The Augusta University men's basketball program violated NCAA academic misconduct rules when the head and former assistant coaches provided academic assistance to a men's basketball student-athlete, according to a decision released by the Division II Committee on Infractions.
As a result, the student-athlete competed in 16 contests and received competition-related expenses while ineligible. The direct involvement by the head coach and former assistant coach demonstrated the head coach's failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance and failure to monitor. Additionally, the former assistant coach violated ethical conduct principles when he provided false or misleading information regarding his violation involvement. This case was considered through the cooperative summary disposition process in which all parties agreed to the facts and violations.
A men's basketball student-athlete was struggling academically and worked with academic services for assistance and learning accommodations. Despite the availability of these academic resources, the head coach and former assistant coach took additional steps to help the student-athlete in impermissible ways. First, an academic coordinator witnessed the head coach editing and adding content to a paper the student-athlete wrote for an English class.
Additionally, during a virtually proctored exam, the academic coordinator/instructor observed the former assistant coach sitting with the student-athlete as he was taking the exam. The video also showed the student-athlete submitting answers without his hands on the keyboard and impermissibly using his phone during the exam. During an investigative interview, the student-athlete admitted that the former assistant coach gave him answers during the exam. These actions resulted in a violation of Augusta's university policies and NCAA academic misconduct rules. As a result, the student-athlete participated in 16 contests and received actual and necessary expenses while ineligible. Augusta further committed violations by failing to withhold the ineligible student-athlete from competition.
The former assistant coach violated ethical conduct rules when he provided false information by denying involvement in the academic misconduct. His information was proven false by the video footage and the student-athlete's admission. After hindering the enforcement investigation process, the former assistant coach ultimately agreed to the violations.
Head Coach Responsibility
The head coach's direct involvement with the academic misconduct violations, as well as the conduct of his former assistant coach, demonstrated that he failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance and failed to monitor his staff. The head coach admitted that his involvement with the student-athlete's paper failed to meet his responsibilities as a head coach.
The COI concluded that these were all major violations of NCAA rules. After considering Augusta's cooperation, corrective actions and relevant mitigating factors, the committee prescribed the following penalties:
- Three years of probation.
- A reduction of two financial aid awards in the men's basketball program, one during the 2022-23 academic year and one during the 2023-24 academic year.
- A fine of $5,000 (self-imposed).
- A vacation of individual, regular-season and conference tournament records in which the student-athlete participated while ineligible (self-imposed).
- A suspension of two scrimmages and three regular-season contests for the head coach (self-imposed; completed during the 2021-22 academic year).
- A two-year show-cause order for the head coach. Any member school employing the head coach during this period must complete the following:
- Suspend the head coach from all coaching duties and activities for the first five conference games of the 2022-23 season.
- The head coach must attend NCAA Regional Rules Seminars, with at least one session focused on academic integrity.
- The head coach must attend monthly meetings with the school's senior compliance administrator for rules education. At least one meeting must be focused on academic integrity.
- The head coach must collaborate with academic services to develop and implement a "best practices" guide related to student-athlete academics.
- The head coach must participate in ethics training during the second year of the show-cause period.
- A two-year show-cause order for the assistant coach. Any member school employing the assistant coach during this period must restrict him from all athletically related activities.
- The director of athletics, compliance director and faculty athletics representative must attend NCAA Regional Rules Seminars in 2022 and 2023.
Members of the Committee on Infractions are drawn from the NCAA membership and members of the public. The members of the COI who reviewed this case are Jessica Chapin, athletics director at American International; John David Lackey, attorney in private practice; Richard Loosbrock, faculty athletics representative 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 Atlantic Conference; and Jason Sobolik, assistant athletics director at Minnesota State Moorhead.