INDIANAPOLIS—The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions has placed the University of Louisiana at Monroe on probation until September 2005 for NCAA recruiting and unethical conduct violations in the sport of women’s tennis.
The committee found that the former head coach of the women’s tennis team was responsible for violations in this case. The former head coach was found for recruiting violations, and the former head coach and a women’s tennis student-athlete (student-athlete 1) were found to have violated NCAA bylaws related to unethical conduct.
The committee described this case as "unusual," as the violations were committed during the former head coach’s employment transition from Stetson University to the University of Louisiana at Monroe and involved student-athletes from Stetson.
The committee found that the former head coach provided improper recruiting inducements to a student-athlete enrolled at another institution (student-athlete 2) to obtain her enrollment at Louisiana-Monroe. The former head coach cosigned an automobile loan for student-athlete 2 and helped her make timely loan and insurance payments. Specifically:
- The former head coach October 30, 2001, cosigned a loan for $15,565 with student-athlete 2 for a used vehicle from a dealership in DeLand, Florida. The former head coach kept the loan booklet and made 12 payments totaling $3,967. She also paid between $150-$200 per month for automobile insurance until summer 2002, when student-athlete 2 began paying the insurance costs.
- Student-athlete 2 deposited money in the former head coach’s checking account at various times each month to reimburse her for the loan and insurance payments, with the exception of about $500 between January and March 2002, which student-athlete 2 reimbursed in April 2002.
- In August 2002 the former head coach made impermissible recruiting contacts with student-athlete 2 to encourage her to transfer to Louisiana-Monroe. Specifically, the former head coach e-mailed student-athlete 2 encouraging her to enroll and play tennis at Louisiana-Monroe, even though the former head coach had not obtained permission to contact the young woman from Stetson University, where the student-athlete had been enrolled and received athletics aid. Student-athlete 2 withdrew from Stetson following the 2002 spring semester, less than one academic year earlier.
- The committee also found that the former head coach violated NCAA bylaws by providing false and misleading information about her contacts with student-athlete 2. Specifically, the former head coach denied trying to recruit student-athlete 2 to Louisiana-Monroe from Stetson. The committee concluded that the August 2002 e-mail to student-athlete 2 was authentic and sent by the former head coach, even after she denied sending it.
In addition, the committee determined that student-athlete 1 provided false and misleading information to the NCAA enforcement staff when she was questioned about her involvement in and knowledge of NCAA violations. Specifically:
- Student-athlete 1 denied receiving free housing and transportation from the former head coach and taking part in impermissible tryouts with the former head coach on the Stetson campus. Student-athlete 1 claimed she only spent one day in DeLand, Florida, (where Stetson is located) and denied meeting the former head coach. However, six former student-athletes at Stetson reported seeing student-athlete 1 in DeLand at various times throughout summer 2001. And five of them said they saw the young woman (student-athlete 1) or someone who fit her description, with the former head coach that summer.
"Because of the severe eligibility ramifications that can result, the committee has always been extremely careful to review all information and attendant circumstances before making an unethical conduct finding against a student-athlete," the committee wrote in its report. "However, after a review of all the evidence, the committee concluded that student-athlete 1 did, in fact, knowingly provide false and misleading information with regard to her living arrangements in the summer of 2001 and her involvement in activities with the former head coach that violated NCAA tryout legislation. The committee also concluded that she did so with full understanding of the consequences to her."
The committee specifically mentioned in its report that its conclusions were reinforced by assessing student-athlete 1's credibility through questioning at the infractions hearing. And the committee noted that student-athlete 1 spent several days prior to the hearing with the former head coach they stayed together at the hotel where the infractions hearing took place.
The committee also found that the former head coach provided an improper recruiting inducement to a prospective women’s tennis student-athlete (prospect 1), when the former head coach purchased an airline ticket for the young woman. Specifically, the former head coach paid for a $631.68 airline ticket so prospect 1 could fly from her home in the Dominican Republic after the beginning of the 2003 spring semester. Prospect 1 was unable to afford the ticket, and the former head coach purchased the ticket at a discount. Prospect 1 did repay the former head coach for the ticket. The former head coach agreed that this violation of recruiting legislation took place.
In determining the appropriate penalties to impose, the committee considered the institution’s self-imposed penalties. The penalties both self-imposed by the university and imposed by the committee include the following:
- Public reprimand and censure.
- A period of probation beginning September 30, 2004, and ending September 29, 2005.
- The former head coach was released from her recruiting duties October 28, 2003, and was officially relieved of all duties as head women’s tennis coach and permitted to resign October 29, 2003.
- The university declared student-athlete 2 ineligible to compete pending the release of this report.
- The former head coach has been informed in writing that an additional three-year period has been added to her five-year show cause penalty in the Stetson University case. 'The committee believed that such a lengthy show cause was warranted because, not only did the former head coach behave unethically through her knowing involvement in repeated violations of NCAA legislation at two institutions, but she also influenced a student-athlete to provide false information to the committee." The show cause penalty means that if the former head coach seeks employment or affiliation in an athletically related position at an NCAA member institution during the show cause period, she and the institution must appear before the Division I Committee on Infractions so it can consider whether her athletically related duties at a new institution should be limited for a designated period.
During the probation period, the institution shall do the following:
- 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.
- Submit a preliminary report to the director of the NCAA Committees on Infractions by November 15, setting forth a schedule for establishing this compliance and education program.
File with the committee’s director annual compliance reports indicating the progress made with this program by April 15, of each year during the probationary period. Particular emphasis should be placed on adherence to NCAA recruiting legislation and the monitoring of foreign student-athletes. The reports must also include documentation of the university’s compliance with the penalties (adopted and) imposed by the committee.
- At the conclusion 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, the University of Louisiana at Monroe 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 the case (September 30, 2004).
The members of the NCAA Committee on Infractions who heard this case are Thomas E. Yeager, (then committee chair and commissioner of the Colonial Athletic Association); Alfred J. Lechner Jr., attorney, Princeton, New Jersey; Gene A. Marsh, (current committee chair and law professor); University of Alabama; Andrea L. Myers, director of athletics at Indiana State University; Josephine R. Potuto, law professor, University of Nebraska, Lincoln; and Eugene D. Smith, director of athletics at Arizona State University.