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NVU-Lyndon lacked control over its athletics program; improperly awarded financial aid

Download the Feb. 2019 NVU-Lyndon Public Infractions Decision

Northern Vermont University-Lyndon lacked institutional control and failed to monitor the conduct and administration of its athletics program when it improperly awarded financial aid, according to a decision by the NCAA Division III Committee on Infractions.

The committee found that the university’s admissions counselors considered athletics leadership for 17 student-athletes when evaluating applicants for a scholarship if they also exhibited other leadership experience. Even though he received specific rules education regarding financial aid, the admissions director claimed he did not know that NCAA rules did not allow schools to consider athletics leadership when determining financial aid.

Additionally, coaches working as admissions counselors arranged, modified or reviewed the financial aid packaging for 97 student-athletes, according to the committee. The admissions director also served as the head women’s basketball coach.

There was confusion among various university personnel about what the coaches who worked as admissions counselors could and could not do, the committee said. The athletics director and dean of students understood that coaches employed in the financial aid office could not be involved in financial aid packaging. However, only one of the coaches understood that point, while others, along with the admissions director, believed they could consider athletics leadership and claimed not to know they were prohibited from being involved in packaging financial aid.

After the NCAA Division III Financial Aid Committee asked the university about potential irregularities in the university’s financial aid practices, the university formed a working group that included the admissions director. According to the committee, the compliance officer explained during the group’s first meeting that the previous practices regarding scholarship criteria and coaches being involved in financial aid were violations and needed to stop immediately.

The admissions director took steps to change the scholarship practices after the meeting, but the committee found that coaches on his staff continued to review applications for financial aid eligibility with his knowledge. No other members of the review group asked the admissions director if the coaches stopped reviewing financial aid packages. The activity continued until the NCAA enforcement staff interviewed the admissions director during the investigation.

“When institutions violate these financial aid principles, they gain advantages over others who do not use athletics criteria and whose coaches are not allowed to formulate, arrange or modify financial aid offers,” the committee said in its report.

The penalties include the following:

  • Public reprimand and censure.
  • Four years of probation.
  • A vacation of records from contests in which student-athletes competed while ineligible (self-imposed by the university).
  • Attendance at NCAA Regional Rules Seminars each year of probation by the athletics director, compliance director, financial aid director, admissions director and/or dean of enrollment (self-imposed by the university).
  • Outside audit of the college’s athletics policies and procedures during the first and fourth years of probation, with an emphasis on financial aid policies and procedures.
  • A $2,500 fine.

The members of the Division III Committee on Infractions who reviewed this case included Christopher Bledsoe, assistant vice president for student affairs/athletics director at New York University; Gail Cummings-Danson, athletics director at Skidmore; Effel Harper, an associate professor and faculty athletics representative at Mary Hardin-Baylor; Tracey Hathaway, athletics director at Salem State; and Gerald Houlihan, committee chair and attorney in private practice.