The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee” or “Panel” or “COI”) recently issued its findings and found that the University of Northern Colorado (“Institution” or “UNC”) committed violations of NCAA legislation. This case involved the men’s basketball program at UNC and centered primarily on academic fraud and impermissible recruiting inducements. The violations spanned over four (4) years and involved nine (9) members of the men’s basketball staff, including the former head men’s basketball coach. Seven (7) of those staff members are at risk for their participation in the violations.
The Committee concluded that UNC committed the following violations:
Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 10.01.1, 10.1, 10.1-(b) (2009-10, 2011-12 and 2013-14); 14.01.1, 15.01.5 (2009-10 through 2013-14); 14.11.1 (2010-11 through 2012-13); 22.214.171.124 (2010-11 through 2012-13); and 14.10.1, 16.8.1 (2013-14)
Over the course of three (3) summers, six (6) members of the men’s basketball coaching staff, including the head coach, knowingly arranged for fraudulent academic credit for three (3) prospects. This resulted in two (2) of the prospects competing and receiving expenses while ineligible and all three (3) prospects receiving financial aid while ineligible. UNC and the NCAA enforcement staff substantially agreed to the facts and that violations occurred, though UNC took no position with respect to assistant coach 3’s conduct. Assistant coach 4 denied the allegations against him. The head coach and assistant coaches 1 and 2 agreed to most of the facts and conceded that their conduct violated NCAA academic fraud legislation. Assistant coach 3 and the graduate assistant did not respond to the allegations. The Panel concluded that Level I violations occurred.
During the summers of 2010, 2012 and 2014, the head coach, the graduate assistant, and assistant coaches 1 through 4 completed or arranged for others to complete coursework for prospects 1, 2 and 3. This constituted academic fraud in violation of Bylaw 10. UNC used the fraudulent academic credit to certify the prospects’ eligibility. UNC then permitted prospects 1 and 2 to compete, provided them with travel expenses, and awarded all three (3) prospects financial aid. In doing so, UNC violated Bylaws 14, 15 and 16.
NCAA Bylaw 10 governs ethical conduct in collegiate athletics, with NCAA Bylaw 10.01.1 generally requiring student-athletes and those employed by or associated with UNC’s athletics program to act with honesty and sportsmanship at all times. NCAA Bylaw 10.1 identifies several categories of unethical conduct, including knowing involvement in arranging for fraudulent academic credit (Bylaw 10.1-(b)). As it relates to eligibility, NCAA Bylaw 14 establishes the general requirements. NCAA Bylaws 14.01.1, 14.10.1 (2013-14) and 14.11.1 (2010-11 through 2012-13) place an affirmative duty on institutions to certify only those student-athletes who meet eligibility requirements and to withhold ineligible student-athletes from competition. Pursuant to Bylaw 15.01.5, student-athletes who do not meet Bylaw 14 eligibility requirements may not receive institutional financial aid. Similarly, Bylaw 126.96.36.199 (now Bylaw 16.8.1) permits institutions to provide actual and necessary travel expenses only to those student-athletes who are eligible for competition.
During the summer of 2010, in the head coach’s drive to secure prospect 1’s eligibility at the expense of his academic development, the head coach engaged in academic fraud. Specifically, the head coach arranged for fraudulent academic credit for the prospect by completing his algebra coursework and enlisting the athletic trainer to complete the prospect’s biology coursework. As the head coach admitted, he was fully aware that completing the prospect’s coursework was a violation of fundamental NCAA academic legislation. But by the time he learned of prospect 1’s academic shortcomings, the head coach was so heavily invested in the prospect and what he could bring to the team that he made an extremely poor decision. He determined it was better to stick with the prospect and break foundational rules to secure his eligibility than to restart the recruitment process and find someone new. Thus, the head coach completed a significant number of algebra assignments for prospect 1, using the prospect’s login information to access and submit the coursework online. He also brought the trainer into his scheme under the guise of asking him to help the head coach’s then wife complete an exam she supposedly needed for her job search. The head coach’s conduct violated UNC’s academic policies and resulted in prospect 1 obtaining fraudulent academic credit in his two online courses. The head coach’s actions violated Bylaw 10.1-(b).
