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Southern University lacked institutional control

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Southern University lacked institutional control when it failed to monitor its eligibility certification process, did not properly apply financial aid rules and did not comply with Committee on Academic Performance penalties, according to a Division I Committee on Infractions panel. In total, the university improperly certified more than 200 student-athletes during a six-year period in all 15 sports sponsored by the university.

The panel prescribed five years of probation and a vacation of records in which student-athletes participated while ineligible. The panel also accepted the university’s self-imposed penalties of a $5,000 fine and scholarship reductions in several sport programs.

 The university’s improper certification issues occurred for three primary reasons: errors that occurred when academic records were transferred from an outdated system to a new system; poor record keeping within the athletics department; and a lack of training and involvement by campus departments outside athletics in the certification process. These issues resulted in 439 instances of improper certifications for 218 student-athletes.

Over a four-year period, the university exceeded scholarship and counter limits in five sports when it did not properly apply financial aid rules to state tuition waivers. Louisiana state law allows all student-athletes who receive athletics scholarships to qualify for in-state tuition. NCAA rules require that tuition waivers like the Louisiana law be considered countable aid. In some instances, the university did not properly account for the waiver when determining scholarship packages for student-athletes, resulting in the university exceeding scholarship limits in baseball, women’s and men’s track, football and softball.

The Committee on Academic Performance previously required the university to reduce the amount of in-season playing and practice time for all sports because it did not meet certain NCAA academic performance benchmarks. The Committee on Academic Performance also reduced out-of-season practice time and the number of contests for men’s and women’s track, men’s basketball and football. Because of turnover at the university, especially in the compliance office, the university did not communicate the restrictions to the coaches, and the penalties were not completed.

There was also an allegation that involved a former athletics director, but the panel concluded that he did not violate NCAA rules.

Penalties prescribed by the panel include the following:

  • Public reprimand and censure for the university.
  • Five years of probation from Nov. 16, 2016, through Nov. 15, 2021.
  • A vacation of records in which student-athletes competed while ineligible. After the release of the public report, the university will identify the competitions affected.

The panel accepted the following penalties self-imposed by the university:

  • A $5,000 fine.
  • A reduction of women’s soccer scholarships by one during the 2016-17 academic year and by one during the 2017-18 academic year.
  • A reduction of softball scholarships by 1.5 during the 2016-17 academic year, by 1.5 during the 2017-18 academic year and by 0.78 during the 2018-19 academic year.
  • A reduction of baseball scholarships by 2.3 during the 2016-17 academic year, by 2.3 during the 2017-18 academic year and by 2.3 during the 2018-19 academic year.
  • A reduction of football scholarships by five during the 2016-17 academic year, by five during the 2017-18 academic year and by five during the 2018-19 academic year.
  • A reduction of women’s volleyball scholarships by one during the 2016-17 academic year and by one during the 2017-18 academic year.
  • A reduction of men’s track scholarships by 2.11 during the 2016-17 academic year, by 2.11 during the 2017-18 academic year and by 2.1 during the 2018-19 academic year.
  • A reduction of women’s track scholarships by 3.6 during the 2016-17 academic year, by 3.6 during the 2017-18 academic year and by 3.6 during the 2018-19 academic year.
  • A reduction of men’s basketball scholarships by one during the 2016-17 academic year, by one during the 2017-18 academic year and by one during the 2018-19 academic year.
  • A reduction of women’s basketball scholarships by one during the 2016-17 academic year, by one during the 2017-18 academic year and by one during the 2018-19 academic year.

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 Gregory Christopher, athletics director at Xavier University; Thomas Hill, chief hearing officer for the panel and senior policy advisor to the president of Iowa State University; Larry Parkinson, director of enforcement for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; Gregory Sankey, chair of the Division I Committee on Infractions and commissioner for the Southeastern Conference; and Sankar Suryanarayan, university counsel, Princeton University.