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The NCAA Committee on Infractions Has Spoken: Weber State University

The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee”) recently issued its findings and found that Weber State University (“WSU”) committed violations of NCAA legislation. The case involved academic fraud at WSU. It also involves a former developmental math instructor. WSU, the math instructor and the NCAA enforcement staff substantially agreed academic fraud violations occurred during spring 2013. Specifically, the parties agreed the math instructor completed online quizzes, tests and exams for five student-athletes, resulting in fraudulent academic credit. While the parties agreed the violations occurred, they disagreed over the appropriate violations level. The Committee considered the record including the parties' submissions, presentations and information developed at the September 12, 2014 hearing. The Committee concluded academic fraud occurred; however, the Committee did not conclude WSU failed to monitor.

The Committee determined that the case should move forward under a Level I standard and found that WSU committed the following violations of NCAA legislation:

Violations of NCAA Bylaws 10.1 and 10.1(b)

During the spring semester of the 2012-13 academic year, the math instructor provided impermissible academic assistance to five football student-athletes when she completed online quizzes, tests and exams for them resulting in fraudulent academic credit.

WSU self-discovered and self-reported that the math instructor intentionally obtained user names and passwords of five student-athletes and accessed their accounts to complete online quizzes, tests and exams. The math instructor did not attend the hearing but, in her interviews and response to the enforcement staff's amended notice of allegations, she admitted to her conduct and took full responsibility. As a result or her actions, five student-athletes received fraudulent academic credit.

NCAA Bylaw 10.1 defines unethical conduct as knowing involvement in arranging for fraudulent credit. The parties presented and agreed the math instructor obtained the user names and passwords of five student-athletes enrolled in developmental math. Using that log-in information, the math instructor completed quizzes, tests and exams for five student-athletes, who received credit for that work. Based on the information developed from WSU’s review of the 2010-13 developmental math records, the parties also presented information during the hearing regarding questionable assistance the math instructor began providing as early as the 2011-12 academic year. That information, however, was presented as contextual and not in the form of alleged bylaw violations.

Because the math instructor intentionally obtained the student-athletes' log-in information and purposefully used that information to complete their coursework, she knowingly arranged for the student-athletes to receive fraudulent academic credit and violated NCAA Bylaw 10.1. The Committee concluded the math instructor engaged in unethical conduct.

Failure to Monitor Not Demonstrated

The NCAA enforcement staff alleged WSU failed to monitor the academic coursework of student-athletes in developmental math. The Committee, however, concluded this violation was not demonstrated. WSU had a compliance system in place, that compliance system detected NCAA violations and WSU took swift, decisive action after discovering the violations. Although the NCAA enforcement staff presented, and WSU acknowledged, information that the math instructor engaged in improper academic assistance for an extended period of time, the Committee did not conclude a failure to monitor violation was warranted. WSU had compliance and monitoring systems in place. WSU identified the self-paced developmental math courses as problematic and developed a tracking system to monitor student-athletes’ progression through the courses.

When the math instructor's conduct escalated to academic fraud during the spring 2013 semester, WSU promptly detected an irregularity in the online test results, investigated the circumstances, and took decisive corrective actions, including self-reporting the incidents to the NCAA enforcement staff. Because WSU had compliance systems in place that monitored student-athletes in developmental math, detected violations when they occurred and took swift, meaningful corrective actions, the Committee concluded WSU did not violate NCAA Bylaw 2.8.1.

Aggravating and Mitigating Factors in accordance with NCAA Bylaws 19.9.2 and 19.9.4

The Committee classified this case as Level I case. Level I violations seriously undermine or threaten the integrity of the NCAA Collegiate Model and include any violation that provides or is intended to provide a substantial or extensive advantage. NCAA Bylaw 19.1.1 lists academic fraud as an example of a severe breach of conduct. The Committee concluded the facts of this case - an institutional instructor knowingly completing quizzes, tests and exams for student-athletes - established a severe breach of conduct that seriously undermines and threatens the NCAA Collegiate Model. When reviewing a case under the penalty guidelines, the Committee assessed aggravating and mitigating by weight, as well as number. The panel concluded the following factors apply in this case:

A. Aggravating factors were as follows: 1) unethical conduct (NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3-(e)); 2) violations were premeditated, deliberate or committed after substantial planning (NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3-(f)); 3) persons of authority condoned, participated in or negligently disregarded the violation or related wrongful conduct (NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3-(h)); 4) one or more violations caused significant ineligibility or other substantial harm to a student-athlete or prospective student-athlete (NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3(i)); 5) conduct or circumstances demonstrating an abuse of an position or trust (NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3-(j)); and 6) intentional, willful or blatant disregard for the NCAA constitution and bylaws (NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3-(m)).

B. Mitigating factors were as follows: 1) prompt self-detection and self-disclosure of violations(s) (NCAA Bylaw 19.9.4-(a)); 2) prompt acknowledgement of the violation, acceptance of responsibility and imposition of meaningful corrective measures and/or penalties (NCAA Bylaw 19.9.4-(b)); 3) an established history of self-reporting Level III or secondary violations (NCAA Bylaw 19.9.4-(d)); and 4) exemplary cooperation (NCAA Bylaw 19.9.4-(f)).

As a result of the aforementioned violations, the Committee penalized WSU as follows:

1. Public reprimand and censure.

2. Three years of probation from November 19, 2014 through November 18, 2017.

3. WSU shall pay a financial penalty of $5,000.00 plus 2% of WSU’s football program’s operating budget to the NCAA.

4. 14.23% reduction (9 equivalencies) in football financial aid awards.

5. Five-year show-cause order for the math instructor for positions with responsibilities in a member institution's athletics department.

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