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Florida A&M lacked control over the administration of its athletics program

Download the May 2019 Florida A&M University Public Infractions Decision

Florida A&M lacked institutional control and did not monitor its athletics program, resulting in systemic underlying certification violations, according to a Division I Committee on Infractions panel.

This case was resolved through the summary disposition process, a cooperative effort where the involved parties collectively submit the case to the Committee on Infractions in written form. The NCAA enforcement staff and university must agree to the facts and overall level of the case to use this process instead of a formal hearing.

The panel held an expedited penalty hearing because the university did not agree with the core financial penalty prescribed by the COI based on the penalty guidelines. After the hearing, the committee maintained the financial penalty. The committee determined that while it was not indifferent to the financial challenges facing the university, the membership’s penalty guidelines require the committee to treat all schools the same, regardless of total operating budget.

According to the committee, the university improperly certified 93 student-athletes on 162 occurrences in 12 sports. The university certified student-athletes as eligible when they failed to fulfill required credit hours, did not complete required percentages of their degree by designated times, did not meet minimum GPA requirements and/or failed to meet transfer requirements or exceptions. It also failed to certify a student-athlete’s amateurism status and allowed another student-athlete to compete after the student-athlete had exhausted all seasons of competition.

“The panel recognizes that Florida A&M has faced resource limitations and significant turnover in high-level athletics leadership positions,” the committee said in its decision. “Those challenges, however, do not excuse the university’s inability to establish and maintain core compliance operations and meet fundamental obligations of NCAA membership.”

The committee found the university lacked control in five ways when it failed to adequately monitor and control the athletics certification process; properly apply academic certification legislation; sufficiently involve staff members outside the athletics department in the certification of student-athletes; withhold ineligible student-athletes from travel and competition; and detect and report the violations.

The committee noted that this is the university’s third case involving certification issues in the past 19 years. It continued that the recent cases have served as a focal point for university leadership to make necessary changes to implement core compliance policies and procedures.

In its report, the committee noted that it “recognizes the university’s efforts — mainly hiring, training and maintaining individuals who are committed to improving the culture of compliance on the campus. Since 2015, those individuals have created and enhanced policies and procedures designed to meet NCAA rules and expectations. Those improvements, however, have only recently brought the university in line with what the NCAA membership has identified as a fundamental obligation of all Division I members — properly certifying student-athletes as eligible.”

The committee used the Division I membership-approved infractions penalty guidelines for a Level I-Aggravated case to prescribe the following measures:

  • Five years of years of probation.
  • A self-imposed 2019-20 postseason ban for football, baseball, men’s basketball, men’s track and field, women’s basketball and volleyball.
  • A vacation of records in which student-athletes competed while ineligible. The university must provide a written report containing the contests impacted to the NCAA media coordination and statistics staff within 45 days of the public decision release.
  • A reduction in scholarships by 10% for each of the following programs during the 2019-20 academic year: baseball, men’s basketball, men’s track and field, women’s basketball and volleyball.
  • A reduction in scholarships by 10% for the football program during the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years.
  • Recruiting restrictions for all sport programs during the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years. The public report contains specific detail on Page 16.
  • A $5,000 fine plus 3% of the total athletics budget.

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 Michael F. Adams, president emeritus at Georgia and chancellor emeritus at Pepperdine; Carol Cartwright, president emerita at Kent State and Bowling Green; Bobby Cremins, former head men’s basketball coach at Appalachian State, Georgia Tech and the College of Charleston; Jason Leonard, executive director of athletics compliance at Oklahoma; Dave Roberts, chief hearing officer for the panel, administrator at Southern California and vice chair of the Committee on Infractions; and Greg Sankey, commissioner of the Southeastern Conference.