The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee” or “Panel”) recently issued its findings and found that the University of Oregon (“UO” or “Institution”) committed violations of NCAA legislation. This case involved largely unrelated violations in four marquee sport programs at the UO: men’s basketball, women’s basketball, women’s track and field, and football. The men’s and women’s basketball violations centered on impermissible coaching activity and provided the underlying support for head coach responsibility violations in both programs. In women’s track and field, the sole violation concerned academic misconduct. Finally, in football, the impermissible use of personalized recruiting aids resulted in a recruiting inducement violation.
The Committee concluded that UO committed the following violations:
Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 18.104.22.168.1.1.1 and 11.7.4 (2013-14); 11.7.3 and 11.7.6 (2013-14 through 2016-17); 13.11.1 (2015-16); 22.214.171.124 (2015-16 and 2016-17); and 126.96.36.199.1 (2016-17)
Over a period of four years, non-coaching staff members in the men’s and women’s basketball programs engaged in impermissible coaching activities, which caused their respective programs to exceed legislated limits on countable coaches. In the men’s basketball program, this conduct centered around the director of basketball operations (“DOBO”) and occurred from 2013 through 2017. The women’s basketball conduct involved the women’s assistant strength coach and took place during the 2016-17 academic year. Oregon, the enforcement staff and the DOBO substantially agreed to the facts and that those facts constitute violations of NCAA legislation. The Panel concluded that Level II violations occurred.
A. The men’s basketball DOBO engaged in impermissible coaching activity when he observed and participated in student-athletes’ voluntary workouts, both on- and off-campus, and when he refereed during practices.
From 2013 through 2017, the DOBO, a non-coaching staff member, took part in three categories of activity that are impermissible for directors of operations: (1) observing and participating in student-athletes’ voluntary basketball workouts; (2) observing a student-athlete’s voluntary conditioning workouts at a local high school track; and (3) serving as a referee during team practices. By engaging in these activities, the DOBO essentially functioned as a fifth coach—a competitive advantage for the men’s basketball program. The DOBO’s conduct constituted impermissible coaching activity under NCAA Bylaw 11. Additionally, because two of the student-athletes whose workouts he participated in were not yet enrolled, some of these activities were impermissible tryouts under NCAA Bylaw 13.
NCAA Bylaw 11 governs the conduct and ethics of athletics personnel. Pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 11.7.3, a noncoaching staff member with sport-specific responsibilities—such as a director of operations—may not participate in on-court activities and is prohibited from participating with or observing student-athletes who are engaged in unorganized voluntary athletically related activities. NCAA Bylaw 11.7.6 limits the number of coaches for each sport and establishes that a men’s basketball team can have no more than four coaches. Under NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52, an institutional staff member must count against this coaching limit if, among other things, he provides technical or tactical instruction to a student-athlete at any time. NCAA Bylaw 13 governs recruiting and, through Bylaw 13.11.1., prohibits member institutions from conducting any physical activity (such as a practice session or tryout) at which one or more prospects demonstrate or display their athletics abilities.
The DOBO’s interactions with men’s basketball student-athletes frequently fell outside the clear lines NCAA legislation draws around the activities of operations directors. As a non-coaching staff member with sport-specific responsibilities, the DOBO violated NCAA Bylaw 11.7.3 merely by observing student-athletes’ voluntary workouts. By actively participating in those workouts, he crossed the line even further, providing the kind of substantive instruction only coaches are permitted to give. Although he knew it was impermissible to do so, the DOBO involved himself in student-athletes’ voluntary workouts on at least 64 occasions, including rebounding and passing, providing resistance during drills, holding a shooting stick and serving as a defender while student-athletes attacked the basket. The DOBO’s substantive participation in the student-athletes’ on-court activities violated NCAA Bylaw 11.7.3 and rendered him a countable coach under NCAA Bylaw 184.108.40.206. Furthermore, because two of the student-athletes were not yet enrolled on two of these occasions, these activities constituted an impermissible tryout in violation of NCAA Bylaw 13.11.1.
