The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee”) recently issued its findings and found that the University of Tennessee—Chattanooga (“Chattanooga”) committed major violations of NCAA legislation. The case primarily pertains to 137 impermissible text messages sent to prospective student-athletes and 74 impermissible telephone calls. After the investigation concluded the case was submitted to the Committee through the summary disposition process, which is an alternative to a formal hearing before the Committee that may be utilized when the NCAA enforcement staff, the member institution, and involved individuals agree to the facts of an infractions case and that those facts constitute major violations of NCAA legislation.
The violations at issue were detected as a result of Chattanooga’s implementation of a new telephone monitoring system in August 2008. Subsequently, in 2009, Chattanooga’s compliance staff conducted an audit of the football program’s communications with prospective student-athletes and uncovered impermissible text messages and telephone calls. On January 26, 2009, Chattanooga self-reported these violations to the NCAA’s enforcement staff. Shortly thereafter, additional investigation was conducted as to other programs and additional violations were found, which were also reported to the NCAA enforcement staff.
The Committee found that Chattanooga committed the following violations of NCAA legislation:
1. Impermissible Recruiting Contacts, Telephone Calls, and Text Messages in violation of NCAA Bylaws 126.96.36.199, 188.8.131.52.1, and 184.108.40.206
a. An assistant football coach violated the provisions of NCAA recruiting communication legislation by knowingly sending 113 impermissible text messages and placing 6 impermissible telephone calls to prospective student-athletes, including 5 calls to a prospective student-athlete who was enrolled at another four-year institution prior to obtaining permission to contact. The coach cited a fear of losing his job during a coaching change as the basis for his lapse in judgment. Additionally, another assistant football coach placed 3 impermissible telephone calls to a prospective student-athlete after making an earlier permissible call.
b. The men’s basketball program violated the provisions of NCAA recruiting communication legislation by sending 23 impermissible text messages and placing 61 impermissible phone calls to prospective student-athletes, including 9 calls made by a director of men’s basketball operations who was not a permissible recruiter.
c. The head women’s basketball coach placed an impermissible telephone call to the father of a four-year college prospective student-athlete prior to receiving permission to contact.
d. The head men’s tennis coach placed 3 impermissible phone calls to a prospective student-athlete after making an earlier permissible telephone call and, also, sent one impermissible text message.
2. Failure to Promote an Atmosphere of Compliance, Failure to Protect the Integrity of the Investigation under the Cooperative Principle in violation of NCAA Bylaws 220.127.116.11 and 32.1.4
a. The Committee found that the head men’s basketball coach failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the men’s basketball program and failed to monitor the program to ensure compliance regarding text messaging and telephone communication with prospective student-athletes. Specifically, the head men’s basketball coach acknowledged that he failed to adequately monitor the men’s basketball program’s text messages and telephone contacts with prospective student-athletes. Additionally, the men’s basketball program failed to submit call logs upon request and he acknowledged that he failed to monitor his coaching staff’s submission of call logs to the compliance staff.
b. The Committee found on three separate occasions the head men’s basketball coach failed to protect the integrity of the investigation. By way of a letter dated August 1, 2009, the head men’s basketball coach was directed to not speak with anyone regarding matters pertaining an audit of the men’s basketball team’s communication records. On three occasions the head men’s basketball coach directly discussed the investigation. The Committee determined that he failed to protect the integrity of the investigation when 1) he spoke with the former director of men’s basketball operations in September 2009 about telephone calls the subject of the investigation; 2) he spoke to a prospective student-athlete in September 2009 about telephone calls the subject of the investigation; and 3) he notified a prospective student-athlete in February 2010 that he would be questioned by the NCAA enforcement staff about impermissible telephone calls.
3. Failure to Monitor in violation of NCAA Bylaw 2.8.1
a. The Committee found the scope and nature of the violations committed demonstrated that Chattanooga failed to monitor its sports programs to assure compliance regarding text messages and telephone communications with prospective student-athletes. The Committee found weaknesses in Chattanooga’s monitoring in the following areas:
i. Coaching staff members were required to submit monthly telephone contact logs, but the compliance staff did not always follow through to ensure the logs were submitted.
ii. Prior to the implementation of the audit that discovered the violations addressed herein, the telephone call logs submitted were not compared to available telephone bills to ensure proper recording of telephone contacts.
iii. The athletics department did not have access to all of the coaches’ cell phone bills. The institution provided 14 cell phones for 13 sports, thus some coaches had personal cell phones and the compliance staff did not have access to these records.
As a result of the aforementioned violations, the Committee penalized Chattanooga as follows:
1. Public reprimand and censure.
2. Two years of probation from September 23, 2010 through September 22, 2012.
3. The number of grant-in-aids for men’s basketball will be reduced from 13 to 12 for the 2010-2011 academic year. (Self-Imposed)
4. The assistant football coach was placed on six-month recruiting suspension and was subsequently changed to an indefinite suspension. (Self-Imposed)
5. The entire men’s basketball coaching staff was prohibited from having any recruiting contacts with any recruits for a 17-week period (November 15, 2009 to March 15, 2010) and the number of permissible recruiters after March 15 was reduced from three to two. (Self-Imposed)