The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions has placed the University of Michigan on four years of probation for violations of NCAA bylaws governing amateurism regulations, impermissible recruiting inducements and extra benefits by an athletics representative. The committee also imposed a postseason ban for the 2003-04 academic year, which is in addition to the ban self-imposed by the university for 2002-03. Further, the committee imposed a reduction in financial aid awards by one for the next four academic years, beginning in 2004-05. Finally, the university is required to show cause to the committee why it should not be further penalized if the athletics department fails to disassociate, for a period of 10 years, the four student-athletes identified to have been involved in this case.
In determining the appropriate penalties to impose, the committee considered the institution's self-imposed penalties and corrective actions. The committee agreed with and adopted the actions taken by the university, noting that they represented meaningful self-imposed penalties. Because of the actions by the university, the committee considered the postseason ban a two-year ban, giving credit for the university's one-year self-imposed ban.
The violations involved the men's basketball program and centered on the provision of more than $600,000 in cash and other benefits to at least four men's basketball student-athletes by a now deceased representative of the university's athletics interests. The athletics representative's funds were derived from an illegal gambling enterprise he operated for many years at Detroit automobile assembly plants, where he was employed.
In its public report, the committee stated that individuals such as the athletics representative in this case threaten the integrity of athletics programs through their actions. Although the university attempted to minimize this individual's status as an athletics representative, it was clear to the committee that he was not only a "bona fide" representative of the institution's athletics interests under NCAA legislation, but before his disassociation in 1997, he clearly enjoyed an "insider" status.
The initial investigation of this case began in March 1996 when the NCAA enforcement staff made a written request to the university's director of athletics for information related to an automobile accident that involved five Michigan men's basketball student-athletes and one prospective student-athlete who was making an official visit to the institution's campus. There were questions about the ownership of the vehicle that was involved in the accident, and at that time, it was suspected that the athletics representative had been involved with the Michigan basketball program.
In March 1997, the institution and the Big Ten Conference submitted to the enforcement staff a "Joint Inquiry to the NCAA in Response to Allegations Involving the Men's Basketball Program." Just before submitting the report, the institution dissociated itself from the athletics representative after he refused to cooperate with the investigation.
The institution, having received additional information, hired an outside law firm to reinvestigate the information relating to the athletics representative and his activities involving the basketball program. The law firm submitted the report to the NCAA enforcement staff in October 1997.
In December 1997, the NCAA enforcement staff ruled that there was insufficient information to conclude that any major violations of NCAA legislation occurred, but agreed that there were three secondary violations that were associated with the athletics representative.
Nearly a year and a half later, in May 1999, the university announced that it was informed of a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigation into allegations of improper payments by the athletics representative to former Michigan men's basketball student-athletes. The culmination of the government's initial investigation occurred three years later, in May 2002, when the athletics representative pled guilty to conspiracy to launder money.
During the summer and fall of 2002, the enforcement staff concluded its inquiry and on October 25, 2002, a letter of official inquiry was sent to the institution. The university's response was received November 7, 2002, and the institution appeared before the committee February 14, 2003.
During the course of the investigation, it was revealed that from spring 1992, and continuing through spring 1999, the athletics representative provided inducements and benefits in the form of cash, clothing, jewelry, transportation, lodging, meals and other like benefits to the four student-athletes and members of their families and at least one other unnamed former student-athlete. According to the report, the athletics representative characterized these inducements and benefits as loans. The representative intended that the student-athletes would repay him the value of these inducements and benefits upon their becoming well-paid professional basketball players after their Michigan careers.
The athletics representative ultimately confessed that for many years he operated an illegal gambling business (primarily in automobile assembly plants in the Detroit area). He stated that he conspired to conceal the nature, source and location of the money (hundreds of thousands of dollars) generated through his illegal gambling business in a variety of ways. His efforts to conceal this money included loaning a total of about $616,000 of the illegally gained moneys to the student-athletes and their families.
The committee stated that individuals such as this athletics representative demonstrate a profound and worrisome immaturity in the satisfaction they derive from close and continued intermingling with college-age and, as seen in this instance, high-school-age student-athletes and prospects. Furthermore, the committee stated that the provision of the amounts of money seen in this case undermines and cheapens intercollegiate athletics competition, compromises the principles of amateurism, and corrupts the ethics and maturation process of the young people involved.
In determining the appropriate penalties to impose, the committee considered these self-imposed penalties and corrective actions by the university:
The men's basketball team shall not be eligible for participation in the 2003 Division I Men's Basketball Championship, or the 2003 National Invitation Tournament (NIT).
The university forfeited all wins by the men's basketball team for any game in which the former men's basketball student-athletes participated while ineligible. (This includes the 1992 Final Four competition; the entire 1992-93 season; and the entire 1995-96 through 1998-99 seasons, including postseason play.)
* The university has vacated all records of its appearances in Division I Men's Basketball Championships and the NIT when the former men's basketball student-athletes were participants while ineligible. Further, the university shall return all team awards for its participation in these events and has deleted and/or removed references to those teams' participation that might have appeared on campus or in university publications. (This includes NCAA tournament appearances in 1992, 1993, 1996, and 1998; and the 1997 NIT championship.)