Less frequent but still concerning is the DOBO’s involvement in student-athlete 1’s workouts at a local track and his refereeing activity. With respect to the former, the DOBO violated NCAA Bylaw 11.7.3 when, on three occasions, he observed student-athlete 1’s conditioning workouts at the track and participated in timing the student-athlete’s runs. The Panel was troubled that the DOBO engaged in these activities after he had served a suspension for being involved in basketball workouts with the same student-athlete. As it relates to refereeing, the Panel appreciated that the DOBO thought he had approval from compliance to engage in this activity. But Bylaw 11 clearly prohibits DOBO involvement in all on-court activities. The July 24, 2014, educational column further clarified that this prohibition specifically applies to refereeing. Thus, the DOBO’s participation in refereeing over a span of approximately three-and-one-half years violated NCAA Bylaw 11.7.3.
Due to the competitive advantage this type of activity confers, the COI has previously concluded that NCAA Bylaw 11 violations occur when non-coaching staff members engage in on-court or on-field activities. See University of Utah (2018) (concluding that NCAA Bylaw 11 violations occurred when a head baseball coach instructed his director of operations to engage in on-field instruction and other impermissible activities, such as throwing batting practice and hitting baseballs for pitchers’ fielding drills); University of Northern Colorado (2017) (concluding a NCAA Bylaw 11 violation occurred when, at the direction of the head men’s basketball coach, a director of operations conducted impermissible on-court activities with an academic non-qualifier); and University of Hawaii at Manoa (2015) (concluding NCAA Bylaw 11 violations occurred when a men’s basketball director of operations presented information during scouting sessions, rebounded for student-athletes and offered them on-court instruction during practice). The DOBO’s conduct in this case aligns with the type of conduct that consistently gives rise to NCAA Bylaw 11 violations.
Pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 19.1.2, the Panel concluded that the impermissible coaching and tryout violations are Level II. When viewed individually, each instance of impermissible coaching activity is relatively minor. But the cumulative effect of the violations rises to Level II because they gave UO more than a minimal competitive advantage over institutions that complied with the rules regarding coaching staff limits. By participating in drills and other on-court activities, the DOBO effectively gave UO the advantage of a fifth member of the coaching staff. This is also consistent with the cases cited above, all of which concluded that the coaching violations were Level II.
B. The women’s basketball assistant strength coach engaged in impermissible coaching activity when he participated in student-athletes’ voluntary basketball workouts and provided instruction during drills.
From December 2016 through April 2017, the women’s basketball assistant strength coach also gave his program the competitive advantage of an extra coach when he participated in student-athletes’ voluntary workouts and stepped into drills during regularly scheduled practice sessions. This conduct constituted impermissible coaching activity under NCAA Bylaw 11 and caused the women’s basketball program to exceed its numerical limitation of four coaches.
As in men’s basketball, NCAA Bylaws 11.7.6 and 220.127.116.11 set a limit of four coaches for a women’s basketball team and define the activity that renders a staff member a countable coach. Specific to this allegation, NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168.1 limits the activities in which a strength and conditioning coach may engage. The bylaw states that a strength and conditioning coach can conduct flexibility, warm-up and physical conditioning activities prior to any game and prior to or during any practice or other organized activities without being included in the limitations on number of coaches. Any activities beyond this will render a strength and conditioning coach a countable coach for purposes of NCAA Bylaw 11.7.6.
The assistant strength coach engaged in two types of impermissible coaching activity: (1) participation in basketball-related activities during voluntary workouts; and (2) engaging in drills and providing instruction during regularly scheduled practices. First, on at least five occasions, the assistant strength coach participated in student-athletes’ voluntary workouts by rebounding and demonstrating basketball moves. These basketball-related activities went beyond the allowable flexibility, warm-up and conditioning activities permitted by NCAA Bylaw 22.214.171.124.1 and thus violated that bylaw. Additionally, the assistant strength coach participated in on-court, basketball-related activities during and after practice on 31 occasions. This included stepping into practice drills at the head coach’s request and, on three occasions, providing instruction to student-athletes during drills. This conduct also violated NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199.1. Furthermore, when the assistant strength coach became substantively involved in student-athletes’ workouts and provided instruction, his conduct caused the women’s basketball program to exceed the limit of four coaches in violation of NCAA Bylaws 188.8.131.52 and 11.7.6.
