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The NCAA Committee on Infractions Has Spoken: Charleston Southern University

The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee” or “Panel” or “COI”) recently issued its findings and found that Charleston Southern University (“Institution” or “CSU”) committed violations of NCAA legislation.

CSU, the head women's volleyball coach (“head coach”), and the NCAA enforcement staff agreed that from March 26 through November 29, 2019, the head coach had 79 impermissible contacts with at least eight (8) women's volleyball student-athletes and two (2) parents of student-athletes he coached or recruited at a previous NCAA membership institution without first obtaining authorization through the notification of transfer process.

In December 2017, the head coach resigned as the head women's volleyball coach from his previous institution and did not coach collegiate volleyball for about 15 months. Subsequently, on March 26, 2019, CSU hired him as its head women's volleyball coach.

In May 2019, the Big South Conference notified the CSU compliance staff that another institution had alleged that the head coach had impermissible contacts with his former student-athletes at his previous institution. When the compliance staff questioned the head coach about the allegations, he acknowledged texting his former student-athletes to extend a birthday or holiday wish or talk generally about life events. He denied tampering or attempting to influence the student-athletes to consider transferring. Because of the limited and civil nature of the communications, the compliance staff erroneously believed the contacts were permissible. The compliance staff based that incorrect understanding on conversations with compliance colleagues at a National Association of Athletics Compliance convention.

On June 4, 2019, the NCAA enforcement staff received an email from a women's volleyball coach at another institution that included allegations about the head coach having impermissible contact with three (3) of his former student-athletes at his prior institution. One student-athlete had transferred to CSU. The email included text messages that demonstrated the alleged contacts. Upon reviewing the email, the NCAA enforcement staff determined that more investigation was necessary. The NCAA enforcement staff began by interviewing the coach who sent the email and the identified student-athletes and their current coaches. One of the student-athletes confirmed that the head coach contacted her to inquire about a women's volleyball student-athlete (“volleyball student- athlete”) who later transferred to CSU, and her experience at his previous institution. The NCAA enforcement staff contacted the volleyball student-athlete and her family and requested their participation in an interview, but they did not respond.

Thereafter, CSU and the NCAA enforcement staff conducted interviews with the head coach and others at CSU. The director of compliance erroneously believed that coaches' contact with former student-athletes involving normal civility was permissible. Therefore, he believed the alleged contacts were permissible. The assistant women's volleyball coach and the head coach had the same understanding based on the compliance director's advice they received in May 2019. The head coach acknowledged he had contact with the father of the volleyball student-athlete prior to her entering the transfer portal but believed that was permissible since he only provided general enrollment information and did not influence her transfer. He also acknowledged that he exchanged text messages with other former student-athletes at his previous institution and their parents.

Because of the head coach’s acknowledgements, the NCAA enforcement staff imaged his cell phone to review the content of the text messages he exchanged with those individuals. The review revealed that most of the exchanges included cordial and civil conversations (i.e., congratulatory messages, birthday wishes). Others included limited examples of the head coach’s desire that some of his former student-athletes be part of CSU’s team. The text messages with the father of the volleyball student-athlete showed that he initiated contact with the head coach to explore the possibility of the volleyball student-athlete transferring to CSU. The head coach responded to those texts and had cell phone conversations with her father before she entered the NCAA transfer database. Subsequently, the volleyball student-athlete entered the NCAA transfer database, visited CSU and transferred to CSU.

This case was resolved through a negotiated resolution.

The Committee concluded that CSU committed the following violations:

Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 13.1.1.3 (2018-19 and 2019-20) (Level II)

CSU, head coach, and the NCAA enforcement staff agreed that from March 26 through November 29, 2019, the head coach made at least 79 impermissible contacts with at least eight (8) women's volleyball student-athletes from another institution and two (2) parents of Mississippi State student- athletes.

