NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Drake Group decries an October 16, 2020, NCAA Committee on Infractions decision penalizing college athletes rather than the athletic program administrators who botched the computation of their scholarship checks. Over a three-year period, UMass athletic department administrators failed to properly compute payments when 12 athletes moved off-campus. Eight athletes continued to receive a $252 telecom fee associated with dorm phones, and four athletes moved into off-campus housing more expensive than their on-campus housing and received a higher impermissible housing payment. Over a three-year period, the athletes received $9,100 in aid they should not have received, and the administrative error was not discovered until after all of this had occurred. The athletes had no idea they received any extra benefit, and the overpayments were minimal in comparison to other NCAA extra benefit cases. There was no evidence that UMass knew of these administrative errors at the time they occurred or that administrators intended to make impermissible payments to athletes or have “ineligible athletes” compete.
The penalties imposed were:
- UMass placed on 2 years of probation with an obligation to inform prospective recruits of this status and the nature of violations.
- UMass self-imposed a $5,000 financial fine
- The NCAA issued a public reprimand and censure.
- UMass was directed to vacate all team and individual regular season and conference tournament wins and records for the 186 basketball and tennis contests in which the 12 athletes (women’s tennis and men’s basketball) participated because the athletes should have been declared ineligible. Vacating wins including adjusting the records of all coaches of their teams, revising all statistical records involved, and returning all trophies.
Particularly egregious was the finding for two women’s tennis players who were unknowingly reimbursed for $252 each for an on-campus phone jack after they moved off-campus. The result was the UMass women’s tennis team forfeiting three years of victories, including an Atlantic 10 title.
The Drake Group supports the UMass and Atlantic 10 formal appeal to the NCAA to overturn these athlete penalties. We particularly applaud the efforts of Brittany Collens, one of two female tennis players penalized. Even though no longer a student, she is participating actively in the NCAA appeals process while mounting an effective public relations campaign, including gaining thousands of signatures (7000 and growing) on a change.org petition asking for these penalties to be removed.
However, there is a larger issue that must be raised. Donna A. Lopiano, President of The Drake Group, commented, “Reading the UMass case NCAA Public Infractions Report, indicates how far the NCAA has lost its way. Although founded in 1906 to protect college football players from dying because of lack of governance and oversight of collegiate athletics, it appears that the NCAA has relegated itself to pencil punishing the inconsequential. While Rome is burning, Nero fiddles. The NCAA refused to act as the media investigated and uncovered 13 plus years of academic fraud at the University of North Carolina. The NCAA refused to act as the media investigated and uncovered the details of the death of Maryland football player Jordan McNair after being brutally punished by a conditioning drill at summer football practice. The NCAA refused to act as the media investigated and uncovered the details of Baylor athletes sexually assaulting multiple victims, aided by a cover-up in which university administrators participated. The NCAA will refuse to act as the media investigates and uncovers a similar debacle at LSU. The NCAA refused to act when the medical doctors entrusted with the care of athletes at Ohio State, and Michigan State sexually assaulted them, with athletic and university leaders looking the other way. The NCAA has not adopted or enforced consensus medical standards as a condition of membership or generated enforceable codes of conduct for its athletes, coaches, or administrators. The NCAA is not ‘governing’ and is not capable of reforming itself.”