Like the DOBO’s conduct, the Panel concluded that the assistant strength and conditioning coach’s conduct resulted in Level II violations of NCAA legislation. By stepping into drills and providing instruction, the assistant strength coach was effectively functioning as a fifth coach for the women’s basketball team. The head coach acknowledged that the assistant strength coach was providing instruction. Pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 19.1.2, this provided more than a minimal competitive advantage for the women’s basketball program. Moreover, the frequency with which the assistant strength coach engaged in these activities elevates the conduct to a Level II violation. As discussed above, the Committee has concluded in previous cases that coaching activity by non-coaching staff members constitutes Level II violations of NCAA Bylaw 11.12.
Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 184.108.40.206 (2015-16 and 2016-17)
During 2016 and 2017, both the head men’s basketball coach and the head women’s basketball coach failed to rebut the presumption of responsibility for the violations in their programs. Both head coaches failed in their responsibilities to monitor staff members who reported to them. Additionally, the head women’s coach, through his involvement in the underlying violations, failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program. The Institution and both head coaches disputed these allegations. The Panel concluded that both head coaches committed Level II violations.
A. The head men’s basketball coach violated NCAA head coach responsibility legislation when he failed to monitor the DOBO’s interactions with student-athletes.
From May 2016 through May 2017, the head men’s basketball coach failed to meet his responsibilities as the head of his program as it related to monitoring his staff. He delegated authority to the DOBO, particularly while traveling, and did not ask sufficient questions to detect the multiple, unconcealed instances of impermissible coaching activity that occurred in his program. The head coach’s failure to monitor the DOBO violated NCAA Bylaw 11 head coach responsibility legislation.
NCAA Bylaw 220.127.116.11 establishes two 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 staff members. A head coach may rebut this presumption by demonstrating that he or she promoted an atmosphere of compliance and monitored his or her staff.
Here, the head coach failed to rebut the presumption because he did not demonstrate that he monitored the DOBO. While the head coach was away from campus on recruiting trips, he trusted the DOBO and other staff members to monitor the program and follow the rules. In the DOBO’s case, that did not happen. He became too comfortable interacting with student-athletes and knowingly violated NCAA legislation by involving himself in their workouts. This happened on multiple occasions—at least 64 instances—and completely in the open. Had the head coach checked in with the DOBO during and after these trips and asked appropriate questions, he may have detected these violations. In fact, the DOBO stated during the hearing that he would have told the truth if the head coach had asked him about his interactions with student-athletes.
It was particularly incumbent upon the head coach to ask these questions in light of the DOBO’s past involvement with student-athlete workouts in 2011-12. The head coach was aware that the DOBO had previously engaged in impermissible coaching activity with a student-athlete, yet he admitted that he performed no additional monitoring of the DOBO after that incident. Active follow-up and heightened monitoring in that situation may have prevented future violations.
This head coach responsibility violation illustrates the dangers that are present when a head coach becomes too complacent with longstanding and trusted staff members. At the infractions hearing, the head coach relied on his previous track record of compliance. But this is not enough to overcome the presumption of responsibility under NCAA Bylaw 11. Indeed, even a coach with a strong record of compliance can make mistakes, including placing too much trust in staff members to follow the rules. The panel recognizes the head coach’s promotion of an atmosphere of compliance, which is particularly evident in his detection and self-reporting of the DOBO’s refereeing violation and his imposition of meaningful disciplinary action for the DOBO. But responsibility does not end there. In failing to monitor other aspects of the DOBO’s interactions with student-athletes, the head coach did not meet all his responsibilities under NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168.
The Committee has previously concluded that head coaches failed to monitor when they over-relied on staff members. See California State University, Sacramento (2018) (concluding that the head men’s tennis coach did not meet his monitoring responsibility when he failed to supervise his staff member’s recruiting efforts and involvement in arranging housing for incoming student-athletes); and Syracuse University (2015) (concluding that a head coach does not meet his monitoring responsibility by delegating duties to staff members and trusting them to follow rules without checking up on them). As these cases illustrate, head coaches must “trust but verify” when it comes to monitoring their staff members. And for purposes of head coach responsibility, verifying means actively performing steps to monitor.
Pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 19.1.2-(e), the head coach responsibility violation is Level II because it resulted from underlying Level II violations. See Utah (concluding a Level II head coach responsibility violation occurred when the head baseball coach instructed and permitted his operations director to engage in impermissible coaching activity); Prairie View A&M University (2018) (concluding a Level II head coach responsibility violation occurred when the head men’s basketball coach knew his assistant coach was helping a student-athlete with payment for a course, but turned a blind eye to the conduct); and Hawaii at Manoa (concluding a Level II head coach responsibility violation occurred when the head men’s basketball coach permitted and instructed an operations director to engage in coaching activities). Thus, as the underlying violations involving the DOBO are Level II, the head coach’s NCAA Bylaw 22.214.171.124 violation is likewise Level II.
B. The head women’s basketball coach violated NCAA head coach responsibility legislation through his personal involvement in the impermissible coaching violations and by failing to monitor his staff.
From December 2016 through April 2017, the head women’s basketball coach failed to meet his NCAA Bylaw 11 responsibilities as the leader of his program. Specifically, he invited and permitted the women’s assistant strength and conditioning coach to participate in on-court basketball-related activity with student-athletes that crossed the line into impermissible coaching activity. His knowledge of and participation in the violations demonstrates that he neither promoted an atmosphere of compliance nor monitored his staff. This violated NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199.
For a period of approximately five months, the women’s assistant strength coach engaged in impermissible coaching activity that the head couch either should have been aware of, was aware of, and/or actively encouraged. First, the head coach should have been aware that the assistant strength coach was impermissibly participating in student-athletes’ voluntary workouts. He stated that he had no specific awareness of this activity, but “kind of assumed” it was happening. His failure to follow up, confirm his assumptions and take action to stop the violations, demonstrates a failure to take his compliance duties seriously and to actively monitor his staff.
Second, the head coach was aware of—and actively encouraged—the assistant strength coach’s participation in basketball drills during practice. The head coach explained that he was short on staff during the time period of these violations and turned to the assistant strength coach as a person with whom the team had grown comfortable. He admitted, however, that he knew this was impermissible. Notably, he also acknowledged that he did not allow the assistant strength coach to engage in these activities in public settings, such as during team travel or open practices during the NCAA tournament. The head coach’s efforts to conceal these activities during public practices demonstrate his awareness of their impermissibility. In short, through his active and knowing involvement in these violations, the head coach demonstrated a failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.
Like the head men’s basketball coach, the head women’s coach has a long track record of compliance. The panel appreciates his candor at the hearing and his admission to lapses in judgment. But the head coach’s disregard for the rules governing impermissible coaching activity did not set the proper tone for compliance in his program. As the COI has made clear in its decisions, compliance starts at the top. A head coach’s failure to follow the rules himself does not foster a positive atmosphere for compliance from the rest of the staff. See Northern Colorado (stating that “[t]he culture of a program begins with its leader” and concluding that the head men’s basketball coach did not promote a culture of compliance when he was actively involved in academic misconduct violations).
Here again, pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 19.1.2-(e), the head coach responsibility violation is Level II because it resulted from underlying Level II conduct. This is also consistent with previous cases involving conduct of a similar scope and nature.
Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 10.01.1, 10.1 and 10.1-(b) (2015-16)
During the 2016 winter quarter, the adjunct instructor knowingly arranged for a women’s track and field student-athlete to receive unearned academic credit in order to maintain eligibility for competition. Oregon, the instructor and the enforcement staff substantially agreed to the facts but disagreed as to whether those facts constitute a violation of NCAA legislation. The Panel concluded that the adjunct instructor committed a Level II violation.
In March 2016, the adjunct instructor changed student-athlete 2’s final grade from an F to a B- after she informed the instructor she needed a higher grade to maintain her eligibility. The grade change was contingent on the student-athlete’s promise to retake the course during the summer term. Oregon used the unearned B- to certify student-athlete 2’s eligibility for competition and practice during spring 2016. She subsequently competed in four contests while ineligible. Oregon and the instructor agreed that the grade change violated the institution’s grading policy. Based on these facts and the interpretive guidance provided in this case, the panel concludes that the adjunct instructor’s conduct constitutes academic misconduct pursuant to Bylaw 10.1-(b).
