You are here

Rutgers failed to monitor its football program

Download the Sept. 2017 Rutgers Public Infractions Decision

Listen to the media teleconference.

Rutgers failed to monitor its football program over a five-year period when it did not ensure its football student host group and its drug-testing program followed university policy and NCAA rules, according to a Division I Committee on Infractions panel. The former head football coach failed to monitor his operations staff, which had oversight of the host group, and failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance when he violated university policy by contacting an instructor to make a special academic arrangement for a student-athlete. Another violation in the football program occurred when a former assistant football coach acted unethically when he was not truthful about a recruiting contact during his interviews with NCAA enforcement staff.

Penalties prescribed by the panel, as well as those self-imposed by the university, include two years of probation for the university; a three-game suspension for the former head coach during the 2015 football season; a one-year show-cause order for the former head coach; a one-year show-cause order for the former assistant coach, which includes a restriction from all recruiting activities should he be hired by an NCAA school; and recruiting restrictions for the football program.

The panel noted that many of the violations in this case shared a common thread of the university and individuals within the football program failing to follow university policies.

In the first instance, the football program used a host group separate from the university’s official student hosting organization to assist with recruiting during official and unofficial visits. NCAA rules require host groups to operate within a university’s policies for the recruitment of all prospective students, and the football host group did not follow Rutgers’ policy of working through the campus department responsible for providing campus visits or tours. Members of the group also met off campus with prospects and publicized the recruitment of certain prospects through social media, contrary to NCAA rules.

The panel noted that the NCAA staff has provided extensive guidance to the membership about the use of student host groups and the university did not appropriately educate members of its group and Rutgers personnel on NCAA rules. The former head coach was aware that the hosts assisted with recruiting visits and knew that the university had an official student host group administered through the undergraduate admissions office. He acknowledged that he did not have conversations with the compliance office about how NCAA rules applied to the football host program and that he was responsible for all aspects of the football program.

“The former head coach took a casual approach to compliance as it relates to the host program,” the panel said in its decision. “He exercised little, if any, oversight of the group, permitting recruiting staff to administer the program with no supervision. As the individual who had ultimate oversight of all aspects of the football program, it is implicit that the head coach was also responsible for the actions of football hosts and, ultimately, the violations they committed.”

In the second instance of not following university policies, Rutgers did not follow its policy for student-athlete drug testing, which impacted 32 football student-athletes and resulted in 14 student-athletes competing without serving certain penalties as required by the university’s policy. According to NCAA rules, athletics department staff members who know that a student-athlete used a banned substance must follow the university’s drug-testing policy.

The panel noted that, contrary to its policy, Rutgers medical staff did not notify the athletics director of positive drug tests. The medical staff and the head coach did not notify or involve the athletics director when determining penalties for football student-athletes who tested positive for banned substances and, on a few occasions, did not notify the student-athlete of a positive drug test.

In the last instance of not following university policy, the former head coach contacted a student-athlete’s instructor, contrary to university policy, to arrange for extra coursework after the conclusion of the term so the student-athlete could pass the class and be eligible for the fall 2015 season. After contacting the instructor and before meeting with her, the former head coach reached out to an academic support administrator, who warned against contacting the instructor. The former head coach stated he was unaware of university policy prohibiting him from contacting faculty members.

The former head coach provided the student-athlete with an impermissible academic extra benefit when he contacted the instructor to arrange extra coursework, an arrangement that is not available generally to the student body. The instructor ultimately did not accept the extra coursework, and the student-athlete was ineligible for the fall 2015 season.

Additionally, a former assistant football coach acted unethically when he was not truthful about a recruiting contact during his interviews with NCAA enforcement staff. The violation resulted from a visit to a prospect who was a sophomore in high school. The prospect reported that he was pulled from class by his high school coach to quickly meet with the former assistant coach. The high school coach corroborated the prospect’s account. While the contact was determined to be a Level III violation, the assistant coach’s provision of false and misleading information during his interviews resulted in the violation of NCAA ethical conduct rules.

The violations occurred both before and after the new infractions process. Because the violations mostly occurred after the implementation of the new process, the panel used the Division I infractions penalty guidelines approved by the membership in 2013 for a Level II case:

  • Public reprimand and censure for the university.
  • Two years of probation from Sept. 22, 2017, through Sept. 21, 2019.
  • A one-year show-cause period for the former head coach from Sept. 22, 2017, through Sept. 21, 2018. During that period, any NCAA member school employing him must show cause why he should not have restrictions on athletically related activity.
  • A three-game suspension for the former head coach during the 2015 football season (self-imposed by the university).
  • A one-year show-cause period for the former assistant coach from Sept. 22, 2017, through Sept. 21, 2018. During that period, any NCAA member school employing him must restrict him from all off-campus recruiting activities. 
  • A reduction in the number of off-campus recruiting days by a total of 10 during 2017-18, with five days in the fall evaluation period and five in the spring evaluation period (self-imposed by the university).
  • A limit of 36 football official visits during 2017-18, a reduction of four from the average number of visits used during the four most recent years and 26 fewer than permitted by NCAA rules (self-imposed by the university).
  • A prohibition of phone calls, social media contact and written correspondence with prospects for a one-week period during 2017-18 (self-imposed by the university).
  • A $5,000 fine (self-imposed by the university).

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; Gregory Christopher, chair of the Committee on Infractions and athletics director at Xavier; Bobby Cremins, former head men’s basketball coach at Georgia Tech, College of Charleston and Appalachian State; Thomas Hill, senior policy advisor to the president of Iowa State; Gary L. Miller, chief hearing officer for the panel and chancellor at Green Bay; and Sankar Suryanarayan, university counsel, Princeton.