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Appeals committee upholds vacation of North Carolina Central wins

Download the Dec. 2018 North Carolina Central Univ. Public Appeals Decision

North Carolina Central must vacate football, baseball and men’s basketball records in which student-athletes competed while ineligible, according to a decision by the NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee.

In the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions’ decision, the panel found and the university agreed that North Carolina Central did not monitor its certification process when it improperly certified 22 student-athletes in a total of seven sports as eligible for competition.

In its appeal, the university argued the Committee on Infractions should not have prescribed the vacation of records for three reasons: The Committee on Infractions ignored directives from Division I membership to avoid disproportionate penalties on student-athletes; it ignored Level III case precedent involving the same or similar violations; and the competitive advantage rationale should not apply to the university’s situation because the violations were the result of clerical or technical errors, not an attempt to keep student-athletes eligible for competition.

In its response to the appeal, the Committee on Infractions noted that vacating records is a membership-approved penalty used in infractions cases involving ineligible competition to address the advantage a university gains by playing ineligible student-athletes.

In its decision, the Infractions Appeals Committee addressed the three issues the university raised. It noted the membership directive cited by the university applies specifically to the processes for waivers, amateurism certification and student-athlete reinstatement. The NCAA Division I Council did not intend for the directives to apply to the prescription of penalties in the infractions process when it adopted the directives.

The Infractions Appeals Committee also detailed that there are separate NCAA rules that govern Level II and Level III violations and penalties, as well as different groups that decide the cases. Since the university agreed that the violations were Level II, the Infractions Appeals Committee noted the university inherently agreed to the prescription of penalties under the guidelines and case precedent related to Level I and II violations. Because of that, the Committee on Infractions is not bound by Level III precedent when prescribing penalties in a Level II case.

Lastly, the Infractions Appeals Committee wrote that the underlying assumption of the university’s argument, that no competitive advantage was gained, is that any waiver or reinstatement requests would have been approved. Since the university did not actually submit waivers or reinstatement requests, the outcomes of the processes are not guaranteed and does not free the university from penalties.

The members of the Infractions Appeals Committee who heard this case were Ellen M. Ferris, associate commissioner for governance and compliance at the American Athletic Conference; W. Anthony Jenkins, attorney in private practice; Patti Ohlendorf, committee chair and special advisor in the office of legal affairs at Texas; Allison Rich, senior associate athletics director and senior woman administrator at Princeton; and David Shipley, law professor and faculty athletics representative at Georgia.