NCAA Upholds Washington Baseball Violations

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The NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee confirmed the findings of recruiting violations that occurred in Washington's baseball program and the penalty prescribed.

In the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions' decision regarding Washington, it determined the baseball program provided impermissible recruiting benefits when it paid for the travel of parents accompanying prospects on official visits. The infractions panel found that over the course of three academic years, the baseball staff impermissibly arranged for and paid a total of $7,795 in airfare for 23 parents of 14 prospects. Three of the prospects later became student-athletes and competed in 61 contests while ineligible prior to Washington seeking reinstatement, which resulted in an ineligible competition violation.

According to the infractions panel, a failure to monitor violation regarding recruiting travel in the baseball program occurred because the university did not establish an effective system for ensuring compliance with recruiting rules and did not provide sufficient rules education to staff involved in managing travel.

Washington appealed all violations found by the Committee on Infractions, arguing that the facts found by the infractions panel did not constitute violations. The school also asserted that the vacation of records penalty should be overturned because the infractions panel abused its discretion by prescribing that penalty.

Per NCAA rules, if a student-athlete is ineligible, the school must withhold the student-athlete from competition until the student-athlete regains eligibility. Washington stated that a violation did not occur because it was not aware the student-athletes were ineligible when they competed.

In response, the infractions panel argued that under NCAA rules, a school may be held accountable for failing to withhold an ineligible student-athlete from competition regardless of whether staff members were aware of the student-athlete's eligibility status. Further, it stated that the lack of knowledge in this case was a result of an inadequate process for monitoring official visits and educating key staff members.

Additionally, the infractions panel stated that the overall deficiencies in the official visit process for the baseball program were sufficient to support a failure to monitor violation.

The Infractions Appeals Committee agreed that the NCAA rules regarding the withholding of ineligible student-athletes do not include a knowledge requirement. As such, an institution may be held responsible for failing to withhold an ineligible student-athlete from competition even though the institutional staff member(s) did not know at the time that the student-athlete was ineligible. There were several deficiencies in the official visit process for baseball, and the staff failed to ask questions or request key information that could have uncovered the issues. The deficiencies in the official visit process were sufficient to make a finding of a failure to monitor in this case. Therefore, all violations were upheld.

The appeals committee determined the infractions panel did not abuse its discretion in the prescription of the vacation of records penalty. Therefore, the appealed penalty was upheld.

The members of the Infractions Appeals Committee who heard this case were Jonathan Alger, president at James Madison; Alejandra Montenegro Almonte, attorney in private practice; Ellen M. Ferris, chair, senior associate commissioner for governance and compliance at the American Athletic Conference; Tom Goss, chairman, insurance executive; Allison Rich, senior associate athletics director and senior woman administrator at Princeton; David Shipley, faculty athletics representative at Georgia; and Julie Vannatta, senior associate general counsel for athletics/senior associate athletics director at Ohio State.

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