The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee”) recently issued its findings and found that the University of North Carolina (“UNC”) committed major violations of NCAA legislation. The violations in this case fell into three categories: 1) a former tutor committing academic fraud with student-athletes and providing impermissible benefits to student-athletes; 2) the provision of impermissible benefits to student-athletes by various individuals, including sports agents and their associates; and 3) unethical conduct by the former assistant coach.
The Committee found that UNC committed the following violations of NCAA legislation:
1. Unethical conduct and impermissible participation in violation of NCAA Bylaws 10.01, 10.1-(b), and 14.11.1
During the 2008-09 academic year and summer of 2009, the former tutor and student-athletes 1, 2, and 3 failed to deport themselves in accordance with the generally recognized high standards of honesty and sportsmanship normally associated with the conduct and administration of intercollegiate athletics and violated provisions of ethical conduct legislation when they engaged in academic fraud. As a result of the academic fraud, student-athlete 1 competed while ineligible during the 2008 football season, student-athlete 2 competed while ineligible during the 2009 and 2010 football seasons, and student-athlete 3 competed while ineligible during the 2008 and 2009 football seasons.
The former tutor was well aware and educated on the parameters of her services as a tutor for student-athletes. During the investigation, the former tutor confirmed she had committed academic fraud with and on behalf of student-athletes 1, 2, and 3 during the 2008-09 academic year and the summer of 2009. Some of the acts performed by the tutor include: drafting conclusion paragraphs for a student-athlete, drafting a thesis, and a creating works-cited page and inserting citations into the body of the composition.
2. Impermissible benefits in violation of NCAA Bylaw 16.11.2
During the 2009-10 academic year and August 2010, the former tutor provided approximately $4,075 in impermissible extra benefits to football student-athletes.
In July 2009, UNC chose not to renew the former tutor’s contract after rumors surfaced that she was socializing with student-athletes. Subsequently, the former tutor provided impermissible benefits to enrolled student-athletes including: $150.00 airline change fee, $1,789.00 to cover a student-athlete’s outstanding campus parking tickets, and she provided forty-five hours of uncompensated tutoring to eleven student-athletes totaling a $2,134.00 value.
3. Unethical conduct and failure to cooperate in violation of NCAA Bylaws 10.01, 10.1-(a), 10.1-(c), and 19.01.3
During the period of 2009 through 2011, the former tutor failed to deport herself 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 11 football student-athletes with improper benefits and by refusing to furnish information relevant to an investigation of possible violations of NCAA regulation when requested to do so by the enforcement staff and UNC.
The former tutor and her attorney failed to cooperate with NCAA investigators. Pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 32.6.2, the former tutor’s failure to cooperate was viewed as an admission.
4. Preferential treatment and benefits from prospective agents in violation of NCAA Bylaws 18.104.22.168.6 and 22.214.171.124
During 2009 and 2010, seven football student-athletes received $27,544.88 in benefits from individuals, some of whom triggered NCAA agent legislation. The benefits were provided to student-athlete 3 ($99.00), student-athlete 4 ($5,084.70); and student-athletes 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 in the following amounts: student-athlete 5 ($13,507.47), student-athlete 6 ($5,642.92), student-athlete 7 ($1,755.00), student-athlete 8 ($1,320.75), and student-athlete 9 ($135.00).
The student-athletes reported they received benefits from, and took trips sponsored by, various sports agents, “runners,” a jeweler, and five former football student-athletes including student-athlete 1. Because one of the former student-athletes (former student-athlete A) worked for sports agents, the benefits he provided triggered NCAA agent legislation.
The benefits provided to student-athlete 5 totaled over $13,000.00. They included approximately $1,000.00 from sports agent 1 for March 2009 and July 2009 flights from the vicinity of campus to the Los Angeles area, where sports agent 1’s agency was headquartered. While in California, student-athlete 5 received lodging valued at over $3,000.00 and athletic training valued at $1,020, all paid for by sports agent 1. An individual deemed to be a sports agent under NCAA bylaws (“sports agent 2”) paid approximately $2,000.00 to fly student-athlete 5 to Miami in March, April, and May 2009. While student-athlete 5 was in Florida, sports agent 2 paid for his lodging, the use of a rental car and admissions to clubs. In 2010, sports agent 2 deposited $1,000.00 into student-athlete 5’s bank account and a former student-athlete at UNC deposited $2,000.00 onto a prepaid debit card for him.
