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Saginaw Valley State lacked institutional control of its eligibility certification process

Download the Feb. 2019 Saginaw Valley State University Public Infractions Decision

Saginaw Valley State lacked institutional control and failed to monitor its eligibility certification process when it improperly certified the eligibility of 130 student-athletes in 15 sports over a five-year period, according to a decision issued by the NCAA Division II Committee on Infractions.

The case was resolved through cooperative summary disposition, a process where involved parties collectively submit the case to the committee in written form. The NCAA enforcement staff, university and participating involved individuals must agree to the facts of the case for this process to be used instead of having a formal hearing.

According to the committee, weaknesses in the university’s athletics compliance office caused a breakdown in its eligibility certification process. The committee also noted that the department’s frequent staff turnover and the resulting communication breakdowns contributed to the eligibility certification failures. The university also did not hire enough staff members to fulfill compliance responsibilities, which was exacerbated by the university assigning additional responsibilities to former compliance administrators.

The issues included both improper amateurism and eligibility certifications, and one student-athlete competed past his 10 semesters of eligibility, the committee said. All 130 student-athletes who were improperly certified competed and received actual and necessary expenses while ineligible or uncertified. Additionally, the university allowed 80 student-athletes to compete before their eligibility was reinstated.

“The committee is cognizant of the financial challenges faced by many Division II member schools,” the committee said. “However, this case illustrates the need for all Division II schools to ensure that they devote the necessary funds and staffing to establish an effective and reliable compliance program that, at a minimum, can fulfill basic and fundamental responsibilities of membership, including eligibility certification, as exemplified in this case.”   

The committee prescribed the following penalties and corrective measures:

  • Four years of probation.
  • A $5,000 fine.
  • Vacation of all records in which ineligible student-athletes competed from the time they became ineligible through the time they were reinstated as eligible for competition. The university must provide the NCAA media coordination and statistics office with a written report outlining all impacted competitions no later than 45 days following the release of the decision.
  • The university cannot host an NCAA championship competition in any sport during spring 2019.
  • The university must undergo an outside audit of the compliance department operations during the 2018-19 academic year (self-imposed by the university). Additionally, the school must undergo a similar audit during the final year of probation and implement all recommendations made by the reviewers.
  • Each year of the probation period, all staff involved in the eligibility certification process must attend an NCAA Regional Rules seminar. Further, the associate athletics director of compliance must attend the National Association for Athletics Compliance annual convention at least once during the period of probation.

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 John David Lackey, attorney in private practice; Richard Loosbrock, faculty athletics representative and history professor at Adams State; Melissa Reilly, associate commissioner and senior woman administrator at the East Coast Conference; Jane Teixeira, Division II Committee on Infractions acting chair and senior associate commissioner and senior woman administrator at the Pacific West Conference; and Christie L. Ward, associate athletics director for compliance and senior woman administrator at Georgia Southwestern.