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Eastern Michigan found for a failure to monitor women's basketball program

Eastern Michigan University failed to monitor its women’s basketball program and the former head women’s basketball coach failed to promote an atmosphere for compliance within the program, according to findings by the Division I Committee on Infractions. The case centered on women’s basketball student-athletes exceeding practice hour limitations and violations of NCAA legislation relating to tryouts.

Penalties in this case include recruiting restrictions and practice limitations for the university, along with a two-year show-cause order for the former head coach. As a result, should the former head coach seek athletically related employment with an NCAA institution during this time period, she will face restrictions in her duties at the hiring institution.

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, university and involved individuals must agree to the facts of the case in order for this process to be utilized instead of having a formal hearing.

From spring of 2007 through August 2010, the former head coach did not follow practice limitation rules, which resulted in her failure to promote an atmosphere for compliance within the women’s basketball program. In its report, the committee noted that the limitations on playing and practice hours exist to safeguard student-athlete well-being and prohibit unfair competitive advantages from occurring, and the former head coach admitted that the program benefitted from the additional practice time.

“The committee was particularly troubled by comments on the record,” stated the public report. “For example, the former head coach told student-athletes who complained about excessive practices or sought to leave early to study that they were ‘soft,’ and that they had ‘the rest of [their lives] to retake a class.”

In part, the former head coach:

  • Did not follow daily and weekly practice hour limitations and failed to provide student-athletes at least one day off per week. Throughout the three seasons, the basketball staff met with the former head coach on several occasions about reducing the team’s daily practice hours, however, she consistently failed to conduct the team’s practices within the limitations;
  • Required student-athletes to participate in weight training, conditioning and basketball activities where the former head coach observed and provided instruction during summer vacation. Occasionally student-athletes were punished for missing a workout;
  • Required student-athletes to participate in skill instruction, conditioning and various basketball activities with a nonscholastic assistant coach. When a student-athlete told the compliance office about the workouts, the former head coach scolded the student-athlete and told the team the workouts were allowed;
  • Arranged impermissible tryout activities for prospective student-athletes on campus, observed prospective student-athletes and student-athletes during open play and provided basketball instruction and advice to prospective student-athletes. One former assistant coach stated that he knew this was impermissible activity, but continued because the former head coach felt it was that important;
  • Required student-athletes to participate in preseason and postseason countable athletically related activities that exceeded eight hours per week. The former head coach also observed and provided instruction to the practicing student-athletes.

The committee notes that the student-athletes and the coaching staff were too afraid to talk with the compliance office about the team’s practice hours due to intimidation by the former head coach.

The practice limitations also led to a failure by the athletics department to monitor its women’s basketball program to assure compliance. Although the concerns of the student-athletes regarding practice hours were brought to the attention of a former associate director of athletics twice, she failed to conduct a thorough investigation and failed to provide the information to their compliance officer. Contributing to the failure to monitor was the coaching staff’s active efforts to obtain additional practice time and conceal portions of at least two practices from the compliance office and the repeated failure to accurately record and report the student-athletes’ countable practice hours.

The penalties include:

  • Public reprimand and censure.
  • Two years of probation from October1, 2012 through September 30, 2014.
  • Two-year show-cause order for the former head coach. The public report contains further detail.
  • Limitation to seven women’s basketball official visits during the 2012-13 academic year.
  • During the time outside of the 2012-13 playing season, the team is limited to a maximum of four hours per week of countable athletically related activities. During the playing season, the women’s basketball team cannot exceed three hours per day (down from the allowable four hours per day) and 18 hours per week (down from the allowable 20 hours per week) of countable practice time.

The members of the Division I Committee on Infractions who reviewed this case include Melissa (Missy) Conboy, acting chair of the Committee on Infractions and deputy director of athletics at the University of Notre Dame; Roscoe C. Howard, Jr., attorney; John Black, attorney; Greg Sankey, associate commissioner of compliance for the Southeastern Conference; Josephine (Jo) R. Potuto, faculty athletics representative and the Richard H. Larson Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Nebraska College of Law; James O'Fallon, law professor and faculty athletics representative at the University of Oregon; and Christopher L. Griffin, attorney.