NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - The sanctions brought by the NCAA against the Stephen F. Austin athletic department this week are in response to almost seven years of improperly certifying student-athletes as academically eligible to compete.
“There is no doubt this is a black eye on the university,” SFA president Scott Gordon said. “It is unfortunate because our student athletes and coaches are now paying the price.”
The issues with Academic records first came to light for recently hired SFA Athletic Director Ryan Ivey a year ago. According to the Negotiated Resolution a majority of the problems were, “the institution’s failure to consider the degree applicability of transfer credits when certifying transfer student-athletes’ academic eligibility. Although these transfer student-athletes largely met NCAA transfer legislation, they failed to meet progress-toward-degree legislation at the institution.”
So how did it get caught? It appears a question by a coach with football would remove a stone that covered years of issues in reporting academic progress.
“After the transition of the former academics director to a faculty position and the former compliance director to retirement, the compliance director assumed the position of assistant athletics director for compliance,” The negotiated resolution between the NCAA and SFA stated. "While in this role, a member of the football staff asked her if a current student-athlete who entered SFA as a nonqualifier could gain an additional year of eligibility by virtue of graduating in four years. The compliance director reviewed the student-athlete’s academic file to determine if the NCAA bylaw applied. Through that review, the compliance director learned that not only was the student-athlete not on track to graduate in four years, he also did not meet progress toward-degree legislation during his tenure at the institution. At or around the same time, the compliance director gave a transcript of a football student-athlete to an intern in her office to use as “practice” for learning academic certification rules. The intern returned to the compliance director and expressed concern that she must not understand NCAA academic eligibility rules because her review showed the student-athlete not meeting NCAA progress-toward-degree legislation. When the compliance director reviewed the intern’s work, she found that the intern did the work correctly and the student-athlete did not meet progress-toward-degree rules
SFA would contact the NCAA and an investigation was launched.
“We knew if they found it before we did our penalties could be a lot more severe moving forward," Ivey said. “I’ll make that clear. I don’t think any coaches were involved especially from our end. This is something they are not involved in with the certification process. This does not fall or rest on our coaches.”
The investigation by the NCAA and SFA seem to point the blame towards the former compliance director, who retired shortly after Ivey’s hiring and the academic director, who is now a faculty member with SFA outside of the athletic department.
“The former academics director had a strong reputation in the athletics academic advising community,” the report stated. “He held a board position on a national membership organization and instructed his staff about the importance of following NCAA rules. Unfortunately, the former academics director’s reputation and stature provided individuals within athletics a false sense of security that he applied all academic certification rules correctly. Further complicating the issue, the former compliance director made known his intent to retire after a near 30-year career at the institution, and as part of his transition to retirement, the former compliance director delegated additional compliance responsibilities to the former academics director. In addition to those compliance responsibilities and leading academic services, the former academics director oversaw a moderately sized staff, performed academic certification for all current and prospective student-athletes, awarded and tracked financial aid for all student-athletes, and taught several classes on campus. Despite this heavy workload, the former academics director did not express any concerns and displayed confidence in his responsibilities. Those involved in compliance and athletics academic services at SFA believed the former academics director capably fulfilled the duties he was assigned.”
Here are the results of what was determined by the investigation:
a. Beginning in the 2015-16 academic year and continuing through the 2018-19 academic year, two football student-athletes, four baseball student-athletes and one women’s volleyball student-athlete practiced and competed outside of the temporary certification period and prior to having their amateurism certified. [NCAA Bylaw18.104.22.168.3 (2015-16 through 2018-19)]
b. In the spring of 2018, one men’s track and field student-athlete and one women’s track and field student-athlete practiced and competed without enrolling in a full-time program of studies. [NCAA Bylaws 14.2.1 and 14.2.2 (2017-18)]
c. In the 2017-18 academic year, one men’s cross country and track and field student-athlete, and in the fall of 2018, one women’s golf student-athlete, competed without satisfactory completion of at least 24 semester hours of academic credit prior to the start of the student athletes’ second year of collegiate enrollment. [NCAA Bylaw 22.214.171.124-(a) (2017-18 and 2018- 19)]
d. Beginning in the 2013-14 academic year and continuing through the 2018-19 academic year, seven football student-athletes, one women’s track and field student-athlete, four men’s basketball student-athletes and two baseball student-athletes, on a total of 15 different occurrences, competed without satisfactory completion of at least 18 semester hours of academic credit during the certifying institution’s preceding regular two semesters. [NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199-(b) (2013-14 through 2018-19)]
e. Beginning in the 2013-14 academic year and continuing through the 2018-19 academic year, five football student-athletes, one baseball student-athlete and one men’s basketball studentathlete, on eight total occurrences, competed without satisfactory completion of at least six semester hours of academic credit during the certifying institution’s preceding regular semester. [NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52-(c) (2013-14 through 2018-19)]
f. In the 2014-15 and 2015-16 academic years, two football student-athletes competed in the first four contests of the season without satisfactory completion of at least nine semester hours during the previous fall term. [NCAA Bylaw 184.108.40.206.6 (2014-15 and 2015-16)]
g. Beginning in the 2013-14 academic year and continuing through the 2018-19 academic year, 12 men’s basketball student-athletes, 16 baseball student-athletes, 39 football student-athletes, one men’s cross country student-athlete, one softball student-athlete, and two women’s track and field student-athletes, on 105 different total occurrences, competed without successfully completing their required percentage-of-degree requirements. [NCAA Bylaw 220.127.116.11 (2013- 14 through 2018-19)]
h. Beginning in the 2014-15 academic year and continuing through the 2018-19 academic year, 13 baseball student-athletes, on 20 different occasions, competed in the spring semester even though those student-athletes had failed to meet the percentage-of-degree requirements at the outset of the previous fall semester. [NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168.3.1 (2014-15 through 2018-19)]
i. During the spring of 2017, the institution improperly certified as eligible a two-year nonqualifier transfer baseball student-athlete who did not have the required 48 transferable hours. The institution also impermissibly awarded the student-athlete athletics aid. [NCAA Bylaws 22.214.171.124.1-(b) and 15.01.5 (2016-17)]
j. During the fall of 2018, the institution improperly certified as eligible for athletics aid a two year nonqualifier transfer football student-athlete who did not have the required cumulative grade-point average of 2.500. [NCAA Bylaws 126.96.36.199.1-(d) and 15.01.5 (2018-19)].
Because of all this the program was handed down sanctions that both the NCAA and SFA agreed upon.
- Three years of probation;
- Public reprimand and censure;
- A fine of $5,000 plus one-half of one percent of the total budgets for football and men’s basketball;
- The return of 50 percent of the University’s financial share earned from participation in the 2016 NCAA Tournament;
- The forfeiture of all records and contests in which an ineligible SFA student-athlete competed, which includes 29 football victories from 2013-2019; 117 men’s basketball victories from 2014 to 2019; 112 baseball victories from 2015 to 2019; 31 softball victories from the 2018 season; and adjusted conference championship scores from women’s golf, women’s track and field, men’s cross country and men’s track and field.
- Included in the vacation of wins are conference championships in men’s basketball in 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2017-18, as well as the program’s First Round win in the 2016 NCAA Tournament. The banners recognizing those achievements will be removed from William R. Johnson Coliseum.
- A 2.5% reduction in financial aid awards (scholarships) in football for 2020-2021 and 2021-2022; a 5% reduction in baseball in either 2020-21 or 2021-2022 and the loss of one scholarship in men’s basketball in either 2020-2021 or 2021-22.
- Prior to the conclusion of the probationary period, the institution will submit to a data review with APP staff.