The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee”) recently issued its findings and found that the University of Tennessee (“UT”) committed major violations of NCAA legislation. The Committee heard this case at an expedited hearing following UT’s objection to additional penalties proposed by the Committee at the written summary disposition stage. The violations at issue overlap in time and are imbedded in the context of football violations found in a previous case decided by the Committee.
Only six days after the release of the previous infractions report, the NCAA enforcement staff uncovered the violations that are the subject of this matter. The current violations involve the actions of a former assistant football coach in June and July 2009. The former assistant coach agreed to reimburse a representative of athletics interests (an individual who runs a recruiting service) for roundtrip airline tickets purchased by the representative for a prospective football student-athlete and his mother to travel to UT’s campus for an unofficial visit. While the prospect and his mother were on the official visit, the former assistant coach provided them impermissible local transportation and paid approximately $100.00 for their hotel room. In July 2009, the former assistant coach sent $1,500.00 to the representative to reimburse him for the cost of the airline tickets. During interviews with the NCAA enforcement staff, the assistant coach was not forthcoming about his involvement in these violations.
After reviewing the summary disposition report, the Committee proposed additional penalties of public reprimand and censure, two additional years of probation and restrictions on activities during unofficial visits. UT argued that no additional penalties were warranted because, had the current violations been addressed at the previous hearing, the penalties imposed would have been the same. However, because these additional, major violations had not yet been discovered and, therefore, were not presented to the Committee in the earlier case, the Committee did not have a complete picture regarding the violations that were occurring in the football program.
The Committee found that UT committed the following violations of NCAA legislation:
Impermissible Recruiting Inducements in violation of NCAA Bylaws 13.01.4, 18.104.22.168, 22.214.171.124-(a), 126.96.36.199.1, 13.2.1, 188.8.131.52-(e), 184.108.40.206-(h), and 13.5.1
In June 2009, the former assistant coach arranged with the representative for the prospect and his mother to make an unofficial visit to the institution’s campus at no cost to them. Additionally, the former assistant coach provided impermissible transportation and lodging to the prospect and his mother while they were on the visit.
In the spring of 2009, the former assistant coach was responsible for recruiting prospective student-athletes in the prospect’s home state. The former assistant coach and the representative, who resides in the prospect’s home state, became acquainted during this time frame because UT’s subscribed to information provided by the representative scouting service. From May 2009 into the summer, the two of them communicated by phone frequently, and at some point the former assistant coach became aware that the representative had a relationship with the prospect and his mother. The prospect was a highly rated high school football player.
With the understanding that the former assistant coach would reimburse him, the representative on June 19, 2009, purchased round-trip airline tickets for the prospect and his mother to travel from their home to UT’s campus for an unofficial visit. The total cost of the tickets was $1,446.890 and they were purchased with the former assistant coach’s knowledge and consent. On July 5, 2009, following the prospect’s visit, the former assistant coach provided the representative a Money Gram in the amount of $1,500.00 to reimburse the representative for the tickets.
On June 20, 2009, the prospect and his mother arrived in Knoxville, Tennessee for their unofficial visit. The former assistant coach met them at the airport and drove them approximately 12 miles to UT’s campus, where they met with various members of the football coaching staff. Later that day, the former assistant coach transported them to a restaurant and a hotel near the institution’s campus. He paid approximately $100.00 for their one-night stay at the hotel. The following day, the former assistant coach drove the prospect and his mother from the hotel back to the airport. The provision of transportation and lodging on the unofficial visit constituted violations of NCAA recruiting legislation.
Unethical Conduct in violation of NCAA Bylaws 10.1, 10.1-(c), and 10.1-(d)
During June and July 2009 and on August 25, 2010, the former assistant coach acted contrary to the NCAA Principles of Ethical Conduct when he knowingly engaged in violations of NCAA recruiting legislation and provided false or misleading information to UT and the NCAA enforcement staff regarding his knowledge of, and involvement in, violations of NCAA legislation.
The former assistant coach knowingly provided and/or arranged for the provision of impermissible travel, transportation, and lodging expenses for the prospect and his mother in conjunction with their June 2009 unofficial visit to UT’s campus. The former assistant coach was aware that his activities were contrary to NCAA rules. His knowing provision of impermissible inducements, and his involvement in arranging for the provision of other impermissible inducements, constituted unethical conduct.
On August 25, 2010, the former assistant coach was interviewed by UT and the NCAA enforcement staff regarding his knowledge of or involvement in any possible violations of NCAA legislation at UT. At that time, he failed to disclose his involvement of the violations discussed herein. On August 31, 2011, he was interviewed a second time and questioned specifically by the NCAA enforcement staff about these events. He once again denied his knowledge of, or involvement in, the violations. However, when the former assistant coach was confronted later in the interview with documentation of the $1,500.00 Money Gram he sent to the representative, he finally acknowledged his involvement in the matter. His failure to be forthcoming in the August 25th interview and during the initial questioning on August 31st constituted unethical conduct.
As a result of the aforementioned violations, the Committee penalized UT as follows:
1. Public reprimand and censure.
2. The probation is extended through August 23, 2015.
3. The current football staff is restricted to hosting 47 official visits for the 2012-13 academic year.
4. The institution reduced by four, from 168 to 164, the number of evaluation days permitted by the current football staff during the 2012 spring evaluation period.
5. For unofficial visits in the sport of football, which take place during the fall of 2013, no complimentary tickets may be provided to visiting prospective student-athletes for the first two conference games of the 2013 season.
6. The former assistant coach received a three-year show-cause penalty beginning on November 16, 2012 and ending on November 15, 2015.