The NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee issued its April 27, 2011, decision upholding findings of rules-violations and penalties for the former head women’s tennis coach at Ball State University. [Disclaimer: The Michael L. Buckner Law Firm represented the former head coach in the appeals case.] The Ball State University enforcement case involved NCAA rules-violations concerning playing and practice seasons, tryouts, recruiting inducements and unethical conduct legislation.
The former head women’s tennis coach appealed the findings of violations and the three-year show-cause penalty. The former head coach’s basis for appeal included the following: “she was denied a fair hearing; the rules-violations were secondary rather than major; she was not provided sufficient information in the notice of allegations; and the findings are contrary to the evidence presented”. The former head coach also appealed the show-cause order penalty on the grounds that the sanction was “excessive such that it constitutes an abuse of discretion by the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions”.
The Infractions Appeals Committee upheld the findings of violations and penalties and concluded “it found no basis to conclude the former head coach was denied a fair hearing and that the record supports the determination that the violations were major, not secondary”. Further, the appeals committee stated “after an extensive review of case precedent, the appeals committee stated that the findings of violations in this case supported the show-cause penalty”.
Although we respectfully disagree with the Infractions Appeals Committee and believe the former head coach’s claims have merit, the Ball State case provided case-precedent on the following issues:
1. Committee on Infractions Misconduct: Although “comments from members of the Committee on Infractions regarding their view of a particular argument are not per se inappropriate, and may, in fact, be helpful by informing a party, or the party’s counsel, that the argument is not persuasive or assisting the party’s cause [,] relatively intemperate and perhaps inappropriate [statements] in the context of an impartial fact-finding process” may constitute a denial of due process or other reversible error if the statements, considers separately or collectively, were “egregious”.
2. Denial of the Introduction of Evidence at an Infractions Hearing: In order to decide on the existence of error, the Infractions Appeals Committee requires the record to include “the basis on which the Committee on Infractions refused to consider” evidence during a hearing pursuant to NCAA Bylaws 32.6.8 and 220.127.116.11.1. However, the Infractions Appeals Committee will weigh the error with the fact that “even if the [evidence] had been accepted, and all of the information presented within it was considered to be true and accurate”, would the evidence alter “the record [that] otherwise supports the finding of a major violation”.
Contact Michael L. Buckner for more analysis of the appeal in the Ball State University enforcement case.