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College Sports, Division III, Education

NCAA Division III Secondary Case Review: Competition and Full-Time Enrollment Status

The Michael L. Buckner Law Firm continues its educational series on NCAA Division III legislation through a review of selected cases involving secondary rules-violations. Today’s post reviews a secondary case involving a violation of NCAA Division III Bylaw 14.1.8.1. The rule provides:

14.1.8.1 Requirement for Practice or Competition.

To be eligible for practice or competition, a student-athlete shall be enrolled in at least a minimum full-time program of studies leading to a baccalaureate or equivalent degree as defined by the institution. For purposes of this bylaw and its subsections, to be eligible for competition, a student-athlete shall be enrolled in not less than 12-semester or quarter hours, regardless of the institution’s definition of minimum full-time program of studies. For practice only, a violation of this bylaw shall be considered an institutional violation per Constitution 2.8.1; however, it shall not affect the student-athlete’s eligibility.

The bylaws were cited in Secondary Case Number 47125 (April 20, 2011), which involves Division III women’s cross country. The case is summarized below:

Facts: During 2010 fall semester, first-year, nonrecruited women’s cross country student-athlete (SA) received travel expenses and competed in one date of competition October 22, 2010, while enrolled in less than a full time program of studies. Specifically, based on advice from her academic advisor, SA withdrew from a course the morning of October 22, 2010, that resulted in her becoming a part time student with 11 credit hours. Academic advisor stated she advised SA that since she was a freshman, there would be no consequence for dropping below full-time status. Academic advisor was referring to institutional policy at time and not NCAA regulations. SA did not notify her head coach she had withdrawn from course, and competed in one date of competition that afternoon. Institution stated women’s cross country team had been made aware early during 2010 fall semester of NCAA policy requiring full-time status. At team’s initial meeting prior to start of tryouts, director of athletics addressed team about various NCAA rules and regulations, including full-time enrollment. This rule was later discussed again by head coach in team meeting and each team member received a copy of team policies, where full-time enrollment was clearly stated on first page. SA was present at these meetings. SA indicated she was not aware of her violation at time it occurred based on inaccurate information she received from academic advisor. Violation discovered October 25, 2010, when full-time enrollment report was received showing SA was enrolled in less than 12 credits. SA did not return to full-time status for 2010 fall semester.

Institution Action: Institution will withhold SA from first three dates of competition during 2011-12 season.  Institution will continue to review this rule with all teams and each coach.  Institution has in place a computer-generated report that advises immediately when a SA drops below 12 credit hours. Department of athletics has requested drop form be changed to include requirement of coaches signature when a SA is involved.  Department of athletics also has requested registrar send e-mail to all academic advisors reminding them that if a SA falls below 12 credit hours that SA is immediately ineligible.

Enforcement Action: The institution should be required to forfeit/vacate the individual points earned by the SA in the contests in which she competed while ineligible.

Eligibility Action: STAFF: Eligibility reinstated based on institution’s action of withholding SA from first three regularly scheduled dates of competition of 2011-12 women’s cross country season.  The dates must be among those dates considered for team selection for the NCAA championship.  Please note, institution’s action exceeded what staff would have imposed (one-for-one).

Rationale: STAFF: N/A

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About Justin P. Sievert, Esquire

Bar Admissions (North Carolina, Florida and Tennessee) Practice Area (College Sports Law)

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