Academic fraud continued and expanded within the men’s basketball program during the summer of 2012 as four members of the coaching staff completed coursework for prospect 2. After the head coach instructed the staff that losing prospect 2 was not an option, they worked together to complete three (3) online courses for the prospect. Assistant coach 1 spearheaded the scheme, dividing the coursework among the staff members. He also met with the head coach nearly every day to report on the staff’s progress. Assistant coach 1 completed the prospect’s math coursework, assistant coach 2 completed his leadership coursework, and assistant coach 3 and the graduate assistant worked together to complete his sociology coursework. Prospect 2 was not even aware he was enrolled in the online courses, let alone that staff members were doing his coursework. The three (3) assistant coaches’ and the graduate assistant’s actions violated UNC’s academic policies and resulted in prospect 2 obtaining fraudulent credit in his three online courses. This conduct violated NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(b).
The basketball staff committed yet another instance of academic fraud in the summer of 2014 when assistant coach 4 arranged for and paid his friend, a former graduate assistant at Southern Mississippi, to complete coursework for prospect 3. The prospect needed to complete three classes to graduate from his junior college and become eligible to compete at UNC. Thus, assistant coach 4 reached out to his friend and asked him to complete English coursework for prospect 3. The former graduate assistant accessed prospect 3’s assignments online, completed the coursework and then emailed it to assistant coach 4 for submission. Assistant coach 4 either paid or arranged payment of $200.00 for the former graduate assistant’s services. Assistant coach 4’s actions violated UNC’s academic policies and resulted in prospect 3 obtaining fraudulent academic credit in his English course. This conduct violated NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(b).
In completing and arranging for the completion of coursework for academically ineligible prospects, the head coach, assistant coaches 1, 2, 3, 4 and the graduate assistant failed to conduct themselves with the honesty and integrity required of staff members working at NCAA member institutions. The head coach’s conduct demonstrated that he prioritized short-term gains and on-court success over adherence to ethical conduct standards. Likewise, assistant coaches 1, 2, 3 and the graduate assistant showed a disregard for these standards when they bowed to pressure from the head coach and decided to secure prospect 2’s eligibility by completing his coursework. Assistant coach 4 also failed to act in an honest and ethical manner when he arranged and paid for the completion of prospect 3’s coursework. In short, the coaching staff’s actions did not meet the baseline standards of conduct established by NCAA Bylaw 10.01.1.
The coaching staff’s conduct also caused UNC to violate eligibility, financial aid and benefits legislation with respect to prospects 1, 2 and 3. First, UNC used the three (3) prospects’ fraudulent academic credit to certify their eligibility, thus violating Bylaw 14.01.1. Second, Northern Colorado violated Bylaws 14.11.1 (2010-11 through 2012-13), 14.10.1 (2013-14), 188.8.131.52 (2010-11 through 2012-13) and 16.8.1 (2013-14) when it permitted prospects 1 and 2 to compete and provided them with competition-related travel expenses. Finally, UNC provided all three (3) ineligible prospects with institutional financial aid in violation of NCAA Bylaw 15.01.5.
