2020 Quarter 4 Case Summaries

Molly C. Richman

Author: Molly C. Richman

POST DATE: 1.11.21
Ccha  Sports Law

Charleston Southern
October 7, 2020

Key Takeaways
• This case should serve as a cautionary tale – even casual or social conversations may be treated as violations of the transfer communication rules.
• We are continuing to see more strict applications of the penalty matrix, including head coach suspensions where the head coach was directly involved in the violations, even unknowingly.

Level: Level II-Mitigated for the Institution and Head Coach
Facts: From March through May 2019, the head women’s volleyball coach had impermissible contacts with eight women’s volleyball student-athletes (“SAs”) and two parents of SAs he coached at a former institution on 79 occasions. Based on advice from the director of compliance, the head coach believed it was permissible to reach out to his former players to wish them happy birthday, holiday wishes or engage in general conversation. He stated that he was not attempting to influence the SAs to transfer. After a deeper dive, the investigation revealed that most of his communications were limited and cordial; however, a few exchanges with SAs showed that he expressed interest in them being a part of the program at Charleston Southern. One SAs father initiated contact with the head coach expressing his interest in his daughter transferring prior to his daughter entering the transfer portal. The SA eventually visited Charleston Southern and transferred to the institution.
Violations Found
The Division I Committee on Infractions cited violations in the following areas:
1. NCAA Division I Manual Bylaw (2018-19 and 2019-20) (Level II)
2. NCAA Division I Manual Bylaw 11.1.1. (2018-19 and 2019-20)] (Level II)
Core Penalties for Institution:
1. 1 year of probation will run consecutive to the institution’s case from 2018 extending to October 15, 2021.
2. $5,000 fine

Core Penalties for Head Coach
1. 1 year show cause order
2. Suspension from 10% of next season (all suspensions will be served during home games)

University of Florida
December 22, 2020

Key Takeaways
• We continue to see a pattern than even a small number of impermissible contacts can result in at least a Level II case
• Relatively severe penalties can apply to head coaches involved in the violations or who fail to rebut the head coach control responsibility presumption, including a 1 year show cause in this case and lengthy recruiting penalties

Level: Level II-Mitigated for Institution and Assistant Coach, Level II-Standard for Head Coach
Facts: The head football coach was directly involved in an impermissible contact violation with a prospective student-athlete. The head coach and an assistant planned to visit the PSA’s school on January 14, 2019. On days leading up to the visit, the head coach had direct contact with the PSA via text message saying, “Coming to see you Monday” and “You are at the top of my list.” Additionally, the head and assistant coaches admitted to having a 15-minute meeting with the prospect’s high school coach while the prospect was in the same room. All of these events occurred before July 1 following the completion of the prospect’s junior year in high school.
Later, in March of 2019 the institution self-reported violations resulting from 7 nonscholastic football teams visiting campus in route to a competition nearby. While the teams walked around campus, one of the assistant coaches had incidental contact with several PSAs and posed for a photo with one of the teams.
Violations Found
The Division I Committee on Infractions cited violations in the following areas:
1. NCAA Division I Manual Bylaw (2018-2019) (Level II)
2. NCAA Division I Manual Bylaw (2018-19) (Level II)
3. NCAA Division I Manual Bylaw (2018-19) (Level III)
Core Penalties for Institution:
1. 1 year probation
2. $5,000 fine
3. Recruiting Restrictions
a. Reduced number of official visits for football by 1 during 19-20 academic year
b. Reduced number of unofficial visits for football by 14 days for 19-20 academic year
c. Seven-day off-campus recruiting ban for entire coaching staff for the spring of 2021 off-campus recruiting period.

Core Penalties for Head Coach
1. 1 year show cause order
2. Off-campus recruiting ban on head coach for entire fall of 2020 evaluation period
3. Four-day off campus recruiting band on head coach during November and/or December contact period

Additional Cases

The following cases are brief summaries of additional negotiated resolutions or COI decisions published in the fourth quarter. *Cases currently submitted for an appeal based on public statements from institutions.

*University of Washington (October 9, 2020) Committee on Infractions Decision: Over three academic years, the baseball staff arranged for and provided $7,795 in impermissible recruiting benefits when they paid for the airfare of 14 parents visiting with prospective student-athletes (“PSA’s”) on their official visits and as a result, three SA’s competed while ineligible. This occurred due to a misunderstanding and a miscommunication regarding NCAA legislation. 1 year of probation, $5,000 fine, recruiting restrictions and vacation of records.

*University of Massachusetts (October 16, 2020) Committee on Infractions Decision: UMASS (Amherst) provided impermissible aid to 12 student-athletes (“SAs”) in the men’s basketball and women’s tennis programs over a three year period rendering 12 SAs ineligible when they competed after receiving the impermissible aid. The office of financial aid at UMASS over awarded $9,100 total when they failed to properly adjust scholarship awards to reflect a student-athlete moving off-campus after the start of the semester. The overages fell into two categories (a) a telecom fee associated with on campus communication services and (b) housing costs. 2 years of probation, $5,000 fine, self-imposed suspension for operations member, and vacation of records

Jackson State University (October 23, 2020) Negotiated Resolution: From fall 2014 through fall 2018, the institution failed to obtain final certification status for 34 student-athletes across seven sports. Additionally, in 2019, an internal football operations staff member contacted and arranged for a football SA intending to transfer to Jackson State to receive tutoring from two current students. The operations staff member also sent $300 via cash transfer to the PSA’s godmother after learning they were having financial difficulties. Penalties included 2 year probation, $5,000 fine, scholarship reductions, recruiting restrictions, and vacation of records.

Hartford University (November 5, 2020) Negotiated Resolution: Over four academic years, Hartford improperly certified 27 student-athletes on 30 occurrences in eight sports. Ten student-athletes competed and received actual and necessary expenses while ineligible. Additionally, the men’s lacrosse head and assistant coaches impermissibly contacted a SA at a DIII institution without obtaining permission. Penalties included 2 years of probation, $5,000 fine, scholarship reductions, recruiting restrictions, 1 year show cause for both the head coach and assistant coach and suspension from first championship segment contest, and vacation of records.

University of Alabama (November 20, 2020) Committee on Infractions Decision: This case centered on the unethical conduct of a former associate director of athletics who received money in exchange for facilitating a meeting between a basketball prospect’s father, a financial advisor and the advisor’s representative. Penalties included: 3 years of probation, $5,000 fine plus 1% of men’s basketball budget, and a 10 year show cause order for the former associate AD.

St. Francis College Brooklyn (December 22, 2020) Negotiated Resolution: From May 2018 through August 2019 the head women’s basketball coach had 11 impermissible in-person contacts with three student-athletes (“SA’s”) at another Division I institution (the head coach’s former employer) without first obtaining written permissible or authorization through the notification of transfer process. The head coach also initiated four phone calls and 249 impermissible text messages and provided impermissible inducements to the same three student-athletes. Penalties included 2 years of probation, $5,000 fine, scholarship reductions, recruiting restrictions, 2 year show cause for head coach and suspension from three regular season contests.