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Sacramento State failed to monitor tennis program

Download the April 2018 California State University - Sacramento Public Infractions Decision

Sacramento State failed to monitor its men’s and women’s tennis programs, resulting in numerous violations over the course of five years, according to a Division I Committee on Infractions panel.

Many of the violations, and the most serious, resulted from the misconduct of a former director of women’s and men’s tennis programs. The former director took advantage of a permissive compliance environment and engaged in intentional conduct that violated a broad range of NCAA rules, including recruiting, eligibility, financial aid, benefits, coaching staff limitations and ethical conduct.

After the university did not renew the scholarships of two women’s student-athletes, the former director provided or arranged for a booster to provide tuition for them. The former director routinely provided student-athletes and prospects impermissible housing arrangements, free tennis instruction and facility use at a local tennis club he owned and where the tennis program conducted most of its activity. The panel noted the Committee on Infractions repeatedly has warned that there is an increased risk for violations when a prospect moves to the university’s city before enrollment. With respect to the cost-free tennis instruction, the panel noted when staff members work at facilities catering to prospects, precautions must be taken to ensure impermissible instruction does not occur.

The former director also engaged in coaching and recruiting activity that he was not authorized to conduct. As a result, the university exceeded the number of allowable tennis coaches.

 The panel found the former director engaged in unethical conduct when he knowingly violated NCAA rules and when he did not cooperate during the investigation.

The former head women’s coach did not demonstrate an atmosphere for compliance within his program. He failed to identify and address potential issues relating to housing for incoming student-athletes and recruiting activity by the former director. Additionally, he was personally involved in countable athletically related activity violations. His reluctance to consult with compliance was a significant factor in his failure to meet his head coach responsibility. 

Like the former women’s coach, the former head men’s coach allowed the former director to have a free hand in recruiting. He did not try to oversee the activity, which resulted in his failure to detect the impermissible activity. The men’s coach also was personally involved in violations of countable athletically related activity rules. Finally, he did not monitor his assistant coach’s involvement in the impermissible arrangement of housing for incoming student-athletes. In its decision, the panel noted “it is of upmost importance for head coaches to regularly communicate with compliance and to have a full understanding of the actions of staff members.”

In addition, a former volunteer assistant women’s tennis coach acted unethically when he did not fully cooperate with the investigation.

Beyond the tennis violations, the university did not meet mandatory medical examination requirements. The university impermissibly allowed nurse practitioners to complete student-athlete exams before NCAA rules allowed nurse practitioners to do so. Further, the university allowed student-athletes to participate in athletics before meeting sickle cell test requirements. Finally, the university did not require all student-athletes participating in tryouts to undergo a medical exam before their tryout.

The university failed to monitor its tennis programs in several ways — when it lacked oversight of the programs’ affiliation with the former director’s tennis club; when it did not monitor the former director’s coaching and recruiting activities; when it did not review the countable athletically related activity at the former director’s tennis club; and when it did not comply with mandatory medical examination rules.

In its decision, the panel provided counsel to the membership on how universities can avoid these types of violations. First, Sacramento State admitted that it was unable to devote the necessary resources to ensure the tennis programs were following NCAA rules. The panel advises that compliance resources and responsibilities should not vary by sport programs. Second, the tennis programs were conducted at off-campus facilities. If programs must be conducted off-campus, the panel advises that regular spot-checking and enhanced compliance education with the staffs are imperative.

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

  • Public reprimand and censure for the university.
  • Three years of probation from April 19, 2018, through April 18, 2021.
  • A five-year show-cause order for the former director.
  • A two-year show-cause order for the former men’s head coach. During this period, he must be suspended from 10 percent of the men’s tennis championship segment during his first season of employment.
  • A two-year show-cause order for the former women’s head coach.
  • A two-year show-cause order for the former volunteer assistant.
  • A vacation of records in which women’s tennis student-athletes competed while ineligible. The university will provide a written report containing the matches impacted to the NCAA media coordination and statistics staff within 45 days of the public decision release.
  • A postseason ban for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 women’s tennis seasons (self-imposed by the university).
  • A reduction of two women’s tennis scholarships available for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 years (self-imposed by the university).
  • A reduction in women’s tennis countable athletically related activity from 20 to 17 hours per week for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 championship segments (self-imposed by the university).
  • A reduction in men’s tennis countable athletically related activity from 20 to 18 hours per week for the 2016-17 championship segment (self-imposed by the university).
  • A ban on international recruiting trips by countable coaches in the women’s tennis program for two years, 2016-17 and 2017-18 (self-imposed by the university).
  • A $5,000 fine (self-imposed by the university). In addition, the university must make a one-time payment of an amount equal to 1 percent of its annual women’s tennis budget averaged over the past three years.

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 William Bock III, attorney in private practice; Bobby Cremins, former head men’s basketball coach at Georgia Tech, College of Charleston and Appalachian State; Thomas Hill, senior vice president emeritus at Iowa State; Joel Maturi, former Minnesota athletics director; Vincent Nicastro, chief hearing officer for this panel and deputy commissioner and chief operating officer for the Big East Conference; and Sankar Suryanarayan, university counsel at Princeton.