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Ursinus improperly awarded financial aid

Download the Jan. 2020 Ursinus College Public Infractions Decision

The former Ursinus vice president and dean of enrollment management improperly considered athletics participation and coaching staff input when formulating financial aid packages for prospects, according to a decision by the NCAA Division III Committee on Infractions.

The committee said the violations stemmed from the former vice president’s strategy to increase enrollment by identifying prospects who were most likely to enroll at the university and awarding them additional financial aid based on characteristics that included diversity, academics and athletics participation.

As a part of the strategy, the former vice president and his staff considered information provided by coaching staff members, including the coaches’ athletic ratings of prospects. In addition, the former vice president asked coaching staffs to tell him the amount of financial aid needed to gain certain prospects’ enrollment, which included information about the prospects’ backgrounds, socioeconomic status and other characteristics.  

In total, the committee said the university awarded approximately $335,300 of financial aid in a manner contrary to NCAA rules to 64 student-athletes across 17 sports.

The university failed to exercise institutional control and monitor the conduct and administration of its athletics program, according to the committee.

The university agreed that it provided only basic and minimal education via email to the former vice president and two of his direct reports. The former vice president did not know his actions were impermissible, but he was generally aware that Division III rules prohibit members from awarding athletics scholarships.

The committee said the university provided more specific financial aid education to the coaching staffs, but the coaching staffs did not understand the former vice president had independent authority to increase financial aid and communicating with him was the same as making a request to the financial aid director.

 “It is incumbent on Division III members to thoroughly educate and monitor all personnel who have a touchpoint on the financial aid process,” the committee said in its decision. “Although the former vice president failed to seek guidance and ask questions when he should have, Ursinus should have had mechanisms in place to detect irregularities in the financial aid process.”

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, involved individuals and the university must agree to the facts and overall level of the case to use this process instead of a formal hearing.

The penalties include the following:

  • Public reprimand and censure.
  • Two years of probation.
  • A vacation of wins in which an ineligible men’s lacrosse student-athlete competed while ineligible (self-imposed by the university).
  • A $2,500 fine (self-imposed by the university).
  • During the probation period, the university must request a level II review from the NCAA Division III Committee on Financial Aid and must follow any recommendations made by the reviewer (self-imposed by the university).
  • The university engaged a third-party consulting firm to review its policies and procedures related to financial aid and provide recommendations regarding best practices (self-imposed by the university).
  • Attendance at the 2020 and 2021 NCAA Regional Rules Seminars.

The members of the Division III Committee on Infractions who reviewed this case were Christopher Bledsoe, assistant vice president for student affairs/athletics director at New York University; Amy Hackett, athletics director at Puget Sound; Effel Harper, an associate professor and faculty athletics representative at Mary Hardin-Baylor; and Gerald Houlihan, committee chair and attorney in private practice.