INDIANAPOLIS - The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions has penalized the University of Oklahoma for major violations in its football program.
These violations involve three football student-athletes receiving payment for work not performed at a Norman, Oklahoma automobile dealership. The impermissible benefits totaled approximately $17,000 in unearned wages and led to the committee finding that the institution failed to monitor the employment of football student-athletes.
Penalties for the violations include adding two years to the university's current probationary period, a reduction in allowable financial aid, and a vacation of records for the 2005 season including a bowl game victory.
The committee stated in its report that, "although this case centered on a few violations involving three student-athletes, the committee finds this case to be significant and serious for several reasons." These reasons include the value of the extra benefits provided by a booster; the fact that the violations continued over several months, which led to two of the student-athletes competing while ineligible; and the university had appeared before the committee only one year earlier for a case in which the committee found that the institution failed to monitor the mens basketball staffs telephone contacts with prospective student-athletes.
The violations were intentional on the part of the involved student-athletes and the dealership's manager, who was also a representative of the university's athletics interest. Two of the involved student-athletes received payment from the dealership for time that they were participating in football practices and voluntary workouts, attending class and otherwise away from the dealership.
As a regular practice, the two student-athletes clocked in for work, left the dealership, then returned later to clock out of work. On other occasions, one of them would clock the other in or out, so that both would be paid when only one was present. Based on records obtained from the dealership, it was also found that the third student-athlete was also clocked in and paid for times that he did not work, including time that was spent participating in a scrimmage and game.
In finding that the university demonstrated a failure to monitor, the committee noted the university failed to follow established procedures for the monitoring of student-athletes' employment when it did not timely collect gross earnings statements for 12 student-athletes who notified the university of their employment at the auto dealership during the 2005 summer vacation period. It was also found that the university failed to detect that football student-athletes worked at the auto dealership during the 2004-05 and 2005-06 fall and spring academic terms.
The university disagreed that facts of the case demonstrated a failure to monitor, stating that the compliance monitoring system was adequate and effective, but could not have been expected to detect this specific situation. The university noted that the situation involved student-athletes, in concert with the dealership's manager, engaging "in a deliberate scheme to deceive both the employer's payroll system and the university's employment monitoring system in an attempt to violate NCAA rules of which they were well aware."
However, the committee found that the university "made several mistakes in a narrow, but significant area the employment of football student-athletes at the dealership, which resulted in a breakdown of its monitoring. When such mistakes result in significant violations of NCAA legislation, as in this case, a finding of failure to monitor is appropriate and justified."
The committee stated that because the dealership was the apparent largest employer of student-athletes, the university should have undertaken more extensive efforts to monitor the student-athletes' employment. It was noted that the university relied on the initiative of the football student-athletes to register their employment with the school as the only means of triggering the monitoring process. The committee also stated that the delay in detecting the violations meant that two of the student-athletes were able to compete during the entire 2005 season and practice during the spring of 2006.
In determining the penalties, the Committee on Infractions considered the university's self-imposed penalties and corrective actions. The penalties, some of which were self-imposed by the institution and adopted by the committee, are as follows:
The Committee on Infractions consists of conference and institutional athletics administrators, faculty and members of the public. The committee independently rules on cases investigated by the NCAA enforcement staff and determines appropriate penalties. The committee's findings may be appealed to the Infractions Appeals Committee.
Members of the Committee on Infractions who reviewed this case are Paul Dee, director of athletics at the University of Miami, formerly the university's general counsel, and acting chair; Eileen Jennings, general counsel at Central Michigan University; Alfred "Jim" Lechner, Jr., attorney with the Westfield, N.J., law firm of Lerner David and formerly a federal district judge in New Jersey; Gene Marsh, James M. Kidd Sr. Professor of Law at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa School of Law; Thomas Phillips, attorney with the Austin, Texas, office of the law firm Baker Botts and formerly the chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court; Bonnie Slatton, professor of physical education and sport science, University of Iowa; and Dennis Thomas, the commissioner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and formerly director of athletics at Hampton University.