While each case is unique to its facts and circumstances, COI has concluded time and again that institutional staff members who complete coursework for prospective or enrolled student-athletes commit Level I violations. See University of the Pacific (2017) (concluding that a Level I academic fraud violation occurred when the former head men’s basketball coach provided academically ineligible prospects with answers to coursework and exams); California State University, Northridge (2016) (concluding that Level I academic fraud violations occurred when the former director of basketball operations completed coursework for four men’s basketball enrolled student-athletes); University of Mississippi (2016) (concluding that a Level I academic fraud violation occurred when the former director of basketball operations and former assistant basketball coach completed coursework for two prospects in five online courses); Southern Mississippi (concluding that a Level I academic fraud violation occurred when members of the men’s basketball staff completed over sixty credit hours of coursework for seven prospects); Southern Methodist University (2016) (concluding that a Level I academic fraud violation occurred when a basketball administrative assistant obtained an incoming student-athlete’s username and password and completed all of his assignments and exams for an online course); and Syracuse University (2015) (concluding that a Level I academic fraud violation occurred when the former director of basketball operations and former basketball receptionist completed an extra credit paper for a student-athlete seeking a grade change over one year after he had completed the course).
Several of these cases feature circumstances distinctly similar to those at issue here. In recent years, COI has all too frequently encountered academic fraud cases centered on basketball coaching staffs completing or arranging for the completion of coursework for ineligible prospects, particularly junior college transfers. By taking shortcuts to attain eligibility for these prospects, coaches harm rather than help them. It is imperative that coaching staffs—and head coaches, in particular—tread cautiously when recruiting academically ineligible prospects and act only with the prospects’ best interests at heart.
Consistent with the COI’s past cases, the Panel concluded that the academic fraud of the head coach, assistant coaches 1, 2, 3, 4 and the graduate assistant is Level I. See also NCAA Bylaw 19.1.1 (listing academic fraud as an example of a Level I severe breach of conduct). These academic fraud violations strike at the heart of the Collegiate Model. Furthermore, the violations were intended to give—and did give—UNC a substantial recruiting and competitive advantage. As a result of the coaching staff’s conduct, the three prospects completed their coursework and attained eligibility to compete for Northern Colorado. The coaching staff’s conduct seriously undermined and threatened the integrity of the NCAA Collegiate Model.
Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 10.01.1, 10.1, 10.1-(c), 13.2.1, 14.01.1 and 15.01.5 (2009-10 through 2013-14); 14.11.1 and 184.108.40.206 (2010-11 through 2012-13); 14.10.1 (2013-14); 16.8.1 (2013-14 through 2014-15); and 12.11.1 (2014-15)
Over the course of three (3) summers, members of the men’s basketball coaching staff violated principles of ethical conduct when they knowingly provided impermissible recruiting inducements in the form of paying for multiple prospects’ online courses. This resulted in UNC improperly certifying the prospects, allowing them to compete, and providing them with financial aid and travel expenses while ineligible. UNC, assistant coach 1 and the enforcement staff substantially agreed on the facts and that violations occurred. The head coach agreed to most of the facts, though he could not recall some details and disputed others. Nonetheless, he agreed that violations occurred and accepted responsibility for them. Assistant coach 5 did not participate in the process. The Panel concluded that Level I violations occurred.
During the summers of 2010, 2012 and 2013, the head coach and assistant coaches 1 and 5 paid or arranged payment for online courses that prospects 1, 2, 4 and 5 needed to take in order to attain eligibility. The payments totaled nearly $5,000.00 and constituted impermissible recruiting inducements in violation of NCAA Bylaw 13. Furthermore, the coaching staff provided the inducements knowingly in violation of NCAA Bylaw 10. Although the inducements rendered the prospects ineligible, UNC nonetheless certified their eligibility, allowed them to compete, and provided them with financial aid and competition-related travel expenses. In doing so, UNC violated NCAA Bylaws 12, 14, 15 and 16.
As identified above, NCAA Bylaws 10.01.1 and 10.1 generally require institutional staff members to conduct themselves in an honest and ethical manner. At the time of the conduct at issue, subsection (c) of NCAA Bylaw 10.1 identified the knowing provision of recruiting inducements as unethical conduct. NCAA Bylaw 13.2.1 restricts institutional staff members from providing recruiting inducements or financial aid to prospects unless expressly authorized by NCAA legislation. Eligibility bylaws, as identified above, place a duty on institutions to certify only those student-athletes who are eligible (NCAA Bylaw 14.01.1) and to withhold ineligible student-athletes from competition (NCAA Bylaws 14.11.1, 14.10.1 and 12.11.1). Institutions may not provide ineligible student-athletes with financial aid (NCAA Bylaw 15.01.5) or competition-related travel expenses (NCAA Bylaws 220.127.116.11 and 16.8.1).
