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2018 Division I Infractions Year in Review

The last year has been defined by change within college sports. The infractions process has been an integral part of those discussions.

It’s important to remember that the peer-review process used by NCAA members to investigate wrongful actions and prescribe appropriate penalties works for most cases. In fact, data shows that most cases end in a timely fashion and in a civil manner in which both sides agree on the infractions and the general classification. These cases accounted for about 90 percent of those processed in 2018, but they rarely make national headlines.

But there are cases that are unique — those involving multiple parties, complex circumstances, unique policy issues or schools that do not fully buy into the infractions model. They are challenging to resolve and end up in an extended review process. These cases can present a challenge to the infractions process. You’ve likely read about them in the media, even though they are so few. But they are exceptional enough that members recognize they may need to be handled differently than the majority of cases the NCAA’s investigators and the Committee on Infractions handled.

And that’s where change has come to a process that is vital to supporting the fairness and credibility of college sports. Stemming from recommendations from the Commission on College Basketball, we’ve worked to preserve and enhance the parts that are working well and add another option to process those rare, complex cases that may require a different approach. Penalties have also been strengthened to further promote fairness throughout college athletics.

As these changes take effect, this annual snapshot will give you insights into the areas that are proving to be effective, and will walk you through the forthcoming changes and how they will work. We are committed to fairness and efficiency, and we believe these changes will equip the infractions process with the tools needed to maintain an environment in college sports in which everyone has a fair chance to succeed.

Division I Infractions Process

The NCAA infractions process both begins and ends with NCAA members, presidents, athletics directors, administrators and coaches at your NCAA member institution. You and your peers created the peer-review model and propose, consider and adopt the rules that affect student-athletes’ eligibility, recruiting, academic standards, playing and practice seasons, scholarships and extra benefits. In Division I, violations of those rules fall into three categories (Levels I, II and III), with Level I being the most serious and Level III providing minimal advantages or extra benefits.

In the next year, the leaders in each area of the infractions process will focus their efforts around four goals that are reflected throughout this report.

Goals

1. Enhancing the peer-review infractions process by deterring noncooperation, providing tools to resolve factual questions, permitting negotiated resolution and increasing penalties.

2. Implementing a new independent process as a separate means of resolving infractions disputes.

3. Using data to provide operational insight and trend analysis.

4. Monitoring complexities presented in resolving infractions cases that involve outside investigations and policy-based questions.

Overview

The infractions process is designed to ensure fair play and integrity among NCAA schools, and the process itself is structured to be fair, efficient and credible. Here is a look at the three stages of the process and the paths that have been available to reach a fair resolution. Two new paths have been introduced to this process and are explained in detail in this report.

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What Has Changed:

New Paths for Some Cases

Independent Accountability Resolution

Per a recommendation from the Commission on College Basketball, the Division I Board of Directors created a new resolution track in August 2018 to bring in independent investigators and decision-makers for cases considered “complex.” Examples of complex cases may include alleged violations that intersect with NCAA values – such as prioritizing academics and the well-being of student-athletes — or adversarial behavior. School representatives, NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions chair or the NCAA vice president of enforcement can request a case be referred for independent resolution.

Negotiated Resolution

When the enforcement staff agrees with the school or involved individuals on the violations, level of violations and penalties, they can work together on a negotiated resolution. The process uses fewer resources and expedites review by the Division I Committee on Infractions, which reviews the case to determine whether the resolution is in the best interest of the NCAA and whether the agreed-upon penalties are appropriate.

While it is the preference for everyone to work toward a resolution together, a negotiated resolution may be reached with an individual or school while the remainder of the case is resolved through other tracks. The information contained in a negotiated resolution agreement may be used by the enforcement staff as it investigates the remainder of the case. While penalties in these types of agreements may begin to run upon approval of the agreement by the Committee, the agreement is not final until the entire case is resolved.

 

Resolution Approaches

A look at how changes to the model will affect how cases are processed.

Current Model

The New Model

 

Importation

The enforcement staff, Committee on Infractions or independent resolution panel can rely on decisions made by outside entities — such as courts and accrediting bodies — positions taken by parties in those proceedings, and import the evidence those groups used to reach those decisions into the NCAA infractions process.

THE BYLAW: Facts established by a decision or judgment of a court, agency, accrediting body, or other administrative tribunal of competent jurisdiction, which is not under appeal, or by a commission, or similar review of comparable independence, authorized by a member institution or the institution’s university system’s board of trustees and regardless of whether the facts are accepted by the institution or the institution’s university system’s board of trustees, may be accepted as true in the infractions process in concluding whether an institution or individual participating in the previous matter violated NCAA legislation. Evidence submitted and positions taken in such a matter may be considered in the infractions process.

Increased Penalties

Penalties for the most significant violations of the rules will grow tougher under the enhanced model.