From March 26 through April 25, 2019, the head coach engaged in at least 21 impermissible contacts via five (5) telephone calls and 16 text messages with one women's volleyball student-athlete (from the head coach’s prior institution) and her father prior to her entering the NCAA transfer database. The head coach did not obtain authorization through the notification of transfer process before he made the contacts. NCAA Bylaw 13.1.1.3 (2018-19).

From March 26 through November 29, 2019, the head coach engaged in at least 58 impermissible contacts via one telephone call and 57 text messages with seven (7) women's volleyball student-athletes (from the head coach’s prior institution) and one of their parents. The head coach did not obtain authorization through the notification of transfer process before he made the contacts. NCAA Bylaw 13.1.1.3 (2018-19 and 2019-20).

Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 11.1.1 (2018-19 and 2019-20) (Level II)

CSU, head coach and the enforcement staff agreed that from March 26 through May 22, 2019, the head coach is presumed responsible for the violations set forth above and the head coach did not rebut the presumption of responsibility. Specifically, the head coach did not demonstrate that he promoted an atmosphere for compliance due to his personal involvement in the violations.

Aggravating and Mitigating Factors in accordance with NCAA Bylaws 19.9.3 and 19.9.4

Aggravating Factors for the Institution

A history of Level I, Level II or major violations. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3-(b).

Multiple Level II violations by the institution. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3-(g).

Persons of authority condoned, participated in or negligently disregarded the violation(s) or related wrongful conduct. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3-(h).

Mitigating Factors for the Institution

Prompt acknowledgement of the violation, acceptance of responsibility and imposition of meaningful corrective measures. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.4-(b).

Affirmative steps to expedite final resolution of the matter. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.4-(c).

An established history of self-reporting Level III or secondary violations. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.4-(d).

Aggravating Factors for the Head Coach

Multiple Level II violations by the involved individual. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3-(g).

Persons of authority condoned, participated in or negligently disregarded the violation(s) or related wrongful conduct. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3-(h).

Mitigating Factors for the Head Coach

Prompt acknowledgement of the violation(s) and acceptance of responsibility. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.4-(b).

Affirmative steps to expedite final resolution of the matter. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.4-(c).

The absence of prior conclusions of Level I, Level II or major violations. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.4-(h).

As a result of the foregoing, the Committee penalized CSU as follows:

1. Public reprimand and censure.

2. Probation: One year of probation to run consecutive to the probation in Case No. 00537. This will extend the probation period to October 15, 2021.

3. Financial penalty: The institution will pay a fine of $5,000 to the NCAA.

4. Show-Cause Order: The head coach was personally involved in impermissible contacts with his former women's volleyball student-athletes at his former institution without first obtaining authorization through the notification of transfer process. Therefore, the head coach shall be subject to a one-year show-cause order from October 7, 2020, through October 6, 2021. During the one-year show-cause period, the head coach shall be prohibited from participating in all recruiting communication contacts and off-campus recruiting for two (2) weeks during the next contact period. There shall also be a reduction of four (4) evaluation days for the head coach during the next recruiting cycle. Additionally, the head coach shall attend one NCAA Regional Rules seminar in 2021 at his own expense.

5. Head coach restriction: The head coach violated Bylaw 11 head coach responsibility legislation when he failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance when he was personally involved in impermissible contacts with his former women's volleyball student-athletes. Bylaw 19.9.5.5 and the Figure 19-1 penalty guidelines contemplate head coach suspensions to address head coach responsibility violations. Therefore, the head coach shall be suspended from ten percent (10%) of the next season. The suspension will be served during home games. The provisions of this suspension require that the head coach not be present in the facility where games are played and have no contact or communication with women's volleyball coaching staff members or student-athletes during the ten percent (10%) suspension period. The prohibition includes all coaching activities for the period of time that begins at 12:01 a.m. on the day of the contest and ends at 11:59 p.m. that day. During that period the head coach may not participate in any coaching activities, including, but not limited to, team travel, practice, video study, recruiting and team meetings. The results of those contests from which the head coach is suspended shall not count toward the head coach's career coaching record.

6. CSU shall include a letter of admonishment in the head coach’s human resource record.


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