The head coach and assistant coaches 1 and 5 engaged in unethical conduct and provided impermissible recruiting inducements when they knowingly made or arranged for nearly $5,000.00 in tuition payments for prospects’ online courses. The head coach accepted responsibility for paying or arranging payment for prospect 1’s courses during the summer of 2010 and prospect 2’s courses during the summer of 2012. With respect to prospect 1, the head coach paid or arranged payment for the prospect’s two online courses using a credit card belonging to one of his former in-laws. The tuition payments for prospect 1 totaled $332.00. As it relates to prospect 2, assistant coach 1 admitted that he paid $417.00 for the prospect’s sociology course and the head coach reimbursed him in cash. The head coach also paid or arranged payment for prospect 2’s other two summer courses using a credit card belonging to his former brother-in-law. The tuition payments for prospect 2’s three summer courses totaled $1,672.00. Finally, during the summer of 2013, assistant coach 5 used his friend’s credit card to pay for a total of six courses for prospects 4 and 5. The tuition payments for the two prospects totaled $2,924.00.
NCAA legislation does not authorize coaching staff members to make tuition payments on behalf of prospective or enrolled student-athletes. Accordingly, the payments made or arranged by the head coach and assistant coaches 1 and 5 constituted impermissible recruiting inducements in violation of Bylaw 13.2.1. Because the three (3) coaches made or arranged these payments knowingly, their conduct was also unethical pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(c). See Pacific (concluding an assistant men’s basketball coach violated NCAA Bylaws 10 and 13 when he paid approximately $1,300.00 in tuition for a prospect’s online courses); Southern Mississippi (concluding that the former head men’s basketball coach violated Bylaws 10 and 13 when he purchased a prepaid credit card and directed his staff to use the card to pay for a student-athlete’s online course); and Mississippi (concluding that an assistant women’s basketball coach violated Bylaws 10 and 13 when she knowingly paid $630.00 for a student-athlete’s online summer courses).
As with the academic fraud violations, the coaches’ recruiting violations also caused Northern Colorado to violate eligibility, financial aid and benefits legislation. When the coaches provided prospects 1, 2, 4 and 5 with recruiting inducements, they rendered the prospects ineligible. Northern Colorado nonetheless certified the four prospects’ eligibility, permitted them to compete, and provided them with financial aid and competition-related travel expenses. In doing so, the institution violated NCAA Bylaws 14.01.1, 14.11.1 (2010-11 through 2012-13), 14.10.1 (2013-14), 12.11.1, 15.01.5, 18.104.22.168 (2010-11 through 2012-13) and 16.8.1.
Pursuant to Bylaw 19.1.1, the three coaches’ recruiting inducements and unethical conduct are Level I violations of NCAA legislation because they provided or were intended to provide a substantial or extensive recruiting advantage as well as a substantial or extensive impermissible benefit. The COI has previously concluded that the knowing provision of impermissible academic inducements or benefits constitutes a Level I violation. See Pacific (concluding a Level I violation occurred where an assistant men’s basketball coach paid for a prospect’s courses); Mississippi (concluding a Level I violation occurred where, among other violations, the assistant coach paid for a student-athlete’s courses); and Lamar University (2016) (concluding a Level I violation occurred when a head coach gave student-athletes money for textbooks and tuition).
Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 10.01.1 and 10.1 (2015-16 and 2016-17); 10.1-(d) (2015-16); 10.1-(a), 10.1-(c) and 19.2.3 (2016-17)
During the investigation in this case, two (2) assistant coaches acted unethically when they knowingly furnished false or misleading information to the enforcement staff and another acted unethically and violated the cooperative principle when he refused to participate in an interview. UNC and the NCAA enforcement staff substantially agreed on the facts and that violations occurred. Assistant coach 4 denied the allegations and assistant coaches 3 and 5 did not respond. The Panel concluded that Level I violations occurred.
Beginning in April 2016 and continuing through the present, assistant coaches 3, 4 and 5 engaged in unethical conduct that hindered the investigation in this case. Specifically, assistant coaches 3 and 4 provided false or misleading information on multiple occasions when they denied completing or arranging for the completion of coursework for ineligible prospects. This conduct violated NCAA Bylaw 10. Additionally, assistant coach 5 acted unethically and violated the cooperative principle when he refused to participate in an interview with UNC and the NCAA enforcement staff. Assistant coach 5’s conduct violated NCAA Bylaws 10 and 19.
As set forth above, Bylaws 10.01.1 and 10.1 generally require institutional staff members to conduct themselves in an honest and ethical manner. Staff members who knowingly furnish false or misleading information concerning their involvement in or knowledge of a violation act unethically pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(c). Staff members who refuse to furnish information relevant to an investigation also engage in unethical conduct under NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(a). Along those lines, NCAA Bylaw 19.2.3 places an obligation on current and former institutional staff members to cooperate fully with the enforcement staff during an investigation. Compliance with these bylaws is fundamental to the effectiveness of the membership’s infractions process.
Assistant coach 3 acted unethically when he denied completing coursework for prospect 2 during interviews on April 4, 2016, and October 18, 2016. Substantial information in the record contradicts assistant coach 3’s denials. In particular, three other credible individuals—assistant coaches 1, 2 and the graduate assistant—stated with certainty that assistant coach 3 was involved in completing the prospect’s coursework. At the hearing, assistant coach 1 stated that he personally observed assistant coach 3 working with the graduate assistant to complete the coursework. Accordingly, when assistant coach 3 denied any involvement in the academic fraud scheme to complete prospect 2’s coursework, he knowingly provided false information in violation of NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(c) (formerly 10.1-(d)).
Assistant coach 4 also acted unethically when he was untruthful during his August 29, 2016, and December 4, 2016, interviews. Specifically, he denied arranging for and paying the former Southern Mississippi graduate assistant to complete prospect 3’s coursework despite substantial information in the record demonstrating his involvement in the violation. That information includes the former graduate assistant’s admission that he completed the work at the request of assistant coach 4, who paid him to do so. Additionally, UNC found two (2) of prospect 3’s papers on assistant coach 4’s computer and both contained metadata linking the work to the former graduate assistant. When assistant coach 4 denied engaging in academic fraud, he knowingly provided false information in violation of NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(c).
Finally, from fall 2016 through the present, assistant coach 5 has failed to cooperate with the investigation and processing of this case. UNC and the NCAA enforcement staff reached out to him on multiple occasions to request an interview, but he declined. The cooperative principle is a core tenet on which the entire infractions process depends. When assistant coach 5 refused to participate in the investigation, he violated that principle and acted unethically in contravention of Bylaws 10.1-(a) and 19.2.3.
COI has consistently concluded that individuals who provide false or misleading information and/or fail to cooperate with investigations commit Level I violations. See Pacific (concluding that an assistant men’s basketball coach engaged in Level I unethical conduct when he furnished false information during his interview and refused to participate in a second interview); Mississippi (concluding that women’s basketball staff members engaged in Level I unethical conduct when they denied their involvement in academic fraud and instructed a student-athlete to delete information relevant to the investigation and give a false statement); and Georgia Southern University (2016) (concluding that a former assistant compliance director engaged in Level I unethical conduct when she developed a false story to explain her violation, persuaded a student-athlete to relay that false story during the investigation and refused to participate in further interviews). Furthermore, NCAA Bylaw 19.1.1 identifies failure to cooperate and individual unethical or dishonest conduct as examples of Level I severe breaches of conduct. Thus, consistent with Bylaw 19.1.1 and past cases, the Panel concluded the conduct of assistant coaches 3, 4 and 5 constitutes Level I violations.
Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 11.7.3, 22.214.171.124.1, 126.96.36.199, and 16.8.1 (2014-15)
In late 2014, the head coach directed two members of the men’s basketball staff—one (1) of whom was a non-coaching staff member—to engage a nonqualifier student-athlete in practice sessions during the student-athlete’s year in residence. This conduct violated NCAA legislation relating to year-in-residency requirements. UNC, the head coach and the NCAA enforcement staff substantially agreed to the facts and that violations occurred. The Panel concluded that the violations occurred and they are Level II.
From approximately August through December 2014, at the direction of the head coach, assistant coach 6 and the DOBO drove student-athlete 1, an academic nonqualifier, to a high school gym to participate in practice sessions. This conduct violated NCAA Bylaws 11, 14 and 16.
NCAA Bylaw 11 generally governs the conduct of athletics personnel. NCAA Bylaw 11.7.3 prohibits noncoaching staff members with sport-specific responsibilities, such as directors of operations, from participating in on-court or on-field activities. As it relates to eligibility, NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52.1 prohibits entering freshman student-athletes who are nonqualifiers from engaging in competition or practice during the first academic year of residence. Furthermore, pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 184.108.40.206, a nonqualifier who is ineligible for practice may not attend any practice session in any capacity, nor any meeting characterized as practice. Finally, with respect to benefits, NCAA Bylaw 16.8.1 prohibits institutions from providing ineligible student-athletes with practice and competition expenses.
The head coach admitted to directing assistant coach 6 and the DOBO to take student-athlete 1 to an off-campus gym and engage him in light activity. Pursuant to those instructions, assistant coach 6 and the DOBO drove student-athlete 1 to a local high school gym a few times a week during the fall and early winter of 2014. At the gym, they conducted 30- to 40-minute practice sessions with student-athlete 1, working with him on basic skills such as ball handling and shooting. The head coach admitted that although the workouts were low-intensity, they nonetheless constituted impermissible practice sessions under Bylaws 220.127.116.11.1 and 18.104.22.168. Furthermore, the involvement of the DOBO in these on-court activities violated Bylaw 11.7.3 because he was a non-coaching staff member. The staff members’ provision of free transportation to and from these practice sessions also constituted a benefit to student-athlete 1 in violation of Bylaw 16.8.1.
While the head coach admitted and accepted responsibility for these violations, he disagreed with the enforcement staff’s proposed violation level. The enforcement staff and Northern Colorado agreed that Level II is proper because the violations were not isolated or inadvertent, they provided or were intended to provide more than a minimal competitive or other advantage and they compromised the integrity of the NCAA Collegiate Model. The head coach, however, maintained that the panel could view the violations as Level III because they were isolated and limited in nature and did not provide more than a minimal recruiting or competitive advantage. The head coach also cited Level III cases featuring violations he claimed were analogous.
The Panel determined that the violations are Level II for three reasons. First, the violations were not isolated or limited. While the factual information does not provide a precise timeframe for the violations, the parties agree that assistant coach 6 and the DOBO conducted the practice sessions at least a few times a week over a period of several weeks. Second, the violations were not inadvertent. Both the assistant coach and the DOBO reported that the head coach directed them to take student-athlete 1 to an off-campus gym to avoid being detected. This was deliberate planning, not an inadvertent mistake. Third, the violations provided more than a minimal advantage because they helped student-athlete 1 keep his skills sharp during his academic year in residence. The practice sessions also involved a non-coaching staff member, which provided UNC with another advantage over institutions that were following NCAA rules regarding countable coaches.
