives of UM’s athletics interest and an athletics department employee provided impermissible extra benefits, some of which resulted in two football student-athletes competing while ineligible in violation of NCAA Bylaws 13.02.14, 14.11.1, 18.104.22.168, 22.214.171.124.1, and 126.96.36.199.
Representatives of UM’s athletics interests and an institutional employee provided impermissible extra benefits to several football student-athletes and, in one case, the parent of a student-athlete. These impermissible benefits were in the form of legal services, meals, a small cash loan, an item of apparel, storage for personal belongings, lodging, local transportation and laundry services. Further, following the arrest and release from jail of two student-athletes, members of the football coaching staff, including the head coach, learned that an athletics representative provided bail bond, but failed to inform officials at UM. The receipt of this impermissible benefit rendered both student-athletes immediately ineligible.
Following the arrest of student-athletes 1 and 2 on October 23, 2011, athletics representatives provided extra benefits in the form of free legal representation and bail bond payments to two student-athletes that violated NCAA legislation. First, an athletics representative provided a bail bond in the amount of $340.00 to secure the release of two student-athletes from the Missoula County detention center. Then, another athletics representative provided free legal services valued at approximately $3,000.00 in conjunction with the subsequent adjudication of their criminal charges.
Following the arrest and release from jail, the head coach and assistant coach learned that an athletics representative had provided bail bond, but failed to inform institutional officials. The receipt of bail bond was an extra benefit expressly prohibited under NCAA legislation and, thus, rendered the two student-athletes immediately ineligible. As a result, the student-athletes competed in regular season contests and postseason contests while ineligible.
Three married couples, who were representative of UM’s athletics interests, provided a variety of impermissible benefits to football student-athletes and, in one instance, to the parent of a student-athlete. First, from 2004 to August 2012, representatives of athletics interest hosted numerous student-athletes for Sunday dinners at their residence. The weekly Sunday meals were beyond what reasonably would be considered “infrequent” under NCAA occasional meal guidelines and, specifically, were in excess of UM’s occasional meal guidelines. Second, during the fall semesters of 2009 through 2012, representatives of athletics interest provided three football student-athletes impermissible extra benefits in the form of meals at the representatives’ tailgate gathering following UM’s home football games. Third, between August 2011 and August 2012, representatives of athletics interest provided a student-athlete and his parents impermissible extra benefits consisting of a loan of money, transportation, provision of footwear, meals, and cost-free storage of personal belongings.
An athletics employee also provided extra benefits to a football student-athlete that were limited and, thus, resulted in a secondary violation. The athletics employee provided cost free laundry services and meals.
2. UM exceeded coaching staff limitations in violation of NCAA Bylaws 188.8.131.52.1 and 11.7.3.
During the 2011-12 academic year, in addition to its 11 designated coaches, UM’s football program employed an undergraduate student as a student assistant. The undergraduate assistant engaged in activity that could only be performed by individuals employed as a countable coach, which resulted in the undergraduate student becoming a countable coach per NCAA Bylaw 184.108.40.206.1. Because this was an isolated violation which occurred only during the 2011-12 academic year, the Committee determined this to be a secondary violation.
3. The head coach failed to monitor the football program in violation of NCAA Bylaw 220.127.116.11.
During the 2011-12 academic year, the scope and nature of the violations demonstrate that the head football coach failed to monitor certain aspects of his program by: 1) not reporting his knowledge regarding the provision of bail bond by a representative of UM’s athletics interests; 2) not monitoring the relationship between an athletic representative and two student-athletes for whom the athletics representative was providing legal assistance, to ensure that the arrangement complied with NCAA legislation; and 3) allowing a student assistant to engage in coaching activity causing the institution to exceed the number of allowed coaches.
4. UM failed to monitor the football program in violation of NCAA Constitution 2.8.1.
Between October 23 and December 11, 2012, UM failed to monitor the football program, relative to the activity of representatives of its athletics interests who provided impermissible legal services to two football student-athletes. UM did not inquire about the circumstances surrounding the release from jail of two student-athletes. The failure to discover these violations led to the two student-athletes competing in multiple contests while ineligible. Athletics administrators were aware that a representative’s law firm was representing two student-athletes during the two-month pendency of their criminal case. However, no attempt was made to determine if the representative was a representative of athletics interests, which led to the student-athletes competing while ineligible.
As a result of the aforementioned violations, the Committee penalized UM as follows:
1. Public reprimand and censure.
2. Three years of probation from July 26, 2013 through July 25, 2016.
3. During the 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-17 academic years UM shall be limited to no more than 59 equivalency grants-in-aid per year.
4. UM will vacate all wings in which two student-athletes competed while ineligible during the 2011 regular and postseason.
5. UM shall forfeit $3,000.00, which will be donated to local charities.
6. UM will reduce the number of undergraduate student assistant positions by two during either the 2013-14 or 2014-15 academic year.
7. UM shall initiate review of its athletics compliance program by a competent, external agency as soon as one can be scheduled.
8. The head football coach shall 1) be suspended from all coaching duties for the first football game of the 2013 season; 2) be restricted from off-campus evaluations during the fall 2013 evaluation period; 3) be restricted from off-campus recruiting during the first three weeks of the fall 2013 contact period; 4) attend a NCAA Regional Rules Seminar in 2014; 5) educate institutional employees on his experiences with the NCAA; 6) attend Big Sky Conference meetings and educate other conference administrators and/or coaches to help educate other NCAA members on his experiences at Montana and in the NCAA infractions process.