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College Sports, Division I, Education

University of South Carolina Responds to the Notice of Allegations from NCAA

On December 14, 2011, the University of South Carolina responded to the September 19, 2011, notice of allegations issued by the NCAA enforcement staff. South Carolina’s response can be viewed and downloaded at the institution’s website, which can be located by clicking here.

The NCAA staff, through the notice of allegations, contended “possible major violations occurred” in the football, men’s basketball, and men’s and women’s track and field programs, including a representative of the institution’s athletics interests providing extra-benefits to twelve student-athletes, representatives of the institution’s athletics interests making impermissible recruiting contacts with and providing recruiting inducements to prospective student-athletes and a failure of the institution to monitor student-athlete housing arrangements and impermissible activities involving representatives of the institution’s athletics interests. The institution is scheduled to appear before the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions during its scheduled meeting on February 17-18, 2012, in Los Angeles, California.

In its response to the notice of allegations, South Carolina informed the NCAA that it agreed that major rules-violations took place in its football program. The institution self-imposed sanctions, including: a three-year probation; the reduction of six football scholarships over the next three years; payment of a fine of $18,500 for four football players who played while ineligible in 2009 due to the rules-violations; and reduction of official visits for its football and track and field teams. South Carolina also disassociated itself from three representatives of the institution’s athletcs interests (“boosters”), including Student Athlete Mentoring Foundation president Steve Gordon and Kevin Lahn, and demoted former senior compliance administrator Jennifer Stiles for the compliance department’s involvement in signing off on the hotel arrangements.

The NCAA staff alleged twelve student-athletes received $47,000 worth of impermissible benefits from the Whitney Hotel, in the form of reduced rent that was generally not available to the regular student population for off-campus housing. Specifically, athletes were given rooms that were normally rented $57 a night for extended stays of three months or more for $14.59 a night. Additionally, the Whitney Hotel made special arrangements for nine of the student-athletes to pay their rent at later dates, thereby providing an impermissible loan to the student-athletes.

Further, the NCAA alleged that between the 2009 fall semester and February 2011, Lahn and Gordon made impermissible recruiting contacts with and provided impermissible recruiting inducements for prospective student-athletes and provided extra-benefits for current student-athletes through the Student-Athlete Mentoring Foundation, which they were co-founders. These inducements and benefits allegedly totaled more than $8,000. The impermissible inducements  and benefits included financed unofficial visits, gift cards, meals and various forms of entertainment.

Finally, the NCAA alleged the institution violated the principles of rules compliance in that it did not “sufficiently” monitor student-athlete housing arrangements at the Whitney Hotel or the impermissible activities of Lahn and Gordon. The failure to monitor allegation included the institution failing to compare the rates the Whitney Hotel provided to student-athletes to regular hotel guests and even newly employed athletic department employees who had stayed at the hotel during their time in transition. The allegation also included the failure of the compliance office to investigate and follow-up on the extent of Lahn’s activities with the institution’s athletics programs despite warning Lahn not to engage in the recruiting of student-athletes.

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About Michael L. Buckner, Esquire

An attorney who provides clients with internal investigation, compliance, professional development and legal services.

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