NCAA legislation requires member institutions to maintain and demonstrate “institutional control” over intercollegiate athletics programs. Specifically, NCAA Constitution 6.01.1 (Institutional Control) states “the control and responsibility for the conduct of intercollegiate athletics shall be exercised by the institution itself and by the conference(s), if any, of which it is a member. Administrative control or faculty control, or a combination of the two, shall constitute institutional control.” Moreover, Constitution 6.1.1 (President or Chancellor) notes “a member institution’s president or chancellor has ultimate responsibility and final authority for the conduct of the intercollegiate athletics program and the actions of any board in control of that program”.
The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions applied Constitution 6.1.1 to the conduct of a university president in the St. Bonaventure University enforcement case. The committee’s Infractions Report No. 216, which was issued on February 19, 2004, used Constitution 6.1.1 to articulate when a university president failed to fulfill his or her responsibilities to maintain institutional control. The St. Bonaventure enforcement case involved allegations of NCAA violations in the men’s basketball program that centered on the academic eligibility of a men’s basketball prospective student-athlete, who transferred to the institution after spending two years at a junior college. The Committee on Infractions found the “young man had earned a “Certificate of Welding,” which clearly did not meet the requirements for initial academic eligibility under NCAA legislation. Propelled by the desire for men’s basketball success, however, the university, and more specifically the former president, concluded that the student-athlete was eligible. In so concluding, the university, and more specifically the former president, subverted academic values and responsible rules compliance by engaging in internal misinterpretations of NCAA legislation, ignoring the advice and judgment of the former athletics director, and by repeatedly failing to bring issues to the attention of the appropriate authorities. By the time the NCAA was finally asked to make a ruling regarding the student-athletes eligibility and determined that he was not eligible, he had impermissibly competed during almost the entire 2002-03 season.”
Regarding the responsibility of presidents and chancellors to maintain institutional control, the Committee on Infractions declared:
“Although the Association firmly believes that institutional chief executive officers (CEOs) should be responsible for their intercollegiate athletics programs, there is a line that CEOs should not cross with respect to making certain determinations, such as, in this case, ruling on the initial athletics eligibility of a prospective student-athlete. This is clearly an area in which university presidents generally have no expertise. In this case the former president crossed that line, and in doing so, usurped the authority of both the director of athletics and the university‟s compliance staff, thus becoming a participant in the day-to-day operation of the athletics program. The former president relinquished his ultimate responsibility to assure institutional control of those who operated the department.”
The Committee on Infractions cited the president for lack of institutional control and unethical conduct (NCAA Constitution 2.1, 2.8.1, 6.01.1 and 6.1.1; Bylaws 10.01 and 10.1). In particular, the committee determined “the former president violated the principles of institutional control and ethical conduct when he made the decision to certify the student-athlete as NCAA eligible even though this violated NCAA legislation. A key component of the former president’s lack of institutional control and unethical conduct was his decision to rely upon the advice of his son, an assistant men’s basketball coach, while disregarding the advice of the former director of athletics.” Further, the committee believed “the former president violated the principles of institutional control when he asked his chief academic officer, the institution’s vice-president for academic affairs, to review his initial decision to correctly and properly enforce the withdrawal date deadline relating to a class in which the student-athlete was enrolled in the fall of 2002.”
The Committee on Infractions imposed the following sanctions in the case: public reprimand and censure; three years of probation; one year post season ban for the 2003-04 academic year in the men’s basketball program; the number of athletically related financial aid awards were reduced by a total of three; the number of evaluation days were reduced by 10; the number of men’s basketball coaches permitted to recruit off-campus was reduced to two for the 2004 evaluation period; the number of official paid visits were reduced from 12 to 10 for the 2003-04 and 2004-05 academic years; all conference games in which the involved student-athlete participated were forfeited; the conference required the university to pay a total of $115,943 for the cost incurred by the conference and member institutions as a result of the university’s decision not to play its last two regular season games; and the university terminated or obtained the resignation of the former president, the former director of athletics and the men’s basketball staff.
The Michael L. Buckner Law Firm recommends athletics compliance offices conduct an annual rules-education workshop with senior campus and athletics administrators concerning institutional control, monitoring and shared-responsibilities principles (including each administrator’s compliance-related responsibilties).