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Northern Colorado basketball staff violated academic fraud, recruiting rules

Download the Dec. 2017 University of Northern Colorado Public Infractions Decision

Listen to the media teleconference:

Nine members of the Northern Colorado men’s basketball staff, including the former head coach, were directly involved in the violations, which included completing coursework for prospects, paying for classes the prospects needed to become academically eligible and arranging off-campus practice sessions with an academically ineligible student-athlete.  The head coach admitted that he failed his responsibilities to promote an atmosphere of compliance and monitor his staff. Two assistant coaches violated ethical conduct rules for providing false and misleading information and a third failed to cooperate during the investigation.

Penalties in the case include three years of probation; a one-year postseason ban for the men’s basketball team; a financial penalty; scholarship and recruiting restrictions; and a vacation of records. Seven coaches received show cause orders, including a six-year penalty for the head coach, five years for two assistant coaches, four years for another assistant coach, and three-year show cause orders for two assistant coaches and the graduate assistant. During the show cause periods, if an NCAA school hires the coach, that school must demonstrate why restrictions on the coach’s athletically related duties should not apply.

The panel commended Northern Colorado for its exemplary cooperation throughout the processing of the case.

“Although the underlying conduct in this case was contrary to the membership’s core expectations, the processing of the case featured a level of cooperation and agreement among the parties that exceeded those expectations,” the panel stated in its decision. “Northern Colorado, under the strong leadership of its president, set an example for all member institutions in its handling of this case.”

The academic fraud and recruiting violations in this case spanned four years under the leadership of a first-time head coach who personally completed coursework for a prospect and enlisted an athletic trainer to do the same. 

According to the panel, “The head coach took shortcuts to success, putting his own self-interest and ambitions ahead of student-athlete welfare. He recruited talented but academically ineligible prospects and then violated foundational NCAA ethical conduct legislation to secure their eligibility.”

Three assistant coaches and a graduate assistant also committed academic fraud. Another assistant coach arranged for and paid a friend to complete coursework for a prospect. These academic fraud actions resulted in three prospects competing while ineligible and receivingimpermissible financial aid and travel expenses.

In addition, the head coach and two of his assistant coaches paid or arranged payment for approximately $5,000 in tuition for courses prospects needed to become eligible. The head coach also directed his staff to engage in impermissible practice sessions with an ineligible men’s basketball student-athlete.

Penalties and corrective actions imposed by the panel include:

  • Three years of probation from Dec. 15, 2017, to Dec. 14, 2020.
  • The university must return all money for its appearance in the 2011 Division I Men’s Basketball Championship.
  • A postseason ban for the 2016-17 men’s basketball season (self-imposed by the university).
  • Reduction of three total men’s basketball scholarships for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 academic years (self-imposed by the university).
  • Recruiting restrictions, as detailed in the public decision (self-imposed by the university).
  • A vacation of all regular-season, conference tournament and postseason records in which ineligible student-athletes competed.
  • A six-year show cause order for the head coach from Dec. 15, 2017, through Dec. 14, 2023.
  • A three-year show cause order for the assistant coach who spearheaded the academic fraud scheme for a prospect, including personally completing his coursework and paying for one of his online courses. The penalty, which is from Dec. 15, 2017, through Dec. 14, 2020, considers his exemplary cooperation.
  • A three-year show cause order for the assistant coach who completed coursework for a prospect. The penalty, which is from Dec. 15, 2017, through Dec. 14, 2020, considers his exemplary cooperation.
  • A five-year show cause order for the assistant coach who completed coursework for a prospect and provided false or misleading information during the investigation. The show cause order is from Dec. 15, 2017, through Dec. 14, 2022.
  • A four-year show cause order for the assistant coach who arranged and paid for a friend to complete coursework for a prospect. He also provided false or misleading information during the investigation. His show cause order is from Dec. 15, 2017, through Dec. 14, 2021.
  • A five-year show cause order for the assistant coach who paid or arranged payment for two prospects’ online courses. He also engaged in unethical conduct by refusing to agree to participate in the investigation. His show cause order is from Dec. 15, 2017, through Dec. 14, 2022.
  • A three-year show cause order for the graduate assistant who completed coursework for a prospect. The penalty, which is from Dec. 15, 2017, through Dec. 14, 2020, considers his exemplary cooperation.

Members of the Committee on Infractions are drawn from NCAA membership and members of the public. The members of the panel who reviewed this case are Greg Christopher, athletics director at Xavier; Bobby Cremins, former head basketball coach at Georgia Tech; Joel Maturi, former Minnesota athletics director and chief hearing officer; Eleanor W. Myers, law professor at Temple; Vince Nicastro, deputy commissioner and chief operating officer for the Big East Conference; Jill Pilgrim, attorney in private practice; and David Roberts, special advisor to the president of the University of Southern California.