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Enforcement Process: Penalties


The committee decides penalties case-by-case. Each case is unique, and applying case precedent is difficult (if not impossible) because all cases are different. Each case has its own aggravating and mitigating factors, and the committee considers both sides in assessing penalties.

Penalties should be sufficient to deter an institution from breaking the rules again and should remove any competitive advantage that may have been gained by cheating.

The committee occasionally tailors penalties to the offenses that were committed. For example, if the violation involved excessive recruiting, the committee will assign penalties aimed at reducing future recruiting opportunities (prohibiting coaches from off-campus recruiting, reducing official visits for a period of time, etc.). If the committee finds extra benefits were extended to a student-athlete or group of student-athletes, scholarship penalties could apply.

Some penalties, such as public reprimand and censure, are commonplace. Others, such as bans on postseason competition and television, are rarely applied.

The committee attempts to protect student-athletes who were not involved in the violation. However, as with the enforcement process in general, the focus is at the institutional level.

In some cases, the committee determines that insufficient evidence exists to support the finding of a major violation. When that happens, a case is essentially “thrown out.” In such cases, the committee sometimes has decided that a school committed a secondary violation, not a major one. In that event, the case is sent to the secondary-violations wing  of the enforcement staff for processing. In both instances, no infractions report is issued and the committee issues no penalties (although institutions may be subject to minor penalties for the secondary violations).

All penalties and findings can be appealed to the Infractions Appeals Committee, a separate body of membership and independent individuals.

Frequently Asked Questions

Penalties for secondary violations usually are not as severe as those for major infractions, but they may be more than a “slap on the wrist.” Secondary-violation penalties are tailored to specific situations, such as recruiting restrictions being imposed in response to most recruiting violations. The rule outlining possible secondary-violation penalties includes possible fines, vacation of records and scholarship reductions, among other things.

It typically takes between six to eight weeks to write the report and announce penalties, although complications occasionally lengthen the process

The report documents the committee’s specific findings, outlines the penalties and provides supporting rationale for both.

Penalties are determined by the Committee on Infractions on a case-by-case basis and vary depending on the severity of the violations and the specifics of the case. NCAA sanctions must be legitimately punitive to be effective. The intent of penalties is to ensure they are sufficient to deter schools from breaking the rules again and that they remove any competitive advantage that may have been gained. For this reason, penalties can be retrospective (such as a vacation of records) or prospective (such as scholarship losses or recruiting restrictions). Usually, based on the specifics of the case, it is a combination of both. Penalties can be applied across the entire athletics department, to a specific sport and/or individuals involved in the case. The penalty structure was established based upon the NCAA as an association of member institutions rather than individuals. Unfortunately, some sanctions, such as a ban on postseason competition, while serving as a deterrent for institutions, also negatively affect innocent student-athletes. Language in enforcement procedures states that the interests of innocent individuals should be taken into account when imposing penalties.

However, the simple fact is that the punitive nature of NCAA-imposed sanctions make it unavoidable that the penalties imposed on institutions as a result of their involvement in major infractions will have some negative effect on innocent student-athletes.

The repeat-violator legislation (“death penalty”) is applicable to an institution if, within a five-year period, the following conditions exist:

  • Following the announcement of a major case, a major violation occurs and
  • The second violation occurred within five years of the starting date of the penalty assessed in the first case. The second major case does not have to be in the same sport as the previous case to affect the second sport.
  • Penalties for repeat violators of legislation, subject to exemptions authorized by the committee on the basis of specifically stated reasons, may include any of the following:

    • The prohibition of some or all outside competition in the sport involved in the latest major violation for one or two sport seasons and the prohibition of all coaching staff members in that sport from involvement (directly or indirectly) in any coaching activities at the institution during that period
    • The elimination of all initial grants-in-aid and recruiting activities in the sport involved in the latest major violation in question for a two-year period.
    • The requirement that all institutional staff member serving on the NCAA Board of Directors; Leadership, Legislative, Presidents or Management Councils; Executive Committee or other Association governance bodies resign their positions. All institutional representatives shall be ineligible to serve on any NCAA committee for a period of four years and
    • The requirement that the institution relinquish its Association voting privileges for a four-year period.