INDIANAPOLIS---The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions has placed St. Bonaventure University on probation for three years for violations in the men's basketball program. The committee also has found a lack of institutional control. The case centered around violations of bylaws concerning the improper certification of a student-athlete as well as extra benefits from an impermissible academic arrangement.
The committee also found that the institution's former president violated the principles of ethical conduct and institutional control.
This case is focused on the academic eligibility of one men's basketball student-athlete who transferred to the university after spending two years at a junior college. The student-athlete had earned a "Certificate of Welding," which the committee noted clearly did not meet the requirements for initial academic eligibility under NCAA legislation.
The student-athlete signed a National Letter of Intent with the university in his second year at the junior college and completed the school's welding technology curriculum, which the junior college indicated was a "vocational" curriculum rather than a technical or academic curriculum as required by NCAA legislation for initial eligibility. The relevant NCAA Bylaw, 126.96.36.199.4, states: "In order to satisfy the two-year college graduation requirement for eligibility immediately upon transfer from a two-year college to a member institution, a student-athlete must receive an associate or equivalent degree in an academic or technical, rather than vocational, curriculum."
The committee found that the institution's former president ultimately became involved in the determination of the student-athlete's eligibility, primarily as a result of communication from his son, who also was an assistant men's basketball coach. In spite of advice to the contrary from the university's former director of athletics, the former president declared that the student-athlete would be eligible based on the former president's assessment that the student-athlete's degree was "technical" rather than vocational.
The committee noted that it found it "extremely troubling that a university president would assert independent interpretive authority with regard to NCAA legislation despite the repeated advice of the former director of athletics. Such hubris and lack of judgment on the part of the former president were at the root of why this case occurred."
The committee also found that in January 2003, the institution provided the same student-athlete with an extra benefit when the institution changed his incomplete grade in a fall-term class to a withdrawal. This action kept the student-athlete from going into the institution's academic restoration program and instead enabled him to remain eligible to travel to away games under institutional policy in the spring semester of the 2002-03 year.
The committee noted that this violation occurred after the former president's son asked his father to intervene and to request that the vice-president for academic affairs reconsider his initial decision to strictly enforce the withdrawal date deadline.
Ultimately, the committee found that the university failed to demonstrate institutional control of its men's basketball program because:
The institution deviated from its normal systems and controls in the certification of eligibility process as it related to the student-athlete certification. Normally the assistant athletics director for compliance, with assistance from the registrar, completed the certification review at the university. In this case, after the review was completed and the former director of athletics notified the former head men's basketball coach that the student-athlete would be ruled ineligible for the 2002-03 academic year, members of the men's basketball staff made arguments directly to the former president of the university. The former president then improperly made the decision to certify the student-athlete's eligibility.
A number of institutional personnel failed to report the improper certification of the student-athlete's eligibility to either the Atlantic 10 Conference or to the NCAA. At least five individuals, including the former president, former director of athletics, senior woman administrator, former head coach and former assistant coach (the former president's son) possessed adequate information to have reported these matters to either the conference or the NCAA but did not do so.
The committee also found that the former president violated the principles of ethical conduct as well as the principle of institutional control in that he failed to exercise proper control of the men's basketball program. The committee also noted that the former president violated the principles of institutional control when he asked his chief academic officer, the institution's vice-president for academic affairs, to review his initial decision to correctly and properly enforce the withdrawal date deadline relating to a class in which the student-athlete was enrolled in fall 2002.
The following penalties were imposed by the committee or were self-imposed by the university or the conference and adopted by the committee. Those penalties that were self-imposed by the university or imposed by the conference are so noted.
Public reprimand and censure.
Three years of probation beginning July 15, 2003 (the date of the self report), and concluding on July 14, 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. Further, during the 2004-05 academic year, 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 NCAA Bylaws 188.8.131.52, 184.108.40.206.2 and 220.127.116.11. 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 2005-06 academic year.
The men's basketball team was not eligible for participation in the 2003 Atlantic 10 Men's Basketball Tournament. (Imposed by the conference.)
The number of total athletically related financial aid awards in men's basketball shall be reduced by a total of three: two for the current year (for a total of 11) and one for the 2004-05 year (for a total of 12). (Self-imposed by the university.)
The number of evaluation days for the men's basketball coaching staff was reduced by 10 from the limit of 40 specified by NCAA bylaws (for a total of 30) for the 2003-04 academic year. (Self-imposed by the university.)
The number of men's basketball coaches permitted to recruit off campus was reduced to two during the 2004 evaluation period. (Self-imposed by the university.)
The number of official paid visits in men's basketball was reduced from 12 to 10 for each of the 2003-04 and 2004-05 academic years. (Self-imposed by the university.)
All conference games in which the involved student-athlete participated were "forfeited" and conference records adjusted accordingly. (Imposed by the conference.)
All non-conference games in which the involved student-athlete participated in were "forfeited" during the 2002-03 academic year, and the university will vacate the wins. (Self-imposed by the university.) Note that for the purposes of record keeping, the NCAA considers the contests "forfeited" by the university as "vacated" rather than forfeited.
The university's records regarding men's basketball, as well as the record of the former head coach, will be reconfigured to reflect the vacated records and will be so recorded in all publications in which men's basketball records are reported, including but not limited to university media guides and recruiting materials and university and NCAA archives.
The conference required the university to pay $115,943 for the costs incurred by the conference and member institutions as a result of the university's decision not to play its last two regular-season games and its ban from the conference's postseason tournament. (Imposed by the conference.)
The university terminated or obtained the resignation of the former president, the former director of athletics and the men's basketball staff.
Since this case involved violations of NCAA legislation relating to academics, the report will be forwarded to the appropriate regional academic accrediting agency by the NCAA's president as provided in NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168.
Required that, during the probationary period, the university shall continue to develop and implement a comprehensive educational program on NCAA legislation and submit periodic reports to the NCAA. The university also is required to submit, to the director of the NCAA Committees on Infractions, a preliminary report that sets forth a schedule for establishing this compliance and educational program. The institution also must file annual compliance reports indicating progress made with the program and placing particular emphasis on NCAA legislation relating to academic monitoring and the operations of the new organizational structure. The report also must include documentation of the university's compliance with the penalties imposed and adopted by the committee. At the end of the probationary period, the university's president will 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, St. Bonaventure University is subject to the provisions of NCAA Bylaw 22.214.171.124 concerning repeat violators for a five-year period beginning on the effective date of the penalties in this case, February 19, 2004.
The members of the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions who heard this case are: Thomas Yeager, committee chair and commissioner, Colonial Athletic Association; Paul T. Dee, director of athletics at the University of Miami (Florida); Gene A. Marsh, professor of law, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa; James Park Jr., attorney, Lexington, Kentucky; Josephine R. Potuto, professor of law, University of Nebraska, Lincoln; and Eugene D. Smith, director of athletics at Arizona State University.