The benefits given to the other six student-athletes were of the same nature. Student-athlete 6 received $5,000 worth of jewelry from a Miami businessman in May 2010, lodging and the use of a rental car, valued at over $300.00, while in Miami and meals valued at $120.00 from various financial advisors. Another sports agency (“sports agency B”) paid student-athlete 6’s $199.00 admission fee to a party held at a seaside hotel in Miami. Student-athlete 4 also was provided lodging club admissions, airline flights and the use of a rental car by sports agent 2.
5. Failure to monitor in violation of NCAA Constitution 2.8.1
During 2009 and 2010, UNC failed to monitor the conduct and administration of the football program. Specifically, UNC failed to a) monitor the activities of former student-athlete A; and b) investigate information it obtained suggesting that student-athlete 5 may have been in violation of NCAA legislation.
Former student-athlete A often worked out in the UNC athletic facilities and participated in drills with currently enrolled student-athletes. UNC was unaware of former student-athlete A’s affiliation with any sports agent and observed no inappropriate activity on his part in his interactions with student-athletes. However, in September 2010 institutional personnel learned through media reports that former student-athlete A was involved in activities with student-athletes at another institution that triggered NCAA agent legislation and caused him to be categorized as a “runner.” Had UNC taken a closer look at former student-athlete A, it may have been able to discover that he had provided benefits to student-athletes including transportation, meals, and lodging in Las Vegas.
UNC administrators require student-athletes to inform their coaches when they plan to travel off campus. Student-athlete 5 traveled off-campus to train, which was ultimately paid for by sports agents. Student-athlete 5 did not inform UNC of his training off-campus and UNC did not follow up with him.
The NCAA enforcement staff also alleged a failure to monitor because UNC did not “consistently” monitor the social networking activity of its student-athletes. The social networking site of student-athlete 5 contained information that, if observed, would have altered UNC to some of the violations in which he was involved. The Committee, however, declined to impose a blanket duty on institutions to monitor social networking sites. Consistent with the duty to monitor other information outside the campus setting, such sites should be part of the monitoring effort if the institution becomes aware of an issue that might be resolved in some part by reviewing information on a site. While the Committee did not impose an absolute duty upon member institutions to regularly monitor social media sites, the duty to do so may arise as part of an institution’s heightened awareness when it has or should have a reasonable suspicion of rules violations.
6. Unethical conduct and failure to cooperate in violation of NCAA Bylaws 10.1, 10.1-(a), 10.1-(d), and 19.01.3
Beginning in August 2010, the former assistant 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 refusing to furnish information relevant to an investigation of possible violations of NCAA legislation when requested to do so by the NCAA and by furnishing the NCAA and the institution false and misleading information.
The enforcement staff requested limited tax information from the assistant coach to clarify the nature of the former assistant coach’s relationship with sports agency A. The former assistant coach refused to provide such information and denied being an employee of sports agency A. However, other employees of the sports agency indicated he was employed by sports agency A from 2000 to 2002.
The Committee held there was enough business history between the former assistant coach and sports agency A and ongoing business-related transactions that the former assistant coach should have reported the receipt of money to the institution. His failure to report such income was a breach of his duty to report under NCAA Bylaw 11.2.2
7. Failure to report outside income in violation of NCAA Bylaw 11.2.2
From May 2007 to October 2009, the former assistant coach did not report $31,000.00 in athletically-related outside income from sports agency A. Specifically, the former assistant coach received wire transfers in amounts ranging from $1,000.00 to $10,000.00 from sports agency A’s bank account into his personal bank account on seven occasions; however, he did not provide a written account of the income to UNC, as required by NCAA legislation.
As a result of the aforementioned violations, the Committee penalized UNC as follows:
1. Public reprimand and censure.
2. Three years of probation from March 12, 2012 through March 11, 2015.
3. UNC will vacate all victories by the football program during the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
4. UNC will reduce by a total of 15 the number of both initial and total grants-in-aid over a three-year period covering the 2012-13, 2013-14, and 2014-15 academic years.
5. UNC will pay a monetary fine of $50,000.00.
6. UNC issued a disassociation letter to the former student-athlete on October 4, 2010.
7. UNC issued a disassociation letter to the former tutor on November 5, 2010.
8. UNC’s football team shall end its 2012 season with the playing of its last regularly scheduled, in-season contest and shall not be eligible to participate in any postseason competition, including a conference championship game or bowl game.
9. The former assistant coach received a three-year show cause penalty.