The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee”) recently issued its findings and found that University of Oregon (“Oregon”) committed major violations of NCAA legislation. At issue were allegations of violations of NCAA bylaws concerning the football program’s use of multiple recruiting/scouting services over a three-year period and other recruiting violations, including impermissible benefits provided to a prospective student-athlete and impermissible telephone calls placed to prospective student-athletes, their family members and high school coaches over a four-year period. Additionally, for nearly two years the football program allowed a staff member to engage in recruiting activities and therefore exceeded the permissible limit on countable coaches.
The Committee found that Oregon committed the following violations of NCAA legislation:
The recruiting service provider engaged in impermissible recruiting activity in violation of NCAA Bylaws 13.01.4, 13.02.1.4, 22.214.171.124, 126.96.36.199-(a), 188.8.131.52.1, 13.2.1, 184.108.40.206-(b), 220.127.116.11-(e), and 18.104.22.168-(h).
The recruiting violations involved impermissible recruiting assistance rendered by a recruiting service provider. This assistance took the form of recommending certain football prospective student-athletes that the program should evaluate, advising which prospects the institution would be unlikely to recruit successfully because the prospects’ interests were elsewhere, advising which high schools the program should visit and, in May 2008, accompanying an assistant football coach during visits to high schools for evaluation purposes. Further, the recruiting service provider made impermissible telephone calls on behalf of the institution and engaged in off-campus contacts with nine prospects and provided recruiting inducements to one of the nine prospects. This impermissible activity arose from the retention of the recruiting service provider’s business by the Oregon football program.
The recruiting service provider was directly involved in assisting the Oregon football program in the recruitment of prospective student-athletes and, in that process, became a representative of the institution’s athletics interests per NCAA Bylaw 13.02.14-(c). Because the recruiting service provider was able to develop relationship with prospects and to glean information on the front end of the recruitment process as to which individual would be controlling access to and influencing the prospect, the recruiting service provider delivered valuable information to the institution that afforded a recruiting advantage. In an effort to assist Oregon in the recruitment of prospective student-athletes and in the context of the relationships he developed, the recruiting service provider had telephonic and in-person contact with nine football prospective student-athletes. Such activity by an athletics representative is prohibited under NCAA bylaws. In some instances, the former assistant director of operation not only was aware of the recruiting service provider’s activity relative to these prospects, but also solicited the recruiting service provider’s involvement when using him as a conduit for communications.
The recruiting service provider also encouraged prospects to take official visits to the institution’s campus. The recruiting service provider made several trips to Oregon’s campus at his own expense. On one of those occasions, at a December 3, 2009, home football contest, the recruiting service provider had impermissible contact with two prospects who were attending the game as part of their official visits to Oregon’s campus. The recruiting service provider also had in-person and telephonic contact with a prospect and, at the request of the football staff members, provided assistance to the prospect in registering for the SAT.
The recruiting service provider gave a prospect cash, cost-free lodging and meals during the period from 2008 through 2010, which is in violation of NCAA bylaws barring athletics representatives from providing cash and other benefits to prospective student-athletes.
Oregon failed to comply with recruiting service legislation in violation of NCAA bylaw 13.14.3-(c) (2010-11 NCAA Division I Manual)
The impermissible scouting/recruiting service at issue in this violation was the business of recruiting service provider 1. Oregon subscribed to this service, and the service failed to comply with the legislative requirement that recruiting services disseminate information (i.e., reports, profiles) about prospective student-athletes at least four times per calendar year.
On January 16, 2010, NCAA legislation changed to require quarterly reports from recruiting/scouting services. Because recruiting service 1 did not provide quarterly reports until February 22, 2011, over a year after the legislative change, a violation of NCAA legislation occurred.
Three noncoaching staff members placed ore received impermissible recruiting telephone calls in violation of NCAA Bylaws 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199.1
During the period from 2007 through early 2011, three noncoaching staff members, who were not permitted to make telephone calls of a recruiting nature, placed or received numerous impermissible recruiting-related telephone calls in violation of NCAA legislation.
