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College Sports, Education

NCAA Division III Committee on Infractions Releases Infractions Report on Fontbonne University

The NCAA Division III Committee on Infractions released on April 12, 2011, an infractions report involving the Fontbonne University major enforcement case. The committee concluded the institution committed major violations in its athletics program regarding its financial aid process. The committee issued several penalties, including a two-year probation period. This case was resolved through the summary disposition process, which is “a cooperative effort where the involved parties submit the case to the Committee on Infractions in written form” and occurs “when the NCAA enforcement staff, the school and involved individuals agree to the facts of the case and the school-proposed penalties, they may use this process instead of having a formal hearing”.

The committee determined the “violations in this case occurred from February 2006 through January 2010 when two institutional coaches (“former head women’s basketball coach” and “head men’s lacrosse coach,” respectively) participated in “rating” incoming freshman students as the first step in the institutional financial aid process. The two coaches, who held positions as director of freshman recruitment and freshman admissions counselor, respectively, were part of an institutional committee that recommended financial aid packages for the incoming freshman class. As members of the committee, they took part in rating 23 student-athletes who received $48,172 in institutional financial aid”. In addition, the committee concluded “further violations occurred when high school athletics participation was considered along with other leadership criteria in awarding merit-based institutional scholarships”. [Note: Division III bylaws prohibit the use of athletics scholarships.]

Finally, the committee noted the violations were “major in scope due to the amount of impermissible aid involved”, but determined “the violations were unintentional, as the institution took steps it felt kept the two coaches from influencing the process”. The committee used the fact that “the preliminary ratings of the incoming freshmen were based solely on academic factors” and “leadership criteria, including athletics participation, were only considered after a preliminary rating was assigned and were only relevant to those incoming students receiving the highest rating” as examples of how the coaches’ influence was limited. However, the committee held “the fact that the two coaches served on the financial aid committee constituted a violation, as they were involved in the review of the institutional financial assistance to be awarded to the incoming students, some of whom were student-athletes”.

NCAA member institutions can enhance their rules-compliance programs by implementing lessons learned from this infractions case, including:

•Develop and implement a comprehensive rules-education program on NCAA legislation to instruct the coaches, the faculty athletics representative, all athletics department personnel and all institution staff members with responsibility for the certification of student-athletes for admission, retention, financial aid or competition.
•Prohibit athletics staff from involvement in rating student-athletes for non-athletics aid, grants or scholarships.
•Conduct a regular external audit of the athletics financial aid process.

Contact Michael L. Buckner (954-941-1844; mbuckner@michaelbucknerlaw.com) for more rules-compliance strategies.


About Michael L. Buckner, Esquire

An attorney who provides clients with internal investigation, civil litigation, estate planning and compliance services.


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