The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions has reduced the number of football scholarships, imposed recruiting restrictions and placed the University of Colorado, Boulder, on probation for two years for violations in the university's football program.
In addition, the former head football coach is prohibited from any off-campus recruiting activities at his current institution from October 8, 2002, to May 31, 2003. If he fails to comply, his current employing institution would be required to show cause why it should not be penalized.
The violations involved impermissible recruiting contacts beginning with the 1995-96 academic year and concluding in the 1998-99 academic year. The committee also found violations involving the provision of clothing to recruits, contacts with an athletics representative, excessive reimbursement of travel expenses for recruits and improprieties involving recruiting entertainment expenses.
Colorado was found to have failed to adequately monitor the recruiting practices of its former football staff. In its public report, the Infractions Committee said "this was a serious case in which a football coaching staff, led by the former head football coach, in a calculated attempt to gain a recruiting advantage, pushed beyond the permissible bounds of legislation, resulting in a pattern of recruiting violations."
The report noted that the pattern of violations caused the case to rise to the "major" level.
A significant number of the findings involved contact with prospects, or "bumping," during non-contact periods in the spring when only evaluation is permitted. "When viewed separately," the committee's report said, "each of these contacts might be considered secondary; however, taken cumulatively, they reach the level of a major violation."
In testimony before the committee, representatives of the university, as well as former members of the football staff, including the former head coach, characterized the violations as "inappropriate pushing of the rules to their limits," or attempts to be inappropriately "creative." A former assistant football coach testified, "the former head coach had the attitude that he was not traveling to the high school of a prospect without encountering that prospect."
One former assistant football coach said he had "compromised" his integrity by "simply going along with the culture that was out there."
In its public report, the committee said it was taking "this opportunity to send an unequivocal message that the custom of 'bumping' prospects during noncontact periods is a violation of NCAA rules no matter how widespread the practice, and coaches who continue to do so will be held accountable for their actions."
Although the former head coach characterized the encounters as "inadvertent" since the high-school coach often initiated them, the committee found that "there was little indication of any attempt to discourage such contacts from occurring."
The committee report went on to say that the former head coach wanted to be seen by the prospect. "He recognized his celebrity status during visits to prospects' high schools and that his presence conveyed his special interest in the prospect," the report said.
In addition to impermissible contacts at the prospects' high schools, there also were findings of using cell phones to call a prospect and to direct the prospect to a window where he could see the head coach, thus creating an impermissible contact.
Further, the committee found a pattern of providing clothing, including jackets, caps and gloves, to prospects during official visits -- which is permissible -- but failing to retrieve the apparel at the conclusion of the visit.
There was minimal administrative oversight of this operation and no accountability for the items. The committee noted, "This relaxed attitude was conveyed to those prospects making their visits and resulted in prospects believing they were free to retain items of apparel..."
In addition to findings of impermissible contact between prospects during official paid visits and representatives of Colorado's athletics interests, there also was an instance of impermissible recruiting publicity when a member of the media and a photographer accompanied a prospect on an official visit.
The committee also found a pattern of excessive recruiting expense reimbursements in which prospects were reimbursed for mileage beyond the actual amount and instances in which institutional invoices, provided to purchase books, were used to obtain extra benefits.
Finally, the committee found the nature of some of the violations demonstrated an institutional failure to adequately monitor the football program. "This failure is exhibited by the institution's inadequate monitoring of the provision of athletics apparel to prospects and the failure of the institution to monitor its process for reimbursing prospective student-athletes for transportation expenses."
A number of secondary violations were also reported.
The committee considered a number of corrective actions and penalties self-imposed by Colorado.
An assistant coach was, at his own expense, required to attend the May 2002 NCAA Compliance Seminar in Phoenix. The assistant coach was made to pay his own way, while other Colorado attendees had their expenses paid by the university. The assistant coach also was not allowed to participate in spring recruiting on behalf of the university. (This penalty also impacted Colorado's football program since the university had two fewer coaches on the road evaluating prospects; no coach replaced the assistant coach and another assistant coach was too ill to travel.)
The university reduced, by one, the number of coaches who will engage in off-campus recruiting for the fall 2002 and spring 2003 evaluation periods.
The university restricted the number of official visits by prospective student-athletes for the coming year (2002-03) to 51. Colorado had "banked" five of those visits as unused from the 2001-02 academic year, and would have had 61 available for the 2002-03 academic year. This represents a reduction of 10 such visits by prospective student-athletes. The following year, Colorado will revert to the 56 official visits normally allowed.
The university placed itself on probation for one year.
Changes in reporting lines. The reporting structure of the compliance department will be modified to include a "dotted-line" relationship to the faculty athletics representative and the provost and executive vice-chancellor for academic affairs. While the director of compliance will still report directly to the athletic director, the position will also be accountable to and communicate regularly with the faculty athletic representative.
Increased staffing and changes to the monitoring system. Before hiring a full-time compliance director in 1997, Colorado had developed a compliance manual, camp forms and simple forms for coaches to track contacts, evaluations, and telephone calls to prospective student-athletes, but lacked the full-time personnel to adequately review those forms. With the additional person since 1997, the university's athletics compliance office has extensively expanded the compliance manual, rules education program and monitoring system.
Recruiting. Each coach is required to complete individual recruit forms detailing all contacts, evaluations and telephone calls. The assistant director of compliance reviews the documents every three to five weeks in the coaches' offices. Compliance approves all official visits, monitoring the proposed length of the visit, proper academic documentation, and the permissible recruiting period.
Control of apparel items. Colorado no longer allows apparel to be checked out to prospective student-athletes under any circumstances. Equipment room tours have been discontinued. The athletics equipment office manager is required to complete a detailed inventory before and after any equipment display for recruits within 48 hours of the unofficial or official visit.
Reimbursement of mileage for official visits. Prospective student-athletes may be reimbursed travel expenses (for example, parking, mileage) incurred during their travel to Colorado for an official visit. In order to receive this reimbursement, the student must provide receipts, if available (for example, parking or tolls). Mileage is reimbursed based on the distance traveled, using a computer-based mileage program to determine the exact distance. No cash is given for reimbursement purposes during the prospective student-athlete's official visit.
The university also has improved and strengthened its procedures and educational programs in the following areas: amateurism/agents; individual awards; incidental expenses; team travel/meals; education of boosters/control of booster clubs; camps/clinics; complimentary admissions; student-athlete employment; eligibility (initial and continuing); financial aid; financial disclosure; memorabilia requests; outside competition; outside income (athletics department coaches and staff); playing and practice seasons; promotional activities; team rosters and squad lists; and Special Assistance Fund and training table.
While the Committee on Infractions agreed with and approved the actions taken by the university, it imposed additional penalties because of the pervasive and systematic nature of the recruiting violations, the involvement of the former head football coach in a number of the violations, and a lack of monitoring in certain aspects of the football program. The additional penalties imposed by the committee are:
Publicly reprimand and censure.
Two years of probation beginning October 8, 2002.
The institution shall reduce the permissible limit of 25 initial grants in the sport of football to 20 for either the 2003-04 or the 2004-05 academic year. (The university averaged 20.5 initial football grants during the period beginning with the 1998-99 academic year and ending with the 2001-02 academic year. In its preliminary compliance report, the university will notify the committee of which year it chooses to impose this reduction.)
In addition to the self-imposed limit in the number of expense-paid visits to the institution's campus in football to 51 during the 2002-03 academic year, the university shall likewise be limited to 51 expense-paid recruiting visits in football for the 2003-04 academic year.
The number of football coaches permitted to recruit off campus at any one time shall be reduced by one from the number allowed under NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199 during the period beginning with the release date of this report and ending July 31, 2003. This limits the institution to no more than six coaches who may be recruiting off campus during any one-calendar week. The university shall document this restriction in its annual compliance report to the committee.
If the former head football coach had still been employed at the institution, the university would have been required to show cause in accordance with Bylaw 188.8.131.52-(l) why it should not be subject to additional penalties if it had failed to take appropriate disciplinary action against him.
The former head coach self-imposed a limitation on his own off-campus recruiting activities during the May 2002 evaluation period and indicated that he also would refrain from all off-campus recruiting during the May 2003 evaluation period. While the committee recognizes the significance of this self-imposed penalty, the committee determined that because of the number and nature of the recruiting violations committed by the former head coach, his off-campus recruiting ban should be extended. Therefore, his current employing institution shall, pursuant to the provisions of Bylaw 184.108.40.206-(l), show cause why it should not be penalized if it does not prohibit him from off-campus recruiting for a period beginning with the release of this report and ending May 31, 2003.
The current employing institution shall submit a compliance report to the committee by June 5, 2003. The report should emphasize the institution's monitoring of, and rules education sessions for the head football coach with particular emphasis on recruiting legislation and ethical conduct expectations of staff members employed at NCAA member institutions. The aforementioned reporting requirements for the current employing institution shall be in effect for a period beginning October 8, 2002, and ending October 8, 2004. Should any other member institution before the conclusion of the two-year period specified employ the head football coach, the recruiting restriction (if not previously satisfied) and reporting requirements set forth above shall remain in effect at the new institution for the balance of the two-year period.
During this period of probation, the university:
(1) Continue to develop and implement a comprehensive educational program on NCAA legislation, including seminars and testing, to instruct the coaches, the faculty athletics representative, all athletics department personnel and all university staff members with responsibility for the certification of student-athletes for admission, retention, financial aid or competition;
(2) Submit a preliminary report to the NCAA director of the committees on infractions by December 15, 2002, setting forth a schedule for establishing this compliance and educational program; and
(3) File with the director annual compliance reports indicating the progress made with this program by August 15 of each year during the probationary period. Particular emphasis should be placed on compliance with recruiting legislation. The reports also must include documentation of the university's compliance with the penalties (adopted and) imposed by the committee.
(4) At the end of the probationary period, the university's president shall provide a letter to the committee affirming that the university's current athletics policies and practices conform to all requirements of NCAA regulations.
As required by NCAA legislation for any institution involved in a major infractions case, Colorado is subject to the NCAA's repeat-violator provisions for a five-year period beginning on the effective date of the penalties in this case, which is October 8, 2002.
The members of the Division I Committee on Infractions who heard this case are: Thomas Yeager, committee chair and commissioner of the Colonial Athletic Association; Paul Dee, athletics director, University of Miami (Florida); Craig Littlepage, athletics director, University of Virginia; Gene Marsh, professor of law, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa; Andrea Myers, athletics director, Indiana State University; and James Park Jr., attorney and retired judge, Frost Brown Todd, Lexington, Kentucky.
A copy of the complete report from the Division I Committee on Infractions can be found at www.ncaa.org.