Recent COI decisions support that the head coach’s conduct constitutes a Level II violation. See Mississippi Valley State University (2017) (concluding that Level II violations occurred where, among other certification violations, the institution allowed three first-year student-athletes to practice, compete and receive athletically related financial aid as nonqualifiers); Jackson State University (2016) (concluding Level II violations occurred when the head men’s tennis coach permitted a nonqualifier student-athlete to practice, compete and receive travel-related expenses during his academic year in residence); and Saint Peter’s University (2016) (concluding that Level II violations occurred when the former head men’s swimming coach permitted two nonqualifier student-athletes to practice and compete during their academic year in residence). Here, where the staff conducted multiple practice sessions with a nonqualifier student-athlete, drove him off-campus to avoid detection and involved a non-coaching staff member in the violations, a Level II classification is both appropriate and consistent with past cases.
Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 22.214.171.124 (2009-10 through 2012-13) and 126.96.36.199 (2012-13 through 2014-15)
The head coach admitted that for over four (4) years, he failed in his responsibilities to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the men’s basketball program and to monitor his staff. The head coach, UNC and the NCAA enforcement staff substantially agreed to the facts and that the violation occurred. The Panel concluded that the violation occurred and it is Level I.
Beginning in the 2009-10 academic year and continuing through 2014-15, the head coach failed to meet his responsibilities as a head coach. By personally violating NCAA legislation to secure prospects’ eligibility and creating an environment in which his staff felt pressured to do the same, the head coach failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the men’s basketball program. Furthermore, after pressuring his coaching staff to get prospects eligible, he did not monitor his staff to ensure they did so in compliance with NCAA legislation. The head coach’s conduct violated Bylaw 11.
NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52 (formerly Bylaw 184.108.40.206) establishes two (2) affirmative duties for head coaches: (1) to promote an atmosphere of rules compliance and (2) to monitor those individuals in their program who report to them. With respect to the latter, the bylaw presumes that head coaches are responsible for the actions of their staffs. A head coach may rebut this presumption by demonstrating that he or she promoted an atmosphere of compliance and monitored his or her staff.
The head coach’s personal involvement in severe Level I violations, the pressure he placed on his staff to get prospects eligible at any cost, and his indifference to foundational NCAA legislation were completely at odds with his responsibility to promote an atmosphere of compliance. The culture of a program begins with its leader. And when the head coach personally engaged in academic fraud and recruiting violations within weeks of becoming head coach, he established a culture that prioritized on-court success over rules compliance and student-athlete welfare. This culture worsened during the summer of 2012 when the head coach placed enormous pressure on his staff members to secure prospect 2’s eligibility. By informing his staff that losing prospect 2 was “not an option,” he made his staff members feel that they had to choose between breaking the rules or potentially losing their jobs. While this does not absolve the staff members of the poor choices they made, it demonstrates that rules compliance carried little, if any, significance for the head coach. This is further evidenced by assistant coach 4’s academic fraud during the summer of 2014. In a program where “get it done” is the prime directive, it is not surprising that a newly-promoted assistant coach would decide to violate fundamental NCAA rules to secure a desirable prospect’s eligibility. The head coach’s involvement in directing student-athlete 1’s impermissible practice sessions provides yet another example of his disregard for the rules. As these collective violations demonstrate—and as the head coach candidly admitted—he did not promote an atmosphere of compliance within the men’s basketball program during his tenure as head coach.
With respect to monitoring, the head coach stated at the hearing that his overriding concern was that his staff secure the eligibility of the academically deficient prospects. He acknowledged that he did not concern himself with how the staff went about this, so long as it got done. The COI has previously concluded that head coaches failed to monitor when they over-relied on staff members. See University of Louisville (2017) (concluding that the head men’s basketball coach failed to monitor when he delegated responsibility to a staff member to supervise visiting prospects in a basketball dormitory and did not check in with the staff member to verify that he was following NCAA rules and institutional policies); and Syracuse (concluding that a head coach does not meet his monitoring responsibility by simply delegating responsibility to staff members and trusting them to follow rules without ever checking up on them). Furthermore, as the head coach was himself engaged in violations and generally unconcerned with rules compliance, it is unsurprising that he did not keep tabs on his staff. In light of the head coach’s conduct and his own admissions, the panel concludes that the head coach failed to monitor his staff.
