On Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015, SMU received a report from the NCAA Committee on Infractions regarding alleged violations in our Department of Athletics dating to 2013. The issuance of the report concludes another step in a process that began in 2013 and included a Notice of Inquiry in May 2013, a Notice of Allegations issued in November 2014 and an appearance by SMU leadership before the Committee on Infractions in June 2015.
The Committee on Infractions found that three former staff members committed violations of NCAA Bylaws – one within the athletics compliance department, one within the men’s basketball program and one in the men’s golf program. The Committee also found that Head Men’s Basketball Coach Larry Brown failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in the program. The full COI report can be found at www.smu.edu/news/ncaa.
SMU is reviewing the full report to determine if the University will appeal any findings and/or penalties. We are particularly concerned about sanctions that are punitive against student-athletes who were not involved in any infractions. According to NCAA Bylaws, SMU has 15 days to notify the Committee on Appeals or an intention to file an appeal.
The NCAA noted SMU’s “prompt acknowledgement of the violation, acceptance of responsibility, imposition of meaningful corrective measures, and affirmative steps to expedite final resolution of the matter.”
The Committee on Infractions determined that the University fulfilled its terms of a probation stemming from a 2011 compliance issue and that the University did not lack institutional control. During the investigation, a former director of compliance admitted that he neglected to collect attendance documents for two compliance educational sessions that had, in fact, taken place. The former employee photocopied attendance documents from previous sessions and submitted them to replace the missing documents. The employee was terminated in April 2013.
Despite its confidence in its policies and system, in 2011, the University and the Department of Athletics commissioned a full external review of its compliance training and education programs, its reporting policies for coaches and staff and its overall monitoring of our programs. In recent years, SMU has added two full-time staff members to the compliance department as well as a full-time intern and has upgraded its compliance software to allow for real-time monitoring and audits. The compliance department has also communicated daily with all staff, coaches and student-athletes throughout the year on compliance education and related matters.
The University is pleased that the Committee acknowledged the comprehensive and robust compliance system in place at SMU. The University recognizes the need to be particularly diligent in this area, and is confident that it meets or exceeds industry standards, with regular oversight and reporting involving a variety of campus constituents.
The Committee found that a former administrative assistant in the men’s basketball office completed an online course from National University Virtual High School on behalf of a prospective student-athlete who had verbally committed to SMU. The Committee found that the former employee exhibited unethical conduct in her duties while at SMU and during the investigation. The online course was ultimately deemed not necessary for the eligibility of the student. SMU respects and agrees with the Committee’s decision that academic misconduct occurred and that the employee had acted in an unethical manner. The incident was isolated and carried out by an individual acting in conflict with the University’s clearly-stated expectations and standards and without the Head Coach’s knowledge. It is important to emphasize that this transgression did not involve SMU coursework or faculty.
The administrative assistant resigned in September 2014. In addition, the University imposed several proactive sanctions, including reducing by two the number of scholarships available for men’s basketball for the 2015-2016 school year, as well as placing recruiting restrictions on the men’s basketball coaching staff, a reduction in the number of official and unofficial visits by prospective student-athletes, restrictions on the number of communications between men’s basketball staff and prospective student-athletes and restrictions on the number of days that men’s basketball staff can recruit off campus. The University also restricted the number of complimentary tickets available to prospective student-athletes.
In addition, the Committee imposed a one-year postseason ban on men’s basketball; restricted nine scholarships over the next three years (though the self-imposed two scholarship reductions will count toward that limit), and increased recruiting restrictions.
Because the Committee determined that a student-athlete competed while ineligible in 2013-2014, the Committee has vacated victories from the 2013-2014 season.
The Committee also found that Coach Brown failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the men’s basketball program and did not report a potential violation of NCAA rules. The Committee suspended Coach Brown for 30% of the upcoming season’s games, and he will be prohibited from any contact with the program during his suspension. Coach Brown was also issued a two-year show cause penalty with requirements to fulfill the show-cause detailed in the report. Coach Brown also must attend NCAA rules seminars for two years.
The University is in agreement, as is Coach Brown, that he should have reported a conversation that occurred during the investigation to the Department’s compliance office or other SMU officials. However, the University disagrees with the conclusion of the Committee that Coach Brown failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance.
While we accept responsibility for violations, the individuals responsible for the infractions have been held accountable both by the University and by the Committee on Infractions. To punish the student-athletes in the men’s basketball by prohibiting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete in the postseason is simply wrong. It is not what our system of governance should be about and we are considering our response.
With regard to Men’s Golf, the Committee found—and the University’s agrees—that a former head golf coach had impermissible contact with prospective student-athletes, impermissibly gave or sold at a discount equipment and apparel to prospective student-athletes and was aware of impermissible third-party contact with prospective student-athletes. In addition, the Committee found that the former head coach exhibited unethical conduct in not being truthful during the investigation.
The coach resigned in August 2014. In addition, the University self-imposed sanctions on the men’s golf program, including the reduction of 12 percent of available scholarships (or .54 of a full scholarship) for the 2015-2016 school year. In addition, recruiting restrictions were placed on the coaching staff limiting the number of official and unofficial visits by prospective student-athletes, restricting the number of communications between the coaching staff and prospective student-athletes, and restricting the number of days in 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 that the coaching staff can recruit off campus.
The Committee imposed further penalties on golf, imposing a postseason ban for the 2015-16 season, increasing the reduction of scholarships to 25% of available scholarships over the next three years and imposing additional recruiting restrictions. Finally, the Committee issued a five-year show-cause for the former men’s golf coach.
The University strongly disagrees with the postseason ban for men’s golf as the discipline is punitive for every student-athlete and coach, none of whom were involved in the infractions.
Statement from President Gerald Turner:
“When these allegations first came to light, the University cooperated fully with the NCAA, accepted responsibility, imposed corrective measures and took strong action when it believed that our employees failed to live up to the core values of SMU. Our compliance program is among the best in the nation, but we acknowledge that even the strongest compliance programs can fall short when individuals act in an unethical manner. SMU has a proud history of academic and athletic excellence, and we are committed to full compliance with NCAA bylaws and with our ethical standards. Moving forward, we know that we can—and will—do better.”
Statement from Director of Athletics Rick Hart:
“SMU is committed to academic and athletic excellence, and we take seriously any conduct that is counter to our mission and to our values. I am saddened for our men’s basketball and men’s golf student-athletes – especially our seniors – who work hard to earn the right to compete in the postseason. It is unfair to penalize these students. Under President Turner’s directive, we cooperated fully with the NCAA, took swift action in regards to employees who violated rules, and sought the truth no matter where the path took us. We adhered to our values in taking action and, as a result, are a stronger athletics department.”
Statement from Head Men’s Basketball Coach Larry Brown:
“Leading the SMU men’s basketball program is an honor and a responsibility that I take very seriously. That duty includes helping our young men develop into people of character and to ensuring that we pursue our goals with integrity. I am saddened and disappointed that the Committee on Infractions believes that I did not fully fulfill my duties and I will consider my options to challenge that assertion in the coming days. I truly believe that our program has dedicated itself unwaveringly to the ideals of academic integrity and NCAA compliance. Still, there was a violation in our program and I take responsibility for that and offer my sincere apologies to the University community.”