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 an institution’s athletics program to act with honesty and sportsmanship at all times. Bylaw 10.1 identifies several categories of unethical conduct, including knowing involvement in arranging for fraudulent academic credit or false transcripts for a student-athlete (NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(b)). An April 16, 2014, Official Interpretation of NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(b) explains that an institution has the authority to determine whether any academic misconduct has occurred consistent with its own policies applicable to all students. An April 16, 2014, Educational Column describes academic misconduct as an “umbrella term” that encompasses violations of an institution’s policies related to academic honesty and integrity.
If an institution determines that academic misconduct occurred pursuant to its own policies, it is required to report a violation of NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(b) in the following circumstances: (1) if an institutional staff member is involved in arranging fraudulent academic credit or false transcripts; (2) if a prospective or enrolled student-athlete is involved in arranging fraudulent academic credit or false transcripts; or (3) if the academic misconduct results in an erroneous declaration of eligibility and the student-athlete subsequently competes for the institution.
In applying NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(b) to the facts of this case, the panel looked to the interpretations provided throughout the case. Within Division I, the NCAA Constitution empowers independent membership bodies—specifically, the Interpretations Committee and the Legislative Committee—with the authority to make interpretations of the constitution and bylaws. See NCAA Constitution 5.2.5 and 5.4.1. These bodies make official interpretations of general applicability and case-specific interpretations. Structurally and historically, official interpretations are binding on the COI to the extent they are applicable to the facts of the case. Case-specific interpretations are binding when they are based on the same operative set of facts.
Here, the interpretive bodies made case-specific interpretations in which they determined that grading policies are clearly and inherently related to academic integrity. Furthermore, they stated that an institution must report a NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(b) violation if it determines that the conduct at issue violated any policy related to academic integrity. According to these bodies, this is so even if the Institution determined that the conduct did not violate its academic misconduct policy. They also determined that for purposes of NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(b), there is no substantive distinction between a grading policy and grading guidelines. These interpretations were based on the facts identified and framed by the Panel in its July 5, 2018, post-hearing interpretation request. No new facts have come to light since then. Accordingly, the Panel followed the case-specific interpretations and conclude that Oregon’s grading policy is inherently part of its academic misconduct policy for purposes of NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(b).
The adjunct instructor’s conduct therefore meets the standard for academic misconduct under Bylaw 10.-1(b): an institutional staff member awarded a student-athlete unearned academic credit that violated an academically-related institutional policy and resulted in the student-athlete’s erroneous certification and subsequent ineligible competition. Thus, based on the interpretive guidance in this case, the panel concludes that the adjunct instructor violated NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(b) when he changed student-athlete 2’s final grade from an F to a B- in contravention of the institution’s grading policy.
The Committee’s decision in University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2017) does not dictate a different result, as Oregon has argued. According to UO, UNC demonstrates that the COI cannot conclude academic misconduct occurred when the institution has not made that determination under its own policies. But two critical facts distinguish UNC, which involved academically deficient “paper courses” offered to student-athletes and non-student-athletes alike over a period of 18 years. First, UNC maintained that its institutional policies in place at the time did not prohibit such courses. Accordingly, the institution did not adjudicate the underlying conduct or conclude that any policy violations occurred. Here, by contrast, UO determined that the adjunct instructor’s grade change violated the institution’s grading policy. Second, because UNC took the position that the courses were permissible, the institution honored the grades and credit hours awarded in the courses. UO, however, rescinded student-athlete 2’s grade and revoked her diploma.
Stated simply, when an institution determines an academically-related policy has been violated, the COI will defer to that determination. See Syracuse (concluding a NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(b) violation occurred when the institution determined a DOBO violated its academic integrity policy by re-writing a student-athlete’s paper); and Weber State University (2014) (concluding a violation of NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(b) occurred when a math instructor used football student-athletes’ login information to take their online quizzes and exams and the institution determined this conduct violated its academic integrity policy). Likewise, when an institution determines an academically-related policy has not been violated or there is no applicable policy that reaches the conduct, the COI will defer to that determination with respect to academic misconduct. See UNC. Here, in contrast, Oregon determined the adjunct instructor’s conduct violated the institution’s grading policy. Under the case-specific interpretations from the AMA staff and interpretive committees, this determination supports a NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(b) academic misconduct violation. Deference to the institution’s determination is consistent with the cases cited above.