Pursuant to Bylaw 19.1.1-(e), the head coach responsibility violation is Level I because it resulted from underlying Level I violations. See Southern Mississippi (concluding that the former head men’s basketball coach committed a Level I head coach responsibility violation when he planned and implemented an academic fraud scheme); Mississippi (concluding that the former head women’s basketball coach committed a Level I head coach responsibility violation when he failed to monitor his staff, allowing their academic fraud to go undetected); and Saint Peter’s (concluding that a head swimming coach committed a Level I head coach responsibility violation where he demonstrated indifference to NCAA rules by permitting student-athletes to complete while ineligible and then influenced them to lie about it). Moreover, the head coach’s win-at-all-costs attitude and indifference to rules compliance resulted in violations that seriously undermined the integrity of the Collegiate Model. The head coach not only failed to meet the membership’s expectations for head coaches, his conduct was antithetical to those expectations. This is a paradigm Level I head coach responsibility violation.
As a result of the foregoing, the Committee penalized UNC as follows:
1. Public reprimand and censure.
2. Three years of probation from December 15, 2017, through December 14, 2020.
3. UNC shall return to the NCAA all of the monies it has received to date through conference revenue sharing for its appearance in the 2011 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Specifically, UNC shall return its portion of monies it brought into the Big Sky Conference based on its participation in the tournament, subdivided by the number of members in the conference. Future revenue distributions that are scheduled to be provided to UNC from the tournament shall be withheld by the conference and forfeited to the NCAA. A complete accounting of this financial penalty shall be included in the institution’s annual compliance reports and, after the conclusion of the probationary period, in correspondence from the conference to the Office of the Committees on Infractions.
4. UNC ended the 2016-17 men’s basketball season with its last regular season game and did not participate in postseason conference or NCAA tournament competition.
5. The men’s basketball program reduced by three the total number of permissible grants-in-aid for each of the 2017-18 and 2018-19 academic years.
6. UNC received the following recruiting restrictions: (a) UNC reduced the number of official visits in the men’s basketball program to a total of four for each of the 2016-17 and 2017-18 academic years. This is a reduction of eight off the permissible number; (b) UNC limited the number of off-campus recruiting person days in the men’s basketball program to no more than 77 days during each of the 2016-17 and 2017-18 academic years. This is a reduction of 53 off the permissible number; (c) UNC imposed an eight-week prohibition on unofficial visits during each of the 2016-17 and 2017-18 academic years; and (d) UNC prohibited the men’s basketball coaching staff from initiating telephone calls, contact via social media and written correspondence with prospects for a seven-week period during each of the 2016-17 and 2017-18 academic years.
7. The head coach received a six-year show cause penalty.
8. Assistant coach 1 received a three-year show cause penalty.
9. Assistant coach 2 received a three-year show cause penalty.
10. Assistant coach 3 received a five-year show cause penalty.
11. Assistant coach 4 received a four-year show cause penalty.
12. Assistant coach 5 received a five-year show cause penalty.
13. The graduate assistant received a three-year show cause penalty.
14. Pursuant to former Bylaw 19.5.2-(h) and Bylaw 220.127.116.11, UNC shall vacate all regular season and conference tournament records and participation in which the ineligible student-athletes competed from the time they became ineligible through the time they were reinstated as eligible for competition. This order of vacation includes all regular season competition and conference tournaments. Further, if any of the ineligible student-athletes participated in NCAA postseason competition at any time they were ineligible, the institution’s participation in the postseason shall be vacated.
For any questions, feel free to contact Christian Dennie at email@example.com.