INDIANAPOLIS---The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions has penalized West Virginia University for major and secondary violations in the men's soccer program, including an unethical conduct violation against the former head coach.
Penalties for the violations included a four-year show cause penalty for the former coach, two years of university probation and reduced recruiting contact, among other sanctions.
The case involved three allegations of major violations in the men's soccer program. The first allegation centered around the former head coach's summer employment by an outside amateur team, during which he coached current men's soccer student-athletes from the university and prospective student-athletes.
The committee found that the former head coach encouraged nine prospects to become members of, or practice with, this outside team. These practices and games constituted impermissible try-out activities and in-person, off-campus recruiting contacts in excess of the number allowed under NCAA rules. The former head coach also violated NCAA rules prohibiting contacts with prospects on the day of competition.
The former head coach also arranged for transportation from the airport and approximately 10 days of free housing for one of these prospective student-athletes involved with the outside team. In addition, the former head coach allowed two student-athletes to practice with the outside team even though neither was a member.
The former head coach argued the outside-team coaching activities were not violations, as he believed the outside team qualified for an exception from NCAA rules. Further, he argued the violations did not represent major infractions and because he had "reasonable belief" that the activities were permitted, he should not be held accountable.
The committee stated in its findings that processes at the university that should have identified the violations failed in this situation. According to the committee report, "the first area was the failure of the compliance staff to realize that the former head coach coached the outside team in the summers of 2002 and 2003. The second area was the misunderstanding by the compliance staff and the sports administrators regarding whether the [outside team] qualified for an exception from NCAA legislation."
The second set of allegations involved infractions that arose out of the presence of on-campus prospective student-athletes on campus prior to their initial full-time enrollment. Specifically, the violations involved recruiting inducements in the form of cost-free housing.
In the summers 2002 to 2004 at least 12 men's soccer prospective student-athletes arrived on campus prior to enrollment and participated in preseason practice activities. The men's soccer coaching staff arranged for these prospective student-athletes to live free of charge with enrolled men's soccer student-athletes. The number of days of cost-free housing ranged from one to 10.
Both the former head coach and the assistant coach said they were unaware the housing arrangements violated NCAA rules. The former head coach argued this activity did not constitute a major infraction.
The committee, however, found that the violations were neither isolated nor inadvertent because they occurred in three summers under two different head coaches. In particular, the committee also noted in its report that "over the past decade, the committee has warned institutions repeatedly of their responsibility to be vigilant in monitoring prospects on campus prior to their first full-time enrollment."
The third and most serious allegation concerned unethical conduct by the former head coach. The committee found the coach acted unethically in an effort to gain eligibility for a student-athlete. Specifically, the former head coach provided false and misleading information and also failed to disclose information that would have highlighted issues needing resolution regarding the student-athlete's amateur status. Finally, he directed the involved student-athlete to provide false and misleading information. A full chronology of the events concerning the effort to achieve eligibility for the student-athlete is detailed in the public report.
The committee also found three related secondary violations, which are also outlined in the public report.
In determining the penalties, the committee considered the university's self-imposed penalties and corrective actions and its adherence to the cooperative principle. However, the committee was troubled by the university's failure to properly inquire into the former head coach's employment with the outside team and the violations resulting from presence of prospects on-campus prior to enrollment, along with other factors. The penalties, some of which were self-imposed by the institution and adopted by the committee, are as follows:
- Public reprimand and censure.
- Two years of probation (May 1, 2007 to April 30, 2009).
- The 2007 spring competition season of the 2006-07 academic year is cancelled and no athletically related activities will occur during spring break.
- Men's soccer staff is prohibited from on- and off-campus recruiting of international prospects for a two-year period that began May 2006 and concludes on May 31, 2008.
- A limit of 17 official paid visits was imposed for the 2006-07 academic year, constituting a 50-percent reduction from the average number of visits over the prior four academic years.
- No current student-athlete or prospective student-athlete was permitted to work out on campus or utilize West Virginia athletics facilities during summer 2006. The strength and conditioning staff was prohibited from overseeing conditioning workouts of student-athletes or prospects.
- The former head coach is prohibited from off-campus recruiting until April 30, 2009, at his current employing institution.
- In addition, the former head coach is also prohibited from recruiting international prospects until April 20, 2009, at his current employing institution.
- The current employing institution must implement a plan for rules education for the former head coach.
- The former head coach shall attend the NCAA Regional Compliance Seminars in 2007 and 2008.
- The current employing institution shall submit a report to the committee by April 30, 2008, and again on April 30, 2009, in which it documents compliance with these penalties and also details its monitoring of and rules education for the former head coach.
- Should the former head coach terminate his employment with the current employing institution prior to April 30, 2009, and subsequently become employed or affiliated in an athletically related position at another NCAA member school prior to April 30, 2011, he and the involved school must appear before the committee to consider whether the institution should limit his athletically related duties.
The Committee on Infractions consists of conference and institutional athletics administrators, faculty and members of the public. The committee independently decides cases investigated by the NCAA enforcement staff and determines appropriate penalties. The committee's findings may be appealed to the Infractions Appeals Committee.
The members of the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions who reviewed this case are Josephine R. Potuto, professor of law, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and chair of the committee; Eileen K. Jennings, general counsel, Central Michigan University; Alfred Lechner, Jr., attorney, Lerner David LLP; Paul T. Dee, athletic director, University of Miami; Ted Leland, vice president for advancement, University of the Pacific; Gene A. Marsh, professor of law, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa; Thomas R. Phillips, partner attorney, Baker Botts LLP; and Dennis E. Thomas, commissioner, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.