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The NCAA Committee on Infractions Has Spoken: Mercer University

The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee” or “Panel” or “COI”) recently issued its findings and found that Mercer University (“institution” or “MU” or “Mercer”) committed violations of NCAA legislation. This case involved recruiting violations committed by the former assistant coach and the former head coach of the women's cross country and track and field programs at Mercer. Along with the recruiting violations, the assistant coach also violated the principles of ethical conduct and the head coach violated head coach responsibility legislation. The underlying violations demonstrated that the institution failed to monitor its women's cross country program. The Panel classified this case as Level I-Standard for Mercer, Level I-Aggravated for the assistant coach and Level II-Standard for the head coach.


The Committee concluded that MU committed the following violations:


Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 13.1.2.7-(a), 13.1.5.1, 13.1.7.2.1, 13.2.1, 13.2.1.1-(b), 13.2.1.1-(h), 13.5.1 and 13.11.1 (2018-19); 12.11.1 and 16.8.1 (2018- 19 and 2019-20)


For a two-month span in fall 2018, while the prospect was in the institution's locale prior to enrollment, the assistant coach and/or head coach arranged for and provided $1,383.00 in impermissible inducements to the prospect, conducted impermissible tryouts with her and exceeded the permissible number of recruiting activities. As a result of these actions, the prospect competed while ineligible and received impermissible actual and necessary expenses after enrolling at Mercer. Mercer, the head coach and the assistant coach agreed that the conduct violated NCAA recruiting legislation. Mercer and the assistant coach agreed that the violations were Level II, whereas the head coach argued that they were Level III violations. The Panel concluded that Level II violations occurred.


From September 4 through November 4, 2018, in an effort to secure the prospect's enrollment, the assistant coach and head coach provided her with numerous impermissible inducements, exceeded the number of permissible recruiting opportunities and permitted her to practice with the women's cross country team. Her participation in practices resulted in impermissible tryouts. As a result of the impermissible inducements, upon enrollment at Mercer, the prospect competed and received expenses while ineligible over the course of two academic terms. The impermissible inducements and resulting competition and expenses violated NCAA Bylaws 13, 12 and 16.


NCAA Bylaw 13 governs recruiting. Recruiting offers and inducements are generally prohibited pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 13.2.1. NCAA Bylaw 13.2.1.1 identifies specific examples of prohibited inducements, including gifts of clothing or equipment (NCAA Bylaw 13.2.1.1-(b)) and free or reduced-cost housing (NCAA Bylaw 13.2.1.1-(h)). Relatedly, NCAA Bylaw 13.5.1 prohibits institutions from providing transportation to prospects outside of official visits and limited circumstances during unofficial visits. Regarding tryouts, NCAA Bylaw 13.11.1 prohibits institutions from conducting any physical activity with a prospect where the prospect demonstrates or displays their athletic ability. Additionally, NCAA Bylaw 13.1.2.7 outlines the conditions applicable to recruiting activities involving enrolled student-athletes, with NCAA Bylaw 13.1.2.7-(a) permitting off-campus contact between an enrolled student-athlete and a prospect so long as it does not occur at the direction of an institutional staff member. Further, NCAA Bylaws 13.1.5.1 and 13.1.7.2.1 speak to the permissible number of recruiting opportunities, outlining that contacts with a prospect may not exceed seven opportunities. Finally, NCAA Bylaw 12.11.1 obligates institutions to withhold ineligible student-athletes from competition and NCAA Bylaw 16.8.1 states that only student-athletes who are eligible for competition may receive actual and necessary expenses related to competition.


The assistant coach and head coach violated fundamental and well-known inducements and recruiting legislation in an effort to ensure that the prospect enrolled at Mercer. From September 4 through November 4, 2018, the assistant coach and head coach provided the prospect with $1,383.00 in impermissible inducements. The inducements included cost-free travel and housing, institutional gear, tickets to home football games, and travel and lodging to attend an away-from- home cross country competition. These actions violated NCAA Bylaws 13.2.1, 13.2.1.1-(b), 13.2.1.1-(h) and 13.5.1.


