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College Sports, Education

University of South Carolina Receives Notice of Allegations from NCAA

On September 19, 2011, the NCAA enforcement staff issued a notice of allegations in the enforcement case involving the University of South Carolina (USC). 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. USC has until December 14, 2011, to respond to the notice of allegations. The institution is scheduled to appear before the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions during the Committee’s scheduled meeting on February 17-18, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.

A notice of allegations is defined in the NCAA Manual. Specifically, NCAA Bylaw 32.6.1 states “when the enforcement staff determines that there is sufficient information to warrant, it shall issue a cover letter and notice of allegations to the chancellor or president of the institution involved (with copies to the faculty athletics representative and the athletics director and to the executive officer of the conference of which the institution is a member)”. Furthermore, Bylaw 32.6.1.1.1 requires “the enforcement staff shall allege a violation when it believes there is sufficient information to conclude that the Committee on Infractions could make a finding”.

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, Kevin Lahn and Steve Gordon, representatives of the institution’s athletics interests, 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 Kevin Lahn and Steve Gordon, all of which were considered representatives of the institution’s athletics interests. 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 Justin P. Sievert, Esquire

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

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