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College Sports, Division III, Education

NCAA Division III Secondary Case Review: Importance of Rules Education

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 13.9.1. The rule provides:

13.9.1: Letter of Intent Prohibition

An institution shall not use any form of a letter of intent or similar form of commitment in the recruitment of a prospective student-athlete. However, it shall be permissible for the institution to use in the recruitment of a prospective student-athlete its pre-enrollment forms executed by prospective students in general at that institution.

The bylaws were cited in Secondary Case Number 32099 (October 24, 2007), which involves Division III women’s football. The case is summarized below:

Facts: In February of 2007, a newly hired assistant football coach / intern issued letters of intent to 14 prospective student-athletes.  The assistant coach / intern was in his first year of coaching / interning, and previously had been a student-athlete at a Division I institution.  He did not realize that Division III institutions were prohibited from using letters of intent or other forms of commitment.  The institution did not adequately train and educate the assistant coach / intern on Division III Bylaws before allowing him to recruit.  Four of the prospective student-athletes that were issued letters of intent were expected to enroll at the institution for the 2007 fall semester. In addition, the institution included athletics as a criterion in the financial aid awarding process for two scholarships.  Although the scholarships were awarded based on a variety of factors and athletics participation / achievement has never been the determining factor in making the award, athletics participation and/or achievement was considered in the awarding of two scholarships.  Even though athletics participation/achievement carried only minimal weight, the inclusion of athletics as a criterion for these awards was in violation of NCAA legislation.

Institution Action: Letter of Intent Violation:  Upon learning of the violations, the institution immediately suspended the assistant coach from participating in any recruiting activities for approximately 6 months.  The head coach contacted each PSA by telephone and each PSA received a letter indicating that they were not bound to attend the institution and that violations had occurred regarding the letters on intent they had signed.  A directive was issued that no correspondence be issued by interns / assistant coaches until it is reviewed by the head coach.  The institution will require the athletics director and director of compliance to attend the 2008 NCAA Regional Compliance Seminar.  Every head coach and assistant coach will be required to complete formal training sessions focused on recruiting prior to being involved in any recruiting activities.  The institution will codify a policy requiring oversight and supervision of all persons lower than head coaches in all cases where recruiting correspondence is being sent to prospects.  All full-time coaches and assistant coaches must annually complete the NCAA Division III coaches recruiting test.  The institution will delay off-campus recruiting for the football program by one coach until December 1, 2007 (approximately 7.5 months). Financial Aid Violation:  The institution will obtain appropriate oversight and approval of the modification of all of the scholarships in question (i.e., removal of athletics component) from the State Court and State Attorney General’s Office.  The institution will identify and implement appropriate steps to maintain and monitor discourse and compliance of D-III bylaws by and between the athletics department, financial aid and development office, and will ensure that no funds/gifts received in the future will be contrary to NCAA rules.  The institution immediately ceased awarding any scholarships based upon athletics

Enforcement Action: It was determined that the case should be classified as secondary and that, in addition to the actions already taken by the institution for these violations, the institution should be required to take the following actions: (1) Attendance by at least the athletics director, director of financial aid, compliance officer and director of admissions, and confirmation of such attendance through submission of an attendance confirmation form (available from the presenter), at the session on Division III financial aid legislation and reporting process at one of the following educational events: (a) NCAA Regional Rules Seminar (b) National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) (c) National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) (d) National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA), or (e) NCAA national office visit or teleconference; and (2) Successful completion of an on-line Division III financial aid examination by the individual responsible for oversight of the institution’s financial aid packaging.

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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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