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By Gary Brown
The NCAA enforcement staff may start including allegations of an institution’s “failure to monitor” or a “lack of institutional control” in future major infractions cases that involve violations of Division III financial aid rules.
The potential to apply such allegations comes in light of several major infractions cases in the last three years that have involved institutions granting financial aid to student-athletes disproportionately or distinguishable from other students, which is contrary to bedrock Division III principles.
Additionally, many of the more than 40 secondary violations cases uncovered by the committee during this time involved “leadership” grants or other awards not specifically stated as athletically related but clearly with ties to athletics participation.
The Division III membership adopted legislation effective in 2005 requiring institutions to report financial aid packages for freshmen and transfers as a way to demonstrate compliance with Bylaw 15. Since then, the enforcement staff has not applied “failure to monitor” or “lack of institutional control” in major infractions cases – despite it being within that group’s purview – in order to allow enough time for the membership to be educated about the legislation’s implementation, expectations and impact.
But the enforcement staff is now wondering whether the infractions cases in and of themselves are proving to be enough of a deterrent, especially since it anticipates that the Division III Financial Aid Committee will forward additional, potentially major cases for the Division III Committee on Infractions’ review.
Thus, the enforcement staff has indicated that it will begin to “carefully scrutinize future financial aid cases to determine if it is appropriate to include an allegation of failure to monitor and/or a lack of institutional control.”
The item was reported at the Division III Management Council’s meeting in Indianapolis on Monday and Tuesday. It was an informational item for the Council, since the enforcement staff has the authority to begin including those allegations at its discretion.
Division III proposed the financial aid reporting procedures in 2004 as part of a comprehensive initiative to ensure that all Division III programs were being conducted in accordance with the division’s philosophy, which includes strict adherence to not awarding financial aid based on athletics ability.
The reporting process helped in that it identified and then corrected many institutional processes in which schools were inadvertently violating the intent of Bylaw 15. It also uncovered a few major violations, which the Financial Aid Committee thought would be enough to influence behavior. However, given that some inappropriate financial aid practices appear to remain, the enforcement staff is considering applying harsher measures.
In a related matter, the Management Council at its April meeting agreed to ask the Division III Committee on Infractions to consider granting the enforcement staff the discretion to publicly disclose any secondary violation regarding consideration of athletics leadership, ability, participation or performance within the student financial aid awarding process.
These violations have been prevalent in most of the cases referred to the enforcement staff in recent years. Most have been processed as secondary violations, since they are usually isolated or inadvertent and have not resulted in a recruiting advantage. Because they are secondary violations, they traditionally are not reported publicly.
The Division III Financial Aid Committee, however, noted that many of these violations could have been avoided if the institution reviewed its awarding policies for compliance with NCAA legislation. Public reprimand, as a potential sanction for violations such as these, would provide incentive for institutions to ensure their policies comply with NCAA bylaws.
In other action at the Division III Management Council’s April 11-12 meeting, members: