Solving the Riddle of Exemplary Cooperation

POST DATE: 3.7.18
Ccha  Sports Law

What’s Happening?

Exemplary cooperation is a mitigating factor that can help your institution or coach through an investigation. Institutions often believe they’ve delivered exemplary cooperation but don’t see the mitigating factor in the decision. The key is knowing what the NCAA expects but figuring that out is not always clear cut. The Northern Colorado case published in December of 2017 provides useful insight on what this looks like in a case that involves academic fraud. We know your time is limited so we’ve provided a quick summary, examples of the cooperation, and useful tips on how you can get ahead of the game.

Northern Colorado Summary

Quick Case Summary

This case centers on academic fraud and impermissible recruiting inducements by nine members of the men’s basketball staff, including the former head basketball coach

  1. Summer 2010, Prospect 1 – Prospect 1 enrolled in online algebra and biology courses at BYU to secure his eligibility. The head coach completed his algebra coursework and enlisted the athletic trainer to complete his biology work. The athletic trainer mentioned that the head coach told him it was for a prerequisite for his wife to obtain a job, but once the athletic trainer found out it wasn’t, he completed two or three more assignments and told the coach he felt uncomfortable continuing.
  2. Summer 2012, Prospect 2 – A junior college transfer was nine hours short of meeting his progress-towards-degree requirements. Hill directed his staff to enroll the prospect in online courses and three assistant coaches plus the graduate assistant completed the coursework for the prospect in three courses: math at Adam’s State, leadership development at Cloud County Community College, and a sociology course at Clarendon College. Assistants 1 and 2 and the GA said they felt pressured by the head coach and were worried about negative repercussions if they refused.
  3. Summer 2014, Prospect 3 – Assistant coach 4 paid a friend to complete coursework for prospect 3 in two English courses. The prospect needed English and Math to become eligible. The friend was a former graduate student at Southern Mississippi and was paid $200 by assistant coach 4.

Additionally, the coaching staff paid tuition for the prospects’ courses and two staff members repeatedly engaged a nonqualifier student-athlete in practice sessions during the SA’s year in residence.

Exemplary Cooperation

3 Examples Cited

  1. Locking coaches’ offices to preserve any information relevant to the investigation
  2. Two athletics staff members searched each coach’s office and prepared a log to inventory their findings.
  3. Imaged the coaches’ hard drives and email accounts and obtained records from the institutions offering the online courses.

Level I-Mitigated for Institution

The NCAA cited President Kay Norton’s leadership throughout the investigative process which resulted in a Level I-Mitigated penalty for the institution.

“Although the underlying conduct in this case was contrary to the membership’s core expectations, the processing of the case features a level of cooperation and agreement among the parties that exceeded those expectations. Northern Colorado, under the strong leader ship of its president set an example for all member institutions in its handling of this case.”


Rule of Thumb: Preservation of Information

The COI cited five mitigating factors and three aggravating factors for the institution. Weighing aggravating and mitigating factors appears to be a numbers game (i.e. equal number of aggravating and mitigating results in a Standard classification), but the NCAA reserves the right to place more emphasis on some factors and less on others. In this case, the addition or removal of exemplary cooperation would likely not have impacted the final Level I-Mitigated violation classification, but nonetheless Northern Colorado helps solve the riddle of what exemplary cooperation looks like for the NCAA by preserving, organizing, and logging all documents relative to the NCAA’s investigation. Not all cases look alike, but many cases do involve handing over documents to enforcement and this opens the door to useful ideas to show the NCAA your institution is serious about their inquiry.

CCHA Collegiate and CCHA Sports Law

Most clients turn to CCHA Collegiate Sports Consulting for education, head coach control plans, and institutional control assessments. Other clients turn to us for representation during NCAA inquiries. Please contact us regarding any of our services. We’re happy to help.