The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee”) recently issued its findings and found that Wichita State University (“WSU”) committed violations of NCAA legislation. This case centered on 21 baseball student-athletes who received impermissible extra benefits in the form of discounted athletics apparel and other clothing items. The student-athletes ordered the items through an account set up by the institution’s athletics apparel provider. The case also involved the former head baseball coach and the former administrative assistant for baseball. The former baseball administrative assistant committed Level II violations of NCAA legislation when she allowed the student-athletes to order discounted items through the apparel account, which she controlled. Further, she committed Level III violations when she allowed the softball coach of a two-year institution to order discounted apparel for his team.
The Committee determined that the case should move forward under Level II and Level III standards and found the following violations of NCAA legislation:
Violations of NCAA Bylaws 184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11
From February 2012 into November 2013, the former baseball administrative assistant allowed 21 student-athletes to order discounted items of apparel from her VIP account. The student-athletes received a 50 percent discount from the retail price of items, which included athletics shoes and clothing as well as hunting gear and other non-athletics items. The student-athletes received a total discount of $7,594.18. The Committed concluded the former baseball administrative assistant provided impermissible extra benefits to the student-athletes when she allowed them to order the discounted items.
NCAA Bylaws 18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124 preclude institutional employees from providing any extra benefit to student-athletes. “Extra benefits” are defined as “special arrangements … to provide the student-athlete or his family or friends with a benefit not expressly authorized by NCAA legislation.” NCAA bylaws do not expressly allow student-athletes to receive apparel discounts from institutional employees. However, NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199 states that the receipt of a benefit by a student-athlete “is not a violation of NCAA rules if it is demonstrated that the same benefit is generally available to the institution’s students and their family members or friends.” The former baseball administrative assistant stated the discount was available to anyone and she never said “no” to anyone who asked for it. However, the former baseball administrative assistant did not advertise the discount. As a practical matter, the only people aware of the discount were those associated with the baseball program or people who the former baseball administrative assistant told about it. The discount was not “generally available” as contemplated by NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52. Therefore, the Committee concluded the former baseball administrative assistant provided prohibited extra benefits to the student-athletes in violation of NCAA Bylaws 184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11 when she allowed them to order discounted items.
Violations of NCAA Constitution 2.8.1
WSU acknowledged it did not closely monitor the activities of the former baseball administrative assistant regarding her use of the VIP account and it failed to provide her with adequate rules education. WSU further acknowledged it failed to implement recommended changes to its apparel purchasing system in a timely fashion. The Committee concluded these shortcomings constituted a failure to monitor on the part of the institution.
NCAA Constitution 2.8.1 requires each member institution to monitor its athletics program to assure compliance with NCAA rules and regulations and to identify and report instances in which compliance has not been achieved. WSU acknowledged it should have monitored the activities of the former baseball administrative assistant more closely to ensure the baseball program’s apparel agreement was fulfilled in a manner consistent with NCAA legislation. In 2011, an outside auditor recommended that WSU change its system of apparel ordering to minimize risk, but WSU did not act on the recommendation until after these violations were discovered in late 2013.
At the hearing, WSU acknowledged its education for administrative assistants was “lacking.” Because WSU did not improve its equipment procurement system in a timely fashion, did not monitor the former baseball administrative assistant’s use of the VIP account and did not provide adequate rules education to her, it failed to monitor the baseball program as required by NCAA Constitution 2.8.1. This lack of monitoring was partially responsible for the violations noted above.
The NCAA enforcement staff alleged the former head baseball coach did not monitor the duties and activities of the former baseball administrative assistant pertaining to her use of the VIP apparel account; however, the Committee concluded the former head coach met his responsibilities because he promoted an atmosphere for rules compliance and did not fail to monitor the former baseball administrative assistant. NCAA Bylaws 18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124 require a head coach set an atmosphere of rules compliance within the program and monitor the activities of those who report to the head coach. The bylaws further include a presumption that a head coach is responsible for the violations of an individual the head coach supervises. This presumption may be rebutted by a showing that: (1) the head coach promoted an atmosphere for rules compliance; and (2) the head coach monitored the activities of the individual who committed the violations. The Committee concluded the former head baseball coach in this case did not fail to monitor the former baseball administrative assistant and promoted an atmosphere for rules compliance in the baseball program. Accordingly, the Committee concluded the former head coach did not violate the head coach responsibility bylaws, NCAA Bylaws 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52.
Violations of NCAA Bylaws 13.2.1 and 13.8.2
On November 20, 2013, the former baseball administrative assistant provided recruiting inducements to a two-year college softball coach and two-year college prospective student-athletes when she allowed the coach to order 20 pullover shirts through the VIP apparel account. The two-year college softball coach paid $370.30 for the shirts, $277.50 less than their retail value of $647.80. He dispersed the shirts to the members of his team, who were prospective student-athletes. No members of his team enrolled at WSU.
Aggravating and Mitigating Factors in accordance with NCAA Bylaws 19.9.2 and 19.9.4.
Level II violations, representing an institution’s significant breach of conduct, includes one or more violations that provide or are intended to provide more than a minimal but less than a substantial or extensive recruiting, competitive or other advantage or impermissible benefit. Level II violations are more serious than Level III and yet do not rise to the level of Level I. They include systematic violations that do not amount to a lack of institutional control or collective Level III violations.
WSU Aggravating factors were as follows: None.
WSU Mitigating factors were as follows: prompt acknowledgement of the violation; acceptance of responsibility and imposition of meaningful corrective measures and/or penalties (NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3-(b)); affirmative steps to expedite final resolution of the matter (NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3-(c)); an established history of self-reporting Level III or secondary violations (NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3-(d)); violations are unintentional, limited in scope and represent a deviation from otherwise compliant practices (NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3-(g)); and other factors warranting a lower penalty range including pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 16.8.1, WSU could have provided some of the items that the student-athletes brought through the VIP account for practice and competition purposes. Additionally, the student-athletes could have purchased the items themselves through a website or at a sporting goods store without violating NCAA rules. The record did not contain information breaking down how much of the $7,594.18 worth of merchandise fell into this category, but all parties agreed that it was a portion of the total (NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3-(h)).
Former Baseball Administrative Assistant Aggravating factors were as follows: None.
Former Baseball Administrative Assistant Mitigating factors were as follows: violations are unintentional, limited in scope and represent a deviation from otherwise compliant practices (NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3-(g)).
The Committee then conducted a separate analysis and made a separate determination as to whether to prescribe penalties under the former or current NCAA Bylaw 19 penalty guidelines. Because the violations occurred both before and subsequent to the effective date of the new penalty structure (October 30, 2012), the Committee reviewed whether the new penalty guidelines were more lenient in this case. The Committee determined the new penalty guidelines were more lenient than would be penalties prescribed under former NCAA Bylaw 19.5.2.
As a result of the aforementioned violations, the Committee penalized WSU as follows:
1. Public reprimand and censure.
2. One year of probation from January 29, 2015, through January 28, 2016.
3. WSU shall pay a financial penalty of $5,000.
4. WSU shall vacate all regular season and conference tournament wins in which the 21 ineligible student-athletes competed from the time they became ineligible through the time they were reinstated as eligible for competition.