Although NCAA Bylaw 19.1.1 lists academic misconduct as an example of a Level I violation, the panel concludes the violation in this case is Level II due to its limited scope. It was a one-time grade change that involved only the instructor and student-athlete 2 and occurred without the knowledge of any athletics staff members. It was a far cry from the more extensive and orchestrated academic fraud schemes the Committee has designated as Level I in past cases. See Northern Colorado (concluding Level I academic misconduct violations occurred when the head men’s basketball coach and four of his staff members completed online coursework for multiple prospects); University of Mississippi (2016) (concluding that Level I academic misconduct violations occurred when the DOBO and assistant basketball coach completed coursework for two prospects in five online courses); and University of Southern Mississippi (2016) (concluding Level I academic misconduct violations occurred when members of the men’s basketball staff completed over sixty credit hours of coursework for seven prospects). The violation here is not so limited, however, as to be Level III. It was not inadvertent—the adjunct instructor knew he was making an accommodation in order to keep student-athlete 2 eligible for competition. Furthermore, the violation provided more than a minimal competitive advantage because it allowed student-athlete 2 to compete in four contests while ineligible. Thus, pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 19.1.2, the Panel concluded the instructor’s academic misconduct violation is Level II.
The Panel recognized that this decision might raise some questions among the membership regarding tensions between the principle of institutional academic autonomy and the bylaw interpretation on the particular facts of this case. Although this may be the final case processed and decided under the former NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(b) academic misconduct legislation, the current Bylaw 14 construct does not resolve these tensions. This issue deserves careful review by the membership to ensure there is clear guidance going forward.
Finally, the panel notes that this case highlights some challenges associated with the interpretive process that may also warrant review by the membership. The COI respects the interpretive authority and expertise of the interpretive committees and the AMA staff. There must also be sufficient room, however, for the COI to carry out its NCAA Bylaw 19.3.6 adjudicative authority based on the full record before it and the larger context of the case. Infractions hearings should focus on the panel’s fact-finding and determining how the bylaws apply to the facts rather than decisions made during the interpretive process based on a limited set of facts. The panel is aware that the membership is currently reviewing the interpretive process and suggests that this review include consideration of the interpretive issues highlighted by this case.
Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 188.8.131.52.3, 184.108.40.206 and 13.7.3 (2016-17)
During fall 2016, the football program violated NCAA recruiting legislation when it arranged impermissible personalized recruiting aids for visiting prospects. Oregon and the enforcement staff substantially agreed to the facts and that a violation occurred. The panel agrees with the parties and concludes that the violation is Level II.
From August through November 2016, the football program gained a recruiting advantage when it used an electronic reader board to display names, statistics and other personalized information for 36 prospects during their unofficial and official paid visits to campus. This conduct violated NCAA Bylaw 13 recruiting legislation.
NCAA Bylaw 13.4 regulates recruiting materials, including audio and video materials. Under NCAA Bylaw 220.127.116.11.3, an institution may produce a computer-generated recruiting presentation for a prospect, but the presentation may not be personalized to include the prospect’s name, picture or likeness. Relatedly, NCAA Bylaws 18.104.22.168 and 13.7.3 prohibit the display of personalized recruiting aids in any areas a prospect may visit during official and unofficial visits, respectively.
UO agreed that the football program’s use of an electronic reader board to display personalized information about prospects violated NCAA Bylaw 13. The football program acted appropriately in seeking advice from the compliance staff before using the reader board in this manner. However, the chief compliance officer erred in approving the practice, which resulted in violations. Specifically, in creating a display that included names, statistics and highlight videos for 36 prospects, the institution violated NCAA Bylaw 22.214.171.124.3. Furthermore, by displaying this information in the football equipment area for prospects to see during their official and unofficial visits, the institution violated NCAA Bylaws 126.96.36.199 and 13.7.3. The Committee has previously concluded that Bylaw 13 violations occur when institutions utilize personalized recruiting materials. See University of Mississippi (2018) (concluding the football program’s creation and use of personalized recruiting videos over three official visit weekends violated NCAA Bylaw 13).
