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The NCAA Committee on Infractions Has Spoken: Jackson State University

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

In July 2018, Jackson State hired a new associate athletic director for compliance. During the fall of 2018 certification process, the associate athletic director for compliance discovered 20 current student-athletes practiced and competed prior to obtaining their final amateurism certification. The Institution self-reported the violations to the NCAA enforcement staff. The NCAA enforcement staff requested the Institution to review student-athletes' amateurism certification from the fall of 2014 through the fall of 2018. The Institution discovered an additional 14 student-athletes, totaling 34 student-athletes across seven sports, who practiced and competed prior to obtaining their final amateurism certification. Seven of the student-athletes exhausted eligibility prior to the discovery and never received final certification. The Institution submitted reinstatement requests for the other 27 student-athletes. Twenty-six of the student-athletes received final certification while one student-athlete obtained certification with conditions. The Institution and NCAA enforcement staff agreed that this violation is Level II. Additionally, because the systems in place at that time failed to detect or prevent the violations, the Institution agreed that it failed to monitor this element of its athletics program.

In September 2019, a football student-athlete at another NCAA member institution sent multiple tweets alleging violations in the Jackson State football program. The Institution and NCAA enforcement staff discovered that in December 2018, the football student-athlete, then a prospective student-athlete (“prospect”) from a two-year community college, intended to transfer to Jackson State and enrolled in two of the Institution's online courses. The prospect needed to complete the courses successfully to be eligible. The prospect's godmother, contacted the then internal operations for football (“operations staff member”) about the prospect needing a tutor for the courses. The operations staff member then contacted and arranged for two Jackson State students (“students 1 and 2”) to tutor the prospect in his courses. Additionally, on December 13, after the prospect's godmother contacted the operations staff member and indicated that she was experiencing financial challenges, the operations staff member sent $300.00 via cash transfer to the prospect's godmother. On December 14, the prospect's godmother paid $110.00 via a cash transfer app to student 1. On December 30, the prospect's godmother paid $50.00 via a cash transfer app to student 2. The prospect enrolled at Jackson State in the spring of 2019. However, the prospect did not receive athletics aid, practice or compete. In July, the prospect transferred to another NCAA member institution. The parties agreed that this violation is Level II.

Because the operations staff member was involved in violations, the Institution suspended her on September 20, 2019. The Institution terminated her employment on June 19, 2020. The parties considered the operations staff member's year away from college athletics when determining appropriate penalties.

The Institution, operations staff member and NCAA enforcement staff agreed that this case can be processed through negotiated resolution and that it should be properly resolved as Level II - Standard for the institution and Level II - Mitigated for the operations staff member. In reaching a "standard" classification, the parties assessed the aggravating and mitigating factors by weight and number.

Infractions cases involving certification violations are difficult to investigate and process, largely because of an institution's inability to provide the NCAA enforcement staff the needed information to determine the precise scope and origins of the violations. In this case, the institution self-detected and self-reported the initial violations. Further, throughout the case, the associate athletic director for compliance and the assistant athletic director for compliance devoted substantial time and resources to assist the NCAA enforcement staff, discover critical information and recertify student-athletes' eligibility in a timely manner.

This case was resolved through a negotiated resolution.

The Committee concluded that JSU committed the following violations:

Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 12.1.1.1.2.1, 12.1.1.1.3, 12.1.1.1.3.1, 12.10.1, 12.11.1 and 16.8.1 (2014-15 through 2017-18); and 12.1.1.1.3.2 (2015-16 through 2017-18) (Level II)

The Institution and the NCAA enforcement staff agreed that from the 2014-15 through 2017-18 academic years, the Institution failed to obtain final certification of amateur status for 34 student-athletes in seven sport programs. As a result, the student-athletes practiced, competed and received actual and necessary expenses outside of the temporary certification period and prior to obtaining final amateurism certification. Twenty-six of these student-athletes ultimately received final certification while one student-athlete obtained certification with conditions. Seven of the student-athletes exhausted eligibility prior to the discovery of the violation and never received final certification.

Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 13.2.1, 13.2.1.1-(k), 13.15.1.9, 14.5.6-(c) and 16.3.3 (2018-19) (Level II)

The Institution, operations staff member, and NCAA enforcement staff agreed that in December 2018, the operations staff member provided a $300.00 recruiting inducement to the godmother of a football prospective student-athlete and arranged for tutoring to assist in the prospect's completion of transfer-eligibility requirements. Specifically, in December 2018, the operations staff member arranged for students 1 and 2 to tutor the prospect, who enrolled in two online courses at Jackson State. The prospect needed to complete the courses successfully to be eligible. Further, on December 13, 2018, the operations staff member sent $300.00 via cash transfer to the prospect's godmother. On December 14, the prospect's godmother paid $110.00 via a cash transfer app to student 1. On December 30, the prospect's godmother paid $50.00 via a cash transfer app to student 2.

Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Constitution 2.8.1 (2014-15 through 2017-18)

The Institution and NCAA enforcement staff agreed that from the 2014-15 through 2017-18 academic years, the scope and nature of the violations detailed above demonstrate that the Institution violated the NCAA principle of rules compliance when it failed to adequately oversee and monitor the effectiveness of the compliance methods and processes used for the certification of its student-athletes. Specifically, the Institution lacked policies and procedures to ensure NCAA compliance was a shared responsibility. As a result, the 34 student-athletes practiced and competed prior to receiving final amateurism certification.

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).

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).

Aggravating Factors for the Involved Individual

None.

Mitigating Factors for the Involved Individual

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 JSU as follows:

1. Public reprimand and censure.

2. Probation: Two years of probation from October 23, 2020, through October 22, 2022.

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

4. Scholarship reductions: A 2% reduction in grants-in-aid (equivalencies) in the baseball program in the 2021-22 academic year; and a 2.5% reduction in grants-in-aid (equivalencies) in the football program in the 2021-22 and 2022-23 academic years. Scholarship reductions were not imposed on the other sports programs due to the limited number of student-athletes who were not properly certified in those sports.

5. Recruiting restrictions for football: (a) A 7.5% (four-week) ban on unofficial visits (no scheduled unofficial visits and no complimentary tickets) to be served in the 2020-21 academic year. Specifically, the institution will serve a one-week ban on unofficial visits in each of January, February, March and April 2021; (a) 7.5% (four total) cut in official paid visits during the 2021-22 academic year; and (c) a two-week ban on all recruiting communication contacts and off-campus recruiting by the entire football staff with any prospective student-athletes, including transfers. Specifically, the institution will serve a one-week ban in each of May and June 2021.

6.Vacation of team and individual records: The Institution was ordered to vacate all regular season and conference tournament wins, records and participation in which the ineligible student-athletes in this case competed from the time they became ineligible through the time they were reinstated as eligible for competition.

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