The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions has penalized Florida State University for major violations in its athletics program.
The case involved academic fraud affecting more than 60 student-athletes across 10 sports, as well as impermissible benefits, unethical conduct by three former academic support services staff members, and a failure to monitor by the university.
The sports programs involved in these violations include football, baseball, men's track and field, women's track and field, men's swimming, women's swimming, men's basketball, women's basketball, softball and men's golf.
Penalties for the violations include four years of probation, scholarship reductions, vacation of records, and show-cause penalties for the former staff members.
The show-cause penalties mandate that the former staff members' contact with student-athletes must be limited at any employing institutions. These limitations are further explained in the public report.
This case involved a former learning specialist, academic advisor and tutor at the University Athletics Academic Support Services (AASS), all of whom gave improper assistance to student-athletes, resulting in academic fraud.
The committee stated this case was "extremely serious" because of the large number of student-athletes involved and the fact that academic fraud is considered by the committee to be among the most egregious of NCAA rules violations.
A significant portion of the academic fraud violations involved a music course offered to students without incident for more than 10 years before its academic integrity was compromised in the fall semester of 2006, resulting in academic fraud occurring during this time, as well as the 2007 spring and summer semesters.
In addition to the academic improprieties associated with the online music course, the former learning specialist provided impermissible assistance to at least three student-athletes by typing portions of papers assigned to them. She also provided answers to an online psychology course quiz for a student-athlete by instructing a second student-athlete to complete the quiz on behalf of the student-athlete enrolled in the course.
Ultimately, 61 student-athletes went through the NCAA's reinstatement process as a result of these violations. The university believed it was likely that more student-athletes received improper assistance in the online music course, but it concluded the evidence to substantiate this belief was circumstantial and inconclusive.
The committee attributed the violations in this case to two primary factors. First, it said the online exams for the music course were not administered in a structured environment. There was no requirement for a proctor, and the university acknowledged that the course did not have sufficient safeguards in place to prevent students from obtaining exam answers. Second, the committee said that inconsistent supervision of the AASS created an environment that allowed the academic support personnel to take actions violating NCAA rules and university guidelines.
The three former staff members were charged with unethical conduct for knowingly arranging for fraudulent academic credit for numerous student-athletes and providing improper academic assistance. The former academic advisor also refused to cooperate with the investigation and violated another provision of NCAA ethical conduct rules, as well as the cooperative principle. The cooperative principle states that university and its staff have an obligation to assist the enforcement staff in developing full information on the case. As a result of the academic improprieties by the three staff members, 61 student-athletes also violated the ethical conduct rules, and several student-athletes competed while ineligible.
The penalties in this case are as follows:
• Public reprimand and censure.
• Four years of probation (March 6, 2009, to March 5, 2013).
• Scholarship reductions in football; men's and women's basketball; men's and women's swimming; men's and women's track and field; baseball; softball; and men's golf. Additional details are available in the public report.
• Vacation of all wins in which the 61 student-athletes in the sports of football, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's swimming, men's and women's track, men's golf, baseball and softball competed while ineligible during 2006 and 2007. This includes regular season contests, postseason contests and any NCAA championship competition. The individual records of the student-athletes shall be vacated as well. Further, the institution's records regarding all of the involved sports, as well as the records of the head coaches of those sports will reflect the vacated records and will be recorded in all publications in which these records are reported, including, but not limited to, institution media guides, recruiting material, electronic and digital media plus institution and NCAA archives. Any public reference to tournament performances won during this time shall be removed, including, but not limited to, athletics department stationery and banners displayed in public areas such as the venues in which the specified teams compete.
• Five-year show-cause order for the former academic advisor (March 6, 2009, to March 5, 2014). Additional details are available in the public report.
• Four-year show-cause order for the former learning specialist (March 6, 2009, to March 5, 2013). Additional details are available in the public report.
• Three-year show-cause order for the former tutor (March 6, 2009, to March 5, 2012). Additional details are available in the public report.
The members of the Committee on Infractions who reviewed this case include Dennis Thomas, the commissioner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and formerly director of athletics at Hampton University. He is the vice chair of the Committee on Infractions and acting chair for this case. Other members are Eileen Jennings, general counsel at Central Michigan University; Andrea Meyers, athletic director emeritus, Indiana State University; Alfred Lechner, Jr., attorney; James Park Jr., attorney, Lexington, Kentucky and Josephine (Jo) R. Potuto, the Richard H. Larson Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Nebraska College of Law.