Consistent with NCAA Bylaw 19.1.2, the institution’s use of this personalized recruiting aid constitutes a Level II violation of NCAA legislation because it provided or was intended to provide more than a minimal but less than a substantial recruiting advantage. Institutions that engage in impermissible personal contacts with prospects gain a recruiting advantage over institutions that abide by the rules. See Southern Methodist University (2015) (concluding Level II violations occurred when a head men’s golf coach sent impermissible text messages to prospects and observing that “[e]arly and regular personal contacts with prospects and their families are vital aspects of the recruiting process in any sport”). Furthermore, the institution used the electronic reader board as a personalized recruiting aid over a period of approximately four months, displaying prospects’ personalized information on 36 occasions. Thus, the violations were not isolated or limited in nature and are appropriately designated as Level II. See Mississippi (2016) (concluding the football program’s use of personalized recruiting videos over three official visit weekends constituted an isolated and limited Level III violation).
Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 188.8.131.52, 11.7.6 and 184.108.40.206.1 (2016-17)
From December 2016 through May 2017, the men’s basketball program permitted the men’s assistant strength coach to participate in on-court basketball-related activities with the men’s basketball team, which caused the institution to exceed the numerical limitation of four basketball coaches. Unlike the violation involving the women’s assistant strength and conditioning coach, the panel concludes that this violation is Level III because it was more limited in scope and provided no more than a minimal competitive advantage. Specifically, there were significantly fewer instances of impermissible coaching activity for the men’s assistant strength coach and the activity was less substantive in nature.
Aggravating and Mitigating Factors in accordance with NCAA Bylaws 19.9.3 and 19.9.4
Aggravating Factors for the Institution
19.9.3-(b): A history of Level I, Level II or major violations by the institution;
19.9.3-(g): Multiple Level II violations by the institution;
19.9.3-(h): Persons of authority condoned, participated in or negligently disregarded the violation or related wrongful conduct;
19.9.3-(k): A pattern of noncompliance with the sport program(s) involved; and
19.9.3-(m): Intentional, willful or blatant disregard for the NCAA constitution and bylaws.
Mitigating Factors for the Institution
19.9.4-(a): Prompt self-detection and self-disclosure of the violations;
19.9.4-(b): Prompt acknowledgment of the violation, acceptance of responsibility and imposition of meaningful corrective measures and/or penalties;
19.9.4-(d): An established history of self-reporting Level III or secondary violations; and
19.9.4-(i): Other factors warranting a lower penalty range.
Aggravating Factors for the Men’s Basketball DOBO
19.9.3-(h): Persons of authority condoned, participated in or negligently disregarded the violation or related wrongful conduct; and
19.9.3-(m): Intentional, willful or blatant disregard for the NCAA constitution and bylaws.
Mitigating Factor for the Men’s Basketball DOBO
19.9.4-(h): The absence of prior conclusions of Level I, Level II or major violations committed by the DOBO.
Aggravating Factor for the Head Men’s Basketball Coach
19.9.3-(k): A pattern of noncompliance within the sport program involved.
Mitigating Factors for the Head Men’s Basketball Coach
19.9.4-(b): Prompt acknowledgement of the violation and acceptance of responsibility; and
19.9.4-(h): The absence of prior conclusions of Level I, Level II or major violations committed by the head men’s coach
Aggravating Factors for the Head Women’s Basketball Coach
19.9.3-(h): Persons of authority condoned, participated in or negligently disregarded the violation or related wrongful conduct.
Mitigating Factors for the Head Women’s Basketball Coach
19.9.4-(h): The absence of prior conclusions of Level I, Level II or major violations committed by the head women’s coach.
Aggravating Factors for the Adjunct Instructor
Mitigating Factors for the Adjunct Instructor
19.9.4-(b): Prompt acknowledgement of the violation and acceptance of responsibility; and
19.9.4-(h): The absence of prior conclusions of Level I, Level II or major violations.
As a result of the foregoing, the Committee penalized UO as follows: