Alaska Fairbanks improperly certified 42 student-athletes in nine Division II sport programs, violating amateurism and academic certification rules from the 2017-18 through 2020-21 academic years, according to a negotiated resolution agreement approved by the Division II Committee on Infractions. Additionally, according to a separate negotiated resolution agreement approved by the Division I Committee on Infractions, the men's ice hockey staff of the school's Division I men's ice hockey program violated impermissible inducement and benefits rules when they arranged free or reduced-cost lodging for 18 incoming prospective student-athletes. As a result of the impermissible inducement and benefit violations, the head men's ice hockey coach violated head coach responsibility rules. The school also agreed that it failed to adequately monitor its eligibility certification process and the men's ice hockey program.
This case marks the first Division II negotiated resolution. The negotiated resolution process, which was adopted by the Division II membership in January, offers an efficient processing option when parties agree to the facts, violations and penalties of a case. Alaska Fairbanks also used the negotiated resolution process for violations that occurred in men's ice hockey, a Division I program. Alaska Fairbanks is a multidivisional school, with most sport programs sponsored at the Division II level, while men's ice hockey is sponsored at the Division I level. Thus, the Division I Committee on Infractions reviewed and approved the agreement related to the men's ice hockey violations, while the Division II Committee on Infractions reviewed and approved the agreement involving the certification violations.
Amateurism and academic certification violations
Alaska Fairbanks and the enforcement staff agreed that over the course of several academic years, Alaska Fairbanks improperly certified 42 student-athletes in nine sports, resulting in 77 violations of academic and amateurism certification rules. Student-athletes impermissibly practiced, competed and received actual and necessary expenses while ineligible or not certified. The school also failed to withhold 14 student-athletes from competition before their eligibility was reinstated. Additionally, the school had multiple student-athletes in various sports practice and/or compete without completing required eligibility forms.
Failure to monitor violations
Alaska Fairbanks and the NCAA enforcement staff agreed that the scope of the amateurism and academic certification violations demonstrated that the school violated the NCAA principle of rules compliance by failing to adequately monitor its eligibility certification program. For multiple years, the school did not ensure the amateurism and academic eligibility of incoming student-athletes through the NCAA Eligibility Center.
Impermissible inducement and benefits violations
Alaska Fairbanks, the head men's ice hockey coach and the NCAA enforcement staff agreed that the men's ice hockey coaching staff violated impermissible inducement and benefits rules when they arranged free or reduced-cost lodging for at least 18 incoming prospective student-athletes to stay with representatives and current student-athletes before the school's dorms opened for the fall semester. The impermissible benefits totaled more than $2,000. As a result of the violations, eight student-athletes competed and received actual and necessary expenses while ineligible.
Additionally, a representative of the school athletics interests provided an impermissible benefit by allowing three student-athletes to use their vehicle on an as-needed basis for at least 15 days.
Head coach responsibility violation
All parties agreed that the head coach violated head coach responsibility rules and did not promote an atmosphere of compliance because of his involvement in arranging the housing accommodations. Further, he failed to monitor his staff, did not consult with compliance or self-detect violations that were occurring within his program.
Failure to monitor violation
Alaska Fairbanks and the enforcement staff agreed that the violations in the men's ice hockey program demonstrated that the school violated the NCAA principle of rules compliance by failing to establish adequate compliance reporting systems, rules education or monitoring processes.
For the men's ice hockey violations, the school, the head men's ice hockey coach and the enforcement staff used ranges identified by the Division I membership-approved infractions penalty guidelines to agree on Level II-Standard penalties for the school and Level II-Mitigated penalties for the head coach. For the certification-related violations, the school and the enforcement staff used past case guidance and Division II Bylaw 19.5 to agree upon penalties for the school. The agreements contain the full list of penalties approved by the Division I and II Committees on Infractions, including:
- Three years of probation.
- A $7,500 fine.
- A two-week ban on off-campus recruiting contacts, evaluations and recruiting communications in men's ice hockey during the 2021-22 academic year.
- A 2% competition suspension during the men's ice hockey regular season for the head coach (at Alaska Fairbanks or any school that employs him).
- Vacation of team and individual records in which student-athletes competed while ineligible.
- The school must undergo an outside audit of its athletics policies and procedures.
- The athletics director and compliance staff must attend NCAA Regional Rules Seminars each year of the probationary period.
- All staff members with eligibility certification-related responsibilities must also attend Regional Rules Seminars during the first two years of the probationary period.
Members of the Committee on Infractions are drawn from NCAA member schools and conferences and members of the public. The committee members who reviewed the Division II case are Jessica Chapin, athletics director at American International; David Hansburg, athletics director at Colorado School of Mines; John David Lackey, Division II Committee on Infractions chair and attorney in private practice; Richard Loosbrock, faculty athletics representative and history professor at Adams State; Melissa Reilly, senior woman administrator and associate commissioner at the East Coast Conference; Leslie Schuemann, senior woman administrator and senior associate commissioner at the Great Midwest Athletic Conference; and Jason Sobolik, assistant athletics director for compliance and student services at Minnesota State University Moorhead.
The committee members who reviewed the Division I case are Cassandra Kirk, chief magistrate judge, Atlanta; Joe Novak, former football head coach at Northern Illinois; and Sankar Suryanarayan, university counsel at Princeton and chief hearing officer for the Division I panel.