Feb. 13, 2013
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - The University of Southern Mississippi was cited by the NCAA for unethical conduct by two former men's tennis coaches for promising impermissible benefits to student-athletes and engaging in academic misconduct according to a decision announced by the Division I Committee on Infractions.
"These infractions in our men's tennis program are regrettable and the University will learn from this experience," said Southern Miss Interim President Aubrey K. Lucas. "Southern Miss is committed to conducting its athletics programs in full compliance with NCAA expectations."
Penalties in the case include a one-year postseason ban for the men's tennis program this spring, four years of probation for the school (Jan. 30, 2013-Jan. 29, 2017), a seven-year show-cause order for the former head coach and a six-year show-cause order for the former assistant coach, public reprimand and censure by the NCAA, prohibition of foreign tour participation for the men's tennis program until 2016 and vacation of all wins in which the former student-athlete competed while ineligible during the 2008-09 through 2009-10 men's tennis seasons (imposed by the university).
The four-year probation handed down by the NCAA Committee on Infractions does not affect the eligibility of any sport (to participate in conference or postseason championships) other than men's tennis. On a case-by-case basis the Committee on Infractions can identify conditions for an institution to satisfy during a probationary period. As a result, the Committee on Infractions imposed the following conditions that need to be satisfied during the period of probation (i.e., January 30, 2013 - January 29, 2017):
- Develop a compressive educational program on NCAA legislation;
- Develop thorough procedures for the oversight and monitoring of travel and expense reporting;
- Submit an annual report each year of the probation to the Committee on Infractions, citing progress made in the area of compliance.
In addition, Southern Miss is subject to repeat violator status should another major infraction occur in any sport in a five-year period. In order to trigger this status at least one major violation must have occurred within five years of the date the Committee on Infractions handed down the institution's penalties (Jan. 30, 2013 - Jan. 29, 2018). A repeat violator shall be subject to enhanced major violation penalties to be determined by the Committee on Infractions.
According to the facts in the case, the former coaches offered a former student-athlete $5,000 and a car to encourage the student-athlete to remain at Southern Miss. Additionally, when the student-athlete was losing a specific match, the former head coach offered to pay the same student-athlete $200 if he won.
The former coaches also initiated plagiarism and academic misconduct during the fall of 2009.
Specifically, the former head coach paid a second former student-athlete $150 to write a paper for the previously mentioned student-athlete. The former assistant coach continued the academic misconduct by providing the student-athlete with essays that the student-athlete submitted as his own work.
Compounding the unethical conduct, the former coaches refused to participate in the enforcement staff interviews. The former head coach withheld true and complete information during Southern Miss' investigation. In addition, the former assistant coach instructed the former student-athlete to "deny everything" during his interviews.
Additionally, the committee found that the former head coach did not follow travel policies and procedures, the athletics senior staff did not maintain proper documents nor provide general administrative oversight over the men's tennis program and the department failed to provide the athletics compliance function with the necessary staff and resources. As a result, the committee found that Southern Miss failed to monitor its men's tennis program.
The following steps have been taken:
- The institution requested, obtained and accepted the resignation of the former head coach. The resignation was effective August 31, 2010. Thereafter, the institution permanently disassociated itself from the former head coach.
- The institution terminated the position of the former assistant coach, failed to renew or continue his employment effective July 31, 2010, and permanently disassociated itself from the former assistant coach.
- The institution declared student-athlete 1 ineligible for further intercollegiate competition. The institution felt that such action was required as a result of academic fraud and unethical conduct.
- The institution declared former student-athlete 2 ineligible for further intercollegiate competition. The institution felt that such action was warranted because of academic fraud and the acceptance of money.
- The institution vacated all wins by the men's tennis program which occurred after the date student-athlete 1 turned in the fraudulent paper for credit in History 101. The institution athletics staff reasoned had it known of the academic fraud violations at the time such occurred, the department would have declared the student-athletes ineligible to compete. As the institution learned of the academic fraud subsequent to the occurrence, it took action deemed necessary.
- The institution purchased the ACS Compliance Toolbox and its recruiting monitoring package in the fall of 2011. This purchase and its integration into the athletics department seem to be a productive and efficient way to upgrade the institution's compliance program. The program is fully implemented and in use by the athletic department coaching and compliance staff.
- The compliance staff emphasizes the violations which are the subject of this matter in annual training for staff and student-athletes.
- Release the compliance director from responsibilities not related to compliance. Limit his/her professional responsibilities to directing the compliance staff and overall activity management.
- Establish a faculty compliance committee to address emerging issues, including student-athletes academic integrity.
- Conduct weekly athletics director-led strategy accountability sessions with the compliance staff.
- Develop and incorporate a comprehensive educational compliance program for the athletics department, the university and its constituents that covers all NCAA rules but places emphasis on academic misconduct, unethical conduct and extra benefits.
- Conduct monthly athletics director-led staff/coach "inform and influence" educational and situational awareness sessions focused on compliance related case studies and other emerging issues.
- Publish a monthly university-wide compliance newsletter designed to inform the campus regarding compliance matters of institutional interest.
- Leverage existing technology for the purpose of compliance education outreach, including use of the athletics director's Twitter and Facebook accounts (among others) for promoting compliance with the rules and regulations of the NCAA.
- Mandate participation of the compliance staff in NCAA and other national professional information/development seminars in order to remain current in key matters of importance.
- Require all new full-time athletics department employees to participate in a mandatory compliance orientation session within a reasonable time of their date of initial employment.
- Implement an annual compliance certification testing process for all members of the coaching and administrative staff.
- Mandate that all athletics department staff and coaches sign an accountability statement concerning the unethical conduct and extra benefit bylaws.
- Mandate that all student-athletes sign an accountability statement concerning academic fraud and extra benefits bylaws.
- Develop a new travel policy requiring review and approval from the senior associate athletic director for compliance and the senior associate athletic director for internal operations prior to the commencement of any staff and/or coach travel.
- Hire a business manager and a new director for accountability, compliance and shared responsibility, both newly created positions in the department of athletics.
A copy of the full NCAA report can be found HERE.