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Oregon commits violations in men’s and women’s basketball, women’s track and field, and football

Download the Dec. 2018 Univ. of Oregon Public Infractions Decision

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The head University of Oregon women’s basketball coach failed to monitor and promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program, and the head men’s basketball coach failed to monitor his director of basketball operations, according to a decision released by a Division I Committee on Infractions panel.

In the women’s program, the assistant strength and conditioning coach impermissibly participated in on-court activities, which caused the program to exceed the number of allowable coaches. Similarly, in the men’s program, the director of basketball operations impermissibly participated in and observed voluntary workouts.

The case also included academic misconduct by an adjunct instructor who changed a grade for a women’s track and field student-athlete. Lastly, the football program gained a recruiting advantage when it impermissibly displayed personalized statistics of visiting recruits during unofficial and official visits on an electronic board.

Women’s basketball

The women’s assistant strength coach participated in on-court activities both during and after practices, including stepping into drills at the head coach’s request. The head women’s basketball coach explained during the committee’s infractions hearing that the on-court activities started with a lapse of judgement and then became more frequent. The committee noted the women’s head coach admitted he knew it was impermissible for the assistant strength coach to participate. The panel noted that the head women’s coach took full responsibility for the assistant strength coach’s actions during the hearing.

The assistant strength coach also participated in voluntary student-athlete workouts. The head women’s coach was not specifically aware of the assistant strength coach’s participation in the workouts but acknowledged that he “kind of assumed” it was happening, according to the committee.

The participation by the assistant strength coach caused the women’s basketball program to exceed the number of allowable coaches and gave the program a competitive advantage of an extra coach, the committee said.

The committee found the head women’s coach failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance and failed to monitor his staff. In its report, the committee said it appreciated the coach’s candor at the hearing and his admission to lapses of judgement. But the head coach’s disregard for the rules about impermissible coaching activity did not set the proper tone for compliance in his program, the committee added.

Men’s basketball

The director of men’s basketball operations participated in or observed individual voluntary workouts at least 64 times. The infractions committee said the director of men’s basketball operations described his involvement in the voluntary workouts as a “very poor lapse in judgement” and explained he wanted to help incoming freshmen transition to college life and give them the workout time they wanted. After learning of the activity, the men’s basketball coach imposed disciplinary measures, including a one-month suspension.

While the NCAA investigation in this case progressed, the director of basketball operations observed additional voluntary workouts by a student-athlete at a local high school track, the committee said. In its report, the committee stressed it was especially troubled that the director of basketball operations participated in the impermissible activities after he served a suspension for being involved in workouts with the one of same student-athletes.

The director of men’s basketball operations also acted as a referee in men’s basketball practices. He, along with the head men’s coach, believed the compliance staff had approved this activity. The head men’s coach later determined the activity was impermissible, told the director of men’s basketball that he could not referee and reported the conduct to the compliance staff.

The committee noted that the head coach responsibility violation illustrates the dangers of a head coach becoming too complacent with trusted staff members. It continued that even a coach with a strong record of following the rules can make mistakes and recognizedthe head men’s basketball coach for promoting an atmosphere of compliance, which was evident in his self-reporting the referee violation.

Women’s track and field

An adjunct instructor changed a course grade from an F to a B-minus for a women’s track and field student-athlete, which allowed her to maintain her eligibility and earn her degree. The instructor originally offered to change the grade to incomplete on the condition that she complete the course when he taught it again over the summer. When the instructor attempted to do that, the online grading system would not allow the instructor to change the grade to incomplete. The student-athlete then told the instructor that an F would impact her ability to compete and that she needed at least a D-minus. The instructor agreed to change the grade to a B-minus to reflect the work she had completed to date, much of which was submitted after the course was over. He then agreed to update the grade with the grade she earned after completing all the coursework during the summer term.

When the university discovered the grade change, the instructor, who was not familiar with NCAA rules, told the university he would have made the same accommodation for any other student, regardless of student-athlete status. The university determined that the change violated the university's grading policy and reinstated the original grade and rescinded the student-athlete’s degree. However, the university’s senior vice provost for academic affairs determined while the grading policy was violated, the student-athlete did not violate the university’s academic misconduct policy.

The NCAA enforcement staff alleged that the university violated NCAA academic misconduct rules and the university disagreed. Both parties then sought guidance from the NCAA’s rules interpretation staff and membership committees. Ultimately, the membership committees agreed with NCAA rules interpretation staff that the grade change met the standard for a violation of the NCAA’s academic misconduct rules. In the rationale, the interpretation staff and committees said it was academic misconduct because the university determined the activity violated its grading policy, the activity resulted in the falsification of a student-athlete’s transcript, and the grade was used to establish eligibility to compete.

Football

The football team installed a new electronic reader board in the football facility as a part of renovations before the 2016 season. Later that fall, a member of the football staff asked compliance if the team could use the board to display information about prospects when they visited campus, and compliance approved. The Pac-12 Conference contacted the university and let them know the posting of individual prospects’ information on the board may violate NCAA rules. The compliance staff then directed the football program to immediately end the practice and self-reported the violation.

Penalties

Division I membership-approved infractions penalty guidelines were used to prescribe the following measures:

  • Two years of probation from Dec. 5, 2018, through Dec. 4, 2020.
  • A two-game suspension for the head women’s basketball coach during the 2018-19 season.
  • A two-year show-cause order for the director of men’s basketball operations. Any NCAA member employing him during the period must require him to attend the 2019 and 2020 NCAA Regional Rules Seminars. Oregon took appropriate disciplinary measures, so the committee did not include any other restrictions.
  • A vacation of records in which the track and field student-athlete participated while ineligible. The committee uses this penalty to hold the university accountable for allowing a student-athlete to complete while ineligible.
  • The men’s basketball program must reduce the number of countable coaches by one at regular practice for five hours during the 2018-19 season (self-imposed by the university).
  • The women’s basketball program must reduce the number of countable coaches by one at regular practice for 10 hours during the 2018-19 season (self-imposed by the university).
  • A $5,000 fine plus 1 percent of each of the men’s and women’s basketball budgets.

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 Norman Bay, attorney in private practice; Jody Conradt, retired head women’s basketball coach and special assistant to athletics at Texas; Thomas Hill, senior vice president emeritus at Iowa State; Jason Leonard, executive director of athletics compliance at Oklahoma; Eleanor W. Myers, chief hearing officer for the panel and law professor at Temple; Vincent Nicastro, deputy commissioner and chief operating officer for the Big East Conference; and Sankar Suryanarayan, university counsel at Princeton.