Further, during this period, the assistant coach’s and head coach’s conduct violated NCAA Bylaws 13.1.2.7-(a) and 13.11.1. Specifically, the assistant coach and head coach observed the prospect taking part in formal and informal practices. Similarly, once Mercer informed the assistant coach that the prospect could no longer participate, the assistant coach individually worked out the prospect at times and arranged for her to train with current and former student-athletes at others. As a result of the prospect's participation in practices and the coaches' observation of such practices, Mercer exceeded the seven total recruiting opportunities for the women's cross country coaching staff with the prospect, resulting in violations of NCAA Bylaws 13.1.5.1 and 13.1.7.2.1. The receipt of impermissible inducements rendered the prospect ineligible. After she enrolled, Mercer had an affirmative obligation to withhold her from competition until her eligibility was restored. Mercer failed to meet this obligation and the prospect competed and received actual and necessary expenses during the spring and fall of 2019. This conduct violated NCAA Bylaws 12.11.1 and 16.8.1.


COI regularly concludes that Level II violations occur when coaches arrange for or provide impermissible inducements. See University of Arizona (2019) (concluding that a coach committed violations when he trained a prospect and conducted specialized workouts with the prospect prior to enrollment at the institution); Grambling State University (2017) (concluding the institution and an assistant women's track coach provided, respectively, an impermissible tryout and recruiting inducements to a prospect); and Monmouth University (2017) (concluding that recruiting benefit violations occurred when a head coach arranged for a prospect to live with student-athletes, allowed the prospect to practice and the enrolled student-athletes provided the prospect’s transportation, with the housing and transportation valued at approximately $1,300.00). The provision of recruiting inducements to a prospect and holding tryouts while visiting a member institution are specifically prohibited. Thus, additional violations of NCAA Bylaw 13 occurred.


Furthermore, NCAA Bylaw 12.11.1 violations occur when institutions fail to withhold ineligible student- athletes, regardless of institutional knowledge. See Texas Christian University (TCU) (2019) (concluding that NCAA Bylaw 12.11.1 does not expressly differentiate between circumstances under which an institution knew [or should have known] of the ineligibility from those where there is no knowledge) and Siena College (2020) (concluding that NCAA Bylaw 12.11.1 violations occurred when the institution failed to withhold student-athletes from competition after the student-athletes received impermissible benefits). Here, Mercer agreed that the violations occurred and that the prospect competed while ineligible.


In accordance with NCAA Bylaw 19.1.2, the violations are Level II because they provided more than minimal but less than substantial or extensive advantages and benefits. The benefits occurred for nearly two months, supporting the fact that the violations were not isolated or limited. Additionally, the violations were intentional as a way to secure the enrollment of the prospect and even continued after the assistant coach was admonished by the institution. Further, the actions in this case involved multiple forms of recruiting violations which served as more than a minimal recruiting advantage to Mercer. The Level II designation is also consistent with the cases cited above.


Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 10.01.1, 10.1, 10.1-(b) and 10.1-(c) (2018-19)


The assistant coach violated principles of ethical conduct when he knowingly provided impermissible inducements to the prospect and instructed the prospect and current student-athletes to provide false and/or misleading information to Mercer during the institution's investigation. Mercer and the assistant coach agreed that violations occurred. However, Mercer argued that any violations should be Level I for the assistant coach and Level II for the institution. The Panel concluded that the violations occurred, and they are Level I for both the assistant coach and Mercer.


From September 4 through November 4, 2018, the assistant coach knowingly provided impermissible inducements to the prospect. The assistant coach's actions stemmed from his attempt to influence the prospect to enroll at and compete for Mercer. The assistant coach also involved current student-athletes in his conduct, arranging for them to provide some of the inducements. Later, when Mercer was conducting an internal investigation into the impermissible actions related to the prospect's recruitment, the assistant coach instructed the prospect and current student-athletes to provide false and/or misleading information to the institution. The assistant coach's conduct resulted in Level I violations of NCAA Bylaw 10.


NCAA Bylaw 10 governs ethical conduct in collegiate athletics, with NCAA Bylaw 10.01.1 generally requiring student-athletes and athletics staff to act with honesty and sportsmanship at all times. NCAA Bylaw 10.1 defines unethical conduct and includes a non-exhaustive list of example behaviors specifically identified as unethical conduct. NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(b) prohibits a staff member's knowing involvement in offering or providing a prospective student-athlete with an improper inducement or extra benefit or improper financial aid. Relatedly, NCAA Bylaw 10.1-(c) states that unethical conduct occurs when a staff member knowingly provides or knowingly influences others to provide the NCAA or the institution false or misleading information concerning an individual's involvement in or knowledge of possible NCAA violations.


The assistant coach's actions displayed disregard for the membership's well-established ethical conduct standards for coaching staff members. The assistant coach arranged for or provided the prospect with $1,383.00 in impermissible inducements as a way to secure her enrollment. More troubling was the fact that the assistant coach failed to heed Mercer's athletics administrators' caution after they met with him regarding potential violations and permissible conduct related to the prospect. Most troubling was the fact that he then attempted to conceal his actions by directing the prospect and current student-athletes to lie when questioned by Mercer. When the assistant coach knowingly provided the prospect with impermissible inducements and later instructed the prospect and current student-athletes to provide false and/or misleading information to Mercer, the assistant coach violated NCAA Bylaws 10.01.1, 10.1, 10.1-(b) and 10.1-(c).


Pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 19.1.1, the unethical conduct violations are Level I because they seriously undermined or threatened the integrity of the Collegiate Model, provided a substantial or extensive impermissible benefit and involved individual unethical conduct and intentional violations. Moreover, unethical conduct is expressly identified as an example of a Level I violation. See NCAA Bylaw 19.1.1-(d). COI has previously concluded that Level I violations occurred when individuals knowingly arrange for or provide prospects with inducements and also when they direct others to lie. See University of Mississippi (2017) (concluding that Level I unethical conduct violations occurred when a operations coordinator and assistant coach knowingly arranged for prospects to receive cost-free housing and transportation while they took classes to meet initial eligibility requirements and also concluding that additional Level I unethical conduct violations occurred when an assistant athletic director arranged for impermissible meals, lodging and transportation for two prospects in connection with unofficial visits to campus. See also Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) (2019) (concluding that a former assistant men's basketball coach engaged in Level I unethical conduct when he directed the student-athlete host to lie to the enforcement staff and cover up the violations); and University of the Pacific (2017) (concluding Level I unethical conduct violations occurred when a head basketball coach urged a prospective student-athlete to provide false or misleading information during an investigation, putting the prospect's eligibility at risk). Consistent with this case guidance and NCAA Bylaw 19.1.1-(d), the unethical conduct violations are Level I.


In its reply to the NOA and at the infractions hearing, Mercer argued that its responsibility for unethical conduct should be designated Level II rather than Level I. Specifically, Mercer argued that it is "simply not appropriate" to assign equal culpability because (1) the assistant coach's conduct was directed against Mercer to protect the assistant coach's individual interests; (2) Mercer prevented further impermissible conduct by promptly discovering it; and (3) the institution took appropriate action by terminating the assistant coach and self-disclosing the assistant coach's actions to the NCAA. The Panel concluded Mercer's arguments are not supported by the structure of the membership's infractions program outlined in NCAA Bylaw 19 or past cases. Thus, the violations are Level I for both the assistant coach and Mercer.


The NCAA Constitution holds institutions responsible for the conduct of their employees. See Constitution 2.1.2 and 2.8.1. Furthermore, the NCAA Bylaw 19.1 structure does not contemplate assigning different levels to the same conduct for different parties. Rather, pursuant to NCAA Bylaws 19.1, 19.2 and 19.3, violation level is based on the nature and severity of the conduct, not the identity of the actor. To put it simply, the same underlying conduct cannot be Level I for one party and Level II for another. The conduct either meets the definition of a Level I violation, or it meets the definition of a Level II violation. COI has expressly addressed this concept and its adherence to the membership’s violation construct in a series of recent decisions. See Oklahoma State University (OSU) (2020) (expressly stating that level attaches to the conduct, not the actor and that the COI differentiates between parties through the application of party-specific aggravating and mitigating factors); see also University of Alabama (2020), University of South Carolina (2020); University of Southern California (2021); Creighton University (2021); and Texas Christian University (2021).

The same analysis applies here. Mercer is no different than these institutions. Mercer remains responsible for the conduct of its assistant coach, who knowingly engaged in unethical conduct. Consistent with the membership’s infractions program and as regularly applied since the current structure became effective in 2012, the Panel will differentiate between the parties through applying and weighing aggravating and mitigating factors and prescribing penalties under the membership’s penalty guidelines.

This “dual level” argument has been brought forward by Mercer and other member institutions, but the legislation and the COI’s position is and continues to be clear. If Mercer and other member institutions want to modify the membership’s infractions construct, then the proper avenue to address the issue is through the legislative process, not the infractions process. That significant shift needs to be adopted by the collective membership. The current construct holds institutions responsible for the conduct of their employees. As such, COI holds institutions and involved individuals accountable at the same level for the same conduct. Accordingly, the unethical conduct violations establish Level I violations for the assistant coach and Mercer.


Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 11.1.1.1 (2018- 19)


The head coach failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance and monitor his staff when he: (1) personally provided and had knowledge of members of the women's cross country program providing the prospect with impermissible inducements; (2) failed to report actual and/or potential issues to the compliance staff in regard to the prospect's presence in the locale of the institution and in her interactions with the coaching staff and student-athletes; and (3) failed to actively look for red flags and ask pointed questions regarding the prospect's presence in the locale of the institution and around the cross country and track and field programs. Mercer agreed with the allegation. The head coach disputed the allegation. The Panel concluded that the head coach committed a Level II violation.


During the two months that the prospect lived in the locale prior to her enrollment, the head coach failed to meet his legislated responsibility as a head coach. The head coach not only failed to prevent and adequately address the actions of the assistant coach, but also directly participated in the recruiting violations. The head coach's relaxed attitude toward compliance and over-delegation of responsibilities, specifically, in seemingly allowing the assistant coach to operate as the head cross country coach, allowed the violations in his program to continue over a two-month span. The head coach's conduct violated NCAA Bylaw 11 head coach responsibility legislation.


NCAA Bylaw 11.1.1.1 establishes two affirmative duties for head coaches: (1) to promote an atmosphere of rules compliance and (2) to monitor individuals in their program who report to them. The bylaw presumes that head coaches are responsible for violations in their programs. Head coaches may rebut this presumption by demonstrating that they promoted an atmosphere of compliance and monitored their staff.


In this case, the head coach was unable to rebut the presumption of responsibility due to his personal involvement in the recruiting violations and his failure to report any potential impermissible actions by the assistant coach. The head coach personally committed violations when he provided the prospect with tickets to two home football contests and observed the prospect participate in impermissible tryouts on numerous occasions. Similarly, he included the prospect as part of the team when he ordered institutional gear and then did not ensure that she only received the gear after her enrollment. The head coach’s general indifference to the permissibility of his assistant coach’s and team’s interaction with the prospect is best illustrated by the fact that over the two-month period he never questioned the permissibility of her presence, participation and engagement with his staff, players and team. Compliance is a shared responsibility and head coaches are responsible for compliance within their programs. Here, the Panel stated the rules compliance related to the prospect was an afterthought.


The head coach attempted to rebut the presumption of responsibility by arguing that he was forthcoming about his own actions while recruiting the prospect, that he has consistently reported suspected violations to Mercer’s compliance staff and that it is unreasonable to assume a prospect that was at times hidden from the head coach would constitute an intentional disregard of NCAA legislation. The panel recognizes the arguments set forth by the head coach; however, they are not sufficient to overcome the head coach’s own conduct. The head coach’s conduct demonstrated a pattern of personal involvement in rules violations and indifference to other potential issues. His general indifference to his women’s cross country program and over-delegation of duties to the assistant coach failed to meet the high standards expected of head coaches. The COI has regularly concluded that head coach’s violate NCAA Bylaw 11.1.1.1 when they personally commit violations, involve staff members in the violations and fail to consult with compliance. See Siena College (2020) (concluding that the head coach violated NCAA Bylaw 11.1.1.1 when he personally committed violations and never checked with compliance to determine if his conduct was permissible); University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) (2019) (concluding that the head track coach violated head coach responsibility legislation due to his personal involvement in CARA violations and failure to consult compliance, and the head water polo coach violated head coach responsibility legislation due to his personal involvement in recruiting and benefits violations, failure to consult compliance and direct involvement of an assistant coach in the violations); and Monmouth University (2017) (concluding that the head men's tennis coach violated head coach responsibility legislation due to his personal involvement in the recruiting inducements and practice prior to enrollment violations and failure to consult with compliance). Here, the head coach committed violations, permitted others to occur, and never checked with compliance on the permissibility of the prospect’s involvement and engagement with his program.


In limited circumstances, where head coaches demonstrate proactive engagement with compliance and/or the violations at issue were an isolated deviation from the head coach’s otherwise impeccable compliance history, the COI has concluded that head coaches rebut their presumed responsibility. See Pacific (concluding that the head baseball coach rebutted his presumption when the underlying benefits violation resulted from a legