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Hartford violated NCAA certification and recruiting rules

The University of Hartford improperly certified student-athlete eligibility, failed to notify student-athletes that their scholarships were reduced or canceled, and had impermissible recruiting contacts by its men’s lacrosse program, according to an agreement released by the Division I Committee on Infractions. 

The university and the NCAA enforcement staff agreed that the university improperly certified 27 student-athletes as eligible in 30 occurrences across eight sports. The improper certifications resulted in 10 student-athletes competing while ineligible. The university also did not withhold three student-athletes from competition before their eligibility was reinstated. 

NCAA rules require schools to notify student-athletes when their scholarships are reduced or not renewed. According to the agreement, after 68 student-athletes told the university they were no longer going to participate in athletics or transfer, the university did not give them written notification. The university didn’t notify the same student-athletes of their opportunity for a hearing regarding the change in scholarship. The university also did not provide a signed scholarship renewal agreement to 62 student-athletes, contrary to NCAA rules.

In addition to the certification violations, the agreement detailed recruiting violations. The head men’s lacrosse coach and assistant men’s lacrosse coach agreed with the enforcement staff and university that they had impermissible recruiting contact without obtaining permission from a recruit’s Division III school. The assistant coach impermissibly called and texted with the student-athlete. Both the head coach and assistant coach hosted the student-athlete for an unofficial visit that included a meeting, an athletics-specific tour of the campus and attendance at a lacrosse practice. 

The agreement said the head coach did not promote an atmosphere of compliance due to his personal involvement in the violations. Additionally, the head coach did not monitor his direct reports since he was aware of the assistant coach’s involvement in the violations but did not prevent or stop them or report the violations to compliance. 

The university mistakenly administered a previous year of the annual NCAA Recruiting Certification Test, which resulted in eight coaches contacting or evaluating prospects off campus while not being certified, according to the agreement.

The enforcement staff and university agreed that the university failed to monitor its academic certification process and the scholarship cancellation, reduction and renewal process. Additionally, the university did not educate staff members responsible for administering scholarships on relevant NCAA rules. 

This case was processed through the negotiated resolution process. The process was used because the university, the head coach, the assistant coach and the NCAA enforcement staff agreed on the violations and the penalties. The Division I Committee on Infractions reviewed the agreement to determine whether the resolution was in the best interests of the Association and whether the agreed-upon penalties were reasonable. Negotiated resolutions may not be appealed and do not set case precedent for other infractions cases.

The university, head coach, assistant coach and the enforcement staff used ranges identified by the Division I membership-approved penalty guidelines for Level II – standard penalties. Those and other penalties, approved by the Committee on Infractions, are detailed below:

  • Two years of probation.
  • A fine of $5,000.
  • A reduction of one women’s basketball scholarship from a total of 15 allowed for both of the 2020-21 and 2022-23 academic years.
  • A reduction of men’s lacrosse team equivalency scholarships by 0.40 from a total of 12.6 allowed for the 2021-22 academic year. 
  • A two-week ban on men’s lacrosse unofficial visits and a 10% reduction of men’s lacrosse official paid visits based on the previous four-year average in the 2020-21 academic year. 
  • A one-year show-cause order for the head men’s lacrosse coach. During that period, the head coach must be prohibited from participating in all recruiting communication, contacts and off-campus recruiting for four weeks. The head coach also must attend one NCAA Regional Rules Seminar at his own expense. 
  • The head coach must be suspended from the first regular-season competition during the 2020-21 season. 
  • A one-year show-cause order for the assistant men’s lacrosse coach. During that period, he must be prohibited from participating in all recruiting communication contacts and off-campus recruiting for two weeks and must be suspended from the second regular-season competition during the 2020-21 season. The assistant coach also must attend one NCAA Regional Rules Seminar at his own expense. 
  • A vacation of records of contests in which student-athletes participated while ineligible. The university must provide a written report containing the contests impacted to the NCAA media coordination and statistics staff within 14 days of the public release of the decision.

Members of the Committee on Infractions are drawn from the NCAA membership and the public. The members of the panel who reviewed this case were Bobby Cremins, former head men’s basketball coach at Appalachian State University, Georgia Tech and the College of Charleston; Thomas Hill, senior vice president emeritus at Iowa State; and Kay Norton, chief hearing officer for the panel and president emeritus of Northern Colorado.