* The university shall return to the NCAA 90 percent of the moneys it received (through Big Ten distributions) for the university's appearances in NCAA postseason championship competition while ineligible players participated.
* The university placed its men's basketball program on institutional probation for a period of two years. As a condition of this probation, reports as directed by the president shall be submitted and compliance-related activities shall be undertaken in further effort to ensure strict compliance with NCAA and Big Ten rules and regulations. Specifically required shall be an annual compliance audit of key compliance areas within the athletics department.
The committee agreed with and adopted the actions taken by the university, noting that they represented meaningful self-imposed penalties. "The president is to be commended for demonstrating the university's commitment to accepting responsibility for these violations," the committee stated in its report.
The committee also commended the university's cooperation in this case, including its efforts in conjunction with federal authorities to develop complete information in the case beyond the reach of the NCAA's investigative abilities.
Finally, the committee recognized that some of the violations in this case date back several years and that the involved student-athletes and coaches have long since departed the university. The committee accorded all of these mitigating factors significant weight in its determination of appropriate penalties in this case.
Despite this mitigation, however, the case remains one of the most serious ever to come before the Committee on Infractions. According to the report, this case represents the largest acknowledgement of cash payments in the history of NCAA infractions cases. Further, these payments were made to some of the most prominent men's basketball student-athletes of the era. These student-athletes led the university to NCAA tournament appearances in four of the six years in which the violations occurred, including two consecutive Final Four appearances in 1992 and 1993, and the NIT championship in 1997. While some of the violations occurred several years ago, the actions of the athletics representative continued through most of the 1990s and constituted a continuing pattern of NCAA violations until 1999. During that time period, the violations provided a staggering competitive and ancillary recruiting advantage over other member institutions. "The fact that the university's men's basketball coaching staffs embraced the representative and accorded him insider status within their programs further elevated the seriousness of the case," the committee stated in its report.
Because of these factors, the committee concluded that additional penalties beyond those self-imposed by the university in November 2002 were warranted. In light of the nature and seriousness of the violations in this case, the committee imposed the following presumptive penalties set forth in Bylaw 19.6.2 for major violations:
Michigan shall be publicly reprimanded and censured.
The university shall be placed on four years of probation beginning November 7, 2002, the date of the university's response to the NCAA's official inquiry and the application of self-imposed penalties and ending November 6, 2006.
The institution's men's basketball team shall end its 2003-04 season with the playing of its last regularly scheduled, in-season contest and shall not be eligible to participate in any postseason competition. The men's basketball team also is prohibited from taking advantage of the exceptions to the limitation on the number of basketball contests provided in Bylaws 220.127.116.11, 18.104.22.168, 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199. If the institution has any existing commitments to participate in contests under these exceptions, it may seek permission from the committee to defer application of this portion of the penalty until the 2004-05 academic year. (The committee considered this a two-year postseason ban, giving credit for the university's one-year self-imposed ban.)
The number of total athletically related financial aid awards in men's basketball shall be reduced by one during each of the 2004-05, 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08 academic years. This limits the institution to 12 total men's basketball grants-in-aid under current rules for those years. (The reduction of four total grants is tied to the four student-athletes who received recruiting inducements and extra benefits.)
The institution shall show cause why it should not be penalized further if it fails to disassociate from the institution's athletics program the four student-athletes identified in this report based upon their involvement in violations of NCAA rules and some of the student-athletes' refusal to cooperate with university and NCAA investigators. This disassociation shall be for at least 10 years and shall include the following:
a. Refraining from accepting any assistance from the individual(s) that would aid in the recruitment of prospective student-athletes or the support of enrolled student-athletes;
b. Refusing financial assistance or contributions to the institution's athletics program from the individual(s);
c. Ensuring that no athletics benefit or privilege is provided to the individual(s), either directly or indirectly, that is not available to the public at large;
d. Implementing other actions that the institution determines to be within its authority to eliminate the involvement of the individual(s) in the institution's athletics program; and
e. Consistent with the vacation of team records in the above self-imposed penalty, these individuals' own personal records and references shall also be deleted/removed from university records.
During this period of probation, the institution shall:
a. 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;
b. Submit a preliminary report to the director of the NCAA Committees on Infractions by June 30 setting forth a schedule for establishing this compliance and educational program; and
c. File with the committee's director annual compliance reports indicating the progress made with this program by February 15 of each year during the probationary period. Particular emphasis should be placed on the monitoring of athletics representatives. The reports also must include documentation of the university's compliance with the penalties (adopted and) imposed by the committee.
d. At the end of the probationary period, the institution'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, Michigan shall be subject to the provisions of NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52, concerning repeat violators, for a five-year period beginning on the effective date of the penalties in this case (May 8, 2003).
The members of the Division I Committee on Infractions who heard this case are: Thomas Yeager, committee chair and commissioner, Colonial Athletic Association; Paul Dee, athletics director, University of Miami (Florida); Alfred J. Lechner, attorney; Gene A. Marsh, professor of law, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa; Andrea Myers, athletics director, Indiana State University; James Park Jr., attorney, Josephine R. Potuto, professor of law, University of Nebraska, Lincoln; and Eugene D. Smith, athletics director, Arizona State University.
A copy of the complete report from the Division I Committee on Infractions is available at www.ncaa.org.