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College Sports, Division I

NCAA Secondary Case Review: Unethical Conduct

The Michael L. Buckner Law Firm continues its educational series on NCAA legislation through a review of selected cases involving secondary rules-violations. Today’s post reviews a secondary case involving a violation of NCAA Bylaws 10.1 (Unethical Conduct). The bylaws provide:

Bylaw 10.1 Unethical Conduct: Unethical conduct by a prospective or enrolled student-athlete or a current or former institutional staff member, which includes any individual who performs work for the institution or the athletics department even if he or she does not receive compensation for such work, may include, but is not limited to, the following:  (Revised: 1/10/90, 1/9/96, 2/22/01, 10/5/10)

(a) Refusal to furnish information relevant to an investigation of a possible violation of an NCAA regulation when requested to do so by the NCAA or the individual’s institution;

(b) Knowing involvement in arranging for fraudulent academic credit or false transcripts for a prospective or an enrolled student-athlete;

(c) Knowing involvement in offering or providing a prospective or an enrolled student-athlete an improper inducement or extra benefit or improper financial aid;  (Revised: 1/9/96)

(d) Knowingly furnishing or knowingly influencing others to furnish the NCAA or the individual’s institution false or misleading information concerning an individual’s involvement in or knowledge of matters relevant to a possible violation of an NCAA regulation; (Revised:  1/16/10)

(e) Receipt of benefits by an institutional staff member for facilitating or arranging a meeting between a student-athlete and an agent, financial advisor or a representative of an agent or advisor (e.g., “runner”);  (Adopted: 1/9/96, Revised:  8/4/05)

(f) Knowing involvement in providing a banned substance or impermissible supplement to student-athletes, or knowingly providing medications to student-athletes contrary to medical licensure, commonly accepted standards of care in sports medicine practice, or state and federal law.  This provision shall not apply to banned substances for which the student-athlete has received a medical exception per Bylaw 31.2.3.5; however, the substance must be provided in accordance with medical licensure, commonly accepted standards of care and state or federal law;  (Adopted:  8/4/05, Revised:  5/6/08)

(g) Failure to provide complete and accurate information to the NCAA, the NCAA Eligibility Center or an institution’s admissions office regarding an individual’s academic record (e.g., schools attended, completion of coursework, grades and test scores);  (Adopted:  4/27/06, Revised:  10/23/07)

(h) Fraudulence or misconduct in connection with entrance or placement examinations;  (Adopted:  4/27/06)

(i) Engaging in any athletics competition under an assumed name or with intent to otherwise deceive; or  (Adopted:  4/27/06)

(j) Failure to provide complete and accurate information to the NCAA, the NCAA Eligibility Center or the institution’s athletics department regarding an individual’s amateur status. (Adopted:  1/8/07, Revised:  5/9/07)

The bylaw was cited in Secondary Case Number 48579 (November 8, 2011) involving a women’s basketball student-athlete, which is summarized below:

Facts: During fall 2010, a third-year women’s basketball student-athlete (SA) received preferential treatment associated with attending an impermissible promotional event and subsequently engaged in unethical conduct when she failed to provide complete and accurate information to the institution and NCAA student-athlete reinstatement staff regarding her attendance. Specifically, August 6, 2010, SA attended a Gus Macker Basketball Tournament kick-off party and VIP dinner. SA was introduced as a special guest who would be providing shooting instruction to youth players in attendance. The event was determined to be one which involves commercial co-sponsorship and, in part, benefits a commercial entity. Institution’s protocol requires the requesting party to complete a promotional activity form and submit it to athletics compliance staff and for SAs to notify coaching staff as well as compliance staff of the event. Compliance staff then determines whether event is permissible according to legislation. Further, all of institution’s SAs are reminded of SA appearances twice a year at rules education meetings at the start of each academic term. Violation was discovered August 7, 2010, when an article appeared on institution’s website indicating SA was at the event providing shooting instruction to youth players. Subsequently, athletics compliance staff contacted SA to inquire about her attendance at event. During three separate conversations with compliance staff August 9, 11 and 12, 2010, SA was not truthful regarding her involvement at the event. During an August 9 conversation with compliance staff, SA initially indicated she only went to see her friends play in the tournament and that the article on institution’s website was inaccurate. In an August 11 conversation, SA continued to mislead institution’s compliance staff, indicating she had attended the dinner, but was not providing any basketball instruction. During a third conversation with compliance staff August 12, SA acknowledged it was planned for her to attend the dinner, that she was announced as a guest and that it was planned she would provide shooting instruction to children at the event. However, institution confirmed SA did not provide shooting instruction, rather, she simply shot and rebounded with the children. Compliance staff held a meeting August 18 with SA after speaking with institution’s head women’s basketball coach. At that time, compliance staff reminded SA of unethical conduct legislation. SA subsequently signed a 10.1 statement August 26 during a meeting with compliance staff to discuss why she failed to inform them she had been asked to appear at an event. SA later indicated she knew she could not play in the event, but did not know she was being promoted as making an appearance, or that she was expected to provide shooting instruction. Institution stated, had SA notified compliance staff prior to event, proper documentation would have been obtained and SA and the individuals organizing the event would have been notified it was impermissible for SA to make an appearance or provide shooting instruction. Institution received an interpretation from its conference office and submitted a reinstatement request December 3, 2010. Within the reinstatement request, SA’s initial written statement to staff indicated she paid her former high school coach $20 for her ticket to the VIP dinner and was not provided any impermissible benefit in conjunction with the event. However, when asked by reinstatement staff to provide a more specific statement addressing why she provided inaccurate information and to indicate what specific details she was misleading about, SA further admitted she had not paid for her ticket to the event as indicated in her prior statement. SA explained that due to injuries and stressful issues going on at the time of the violation, she panicked when confronted by compliance staff regarding her activities surrounding the event.

Additional Facts: None.

Institution Action: Institution will withhold SA from the first 50 percent of the 2011-12 women’s basketball season. Compliance staff reminded SA of the rules surrounding ethical conduct and impermissible promotional activities.

Enforcement Action: No further action.

Eligibility Action: STAFF: Eligibility reinstated based on withholding SA from one year and charging SA with one season of competition.

Rationale: STAFF: Based on NCAA Division I Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement’s December 2007 guideline involving false or misleading information where the committee amended the guideline to include a minimum withholding condition of 50 percent of the season to permanent ineligibility. In addition, the committee revisited unethical conduct violations May 2008 and reaffirmed the guideline, and directed staff that significant consideration be given to the following factors: (1) SA acted actively and deliberately to conceal, omit or provide inaccurate of false information; (2) SA had multiple opportunities to correct or provide the accurate information; or (3) SA provided the inaccurate or false information to the NCAA enforcement or amateurism certification staff. Under the circumstances presented in this case, staff determined a withholding condition of sit-one-season/charge-one-season was appropriate based, in part, on the following: (1) SA mislead her institution’s compliance staff on three separate occasions; (2) as a third-year student-athlete, SA had received consistent rules education regarding the permissibility and protocol for promotional events; (3) institution held face-to-face meetings with SA during which notice was provided to her of the consequences that would result from providing false or misleading information; (4) SA subsequently provided false and misleading information in a written, signed statement to NCAA Student-Athlete Reinstatement staff December 2010 which was not corrected or rectified until June 20, 2011; and (5) SA had multiple opportunities to correct or provide accurate information regarding her participation in the event.

 

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About Justin P. Sievert, Esquire

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

Discussion

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