During a four-year period, from 2007 through early 2011, three noncoaching staff members placed or received approximately 730 impermissible recruiting telephone calls. The noncoaching staff members stated that they did not realize that these calls would be considered recruiting related and described the calls as “logistical.” Because NCAA legislation requires that all telephone calls made to a prospective student-athlete (or to the prospective student-athlete’s parents, legal guardians or coaches) must have been made by the former head coach or one or more of the assistant coaches, the institution violated NCAA recruiting rules.
Oregon exceeded coaching staff limitations in violation of NCAA Bylaw 11.7.2
During the period from 2009 through 2011, Oregon’s football program exceeded the permissible limit on the number of coaches by one when the former assistant director of football operations (a noncoaching sport-specific former staff member who was not considered a countable coach by Oregon) engaged in recruiting activities as set forth above.
The former assistant director of operations involved the recruiting service provider in the recruitment of several football prospective student-athletes. Further, he engaged in recruiting-related telephone calls. Because the former assistant director of operations facilitated the recruiting service provider’s involvement in recruiting and made recruiting-related telephone calls, he is considered to have been a countable coach. As a result, Oregon exceeded the football coaching staff limit by one.
The former head coach failed to monitor the football program in violation of NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52
From 2009 through 2011, the scope and nature of the violations in this case demonstrate that the head football coach failed to monitor: 1) his football staff related to the recruiting activities of the recruiting service provider, a representative of Oregon’s athletics interests; 2) the football program’s use of a recruiting service that did not always comply with NCAA legislation; and 3) the duties and activities of the assistant director of operations.
Oregon failed to monitor the football program in violation of NCAA Constitution 2.8.1
From 2008 through 2011, Oregon failed to monitor: 1) the football program’s use of a recruiting or scouting service; 2) the provision of institutional athletics apparel; and 3) telephone calls between prospective student-athletes, their parents or high school coaches and noncoaching staff members with sport-specific responsibilities.
The Committee stated that simply alerting coaches that rules must be followed is not enough; effective compliance demands ongoing and specific rules education. Further, effective monitoring requires checking to see whether compliance with the rules has occurred. Oregon should have followed up with the recruiting service provider to see that the form it had sent to him was properly completed and filed. Moreover, Oregon should have checked with the football staff to see that the recruiting service provider was submitting quarterly reports. No such follow-up was done until almost a year after the legislation was modified.
The former assistant director of operations sent a box of Oregon athletics apparel to the recruiting service provider. Later, when he saw a prospect on YouTube wearing an Oregon T-shirt not available for purchase, he had “concerns” about where the prospect obtained the T-shirt. The former assistant director of operations was obligated under NCAA rules to report his concerns about the T-shirt to a compliance or athletics administrator.
The athletics department should have had a rules-education session tailored directly for the football operations staff and a monitoring system for the football operation staff’s telephone calls. There was a failure by Oregon to designate someone responsible for educating and monitoring the football operations staff, including their phone calls. These circumstances contributed to the impermissible phone calls and exceeding football coaching staff limitations violations.
As a result of the aforementioned violations, the Committee penalized Oregon as follows:
1. Public reprimand and censure.
2. Three years of probation from June 26, 2013 through June 25, 2016.
3. The number of initial athletically related financial aid awards in football that are countable shall be reduced by one (i.e., from 25 to 24) during 2012-13 and 2013-14.
4. The number of total athletically related financial aid awards in football shall be reduced by one (i.e., from 85 to 84) during 2012-13, 2013-14, and 2014-15.
5. Official paid visits in football shall be limited to 37 (from 56) for 2013-14, 2014-15, and 2015-16.
6. The permissible number of football evaluation days shall be limited to 36 (from 42) in the fall of 2013, 2014, and 2015. The permissible number of football evaluation days shall be limited to 144 (from 168) in the spring of 2014, 2015, and 2016.
7. A ban on the subscription to recruiting services during the period of probation.
8. The recruiting service provider shall be disassociated by Oregon’s athletics programs.
9. The former head coach received an 18 month show-cause penalty.
10. The former assistant director of operations received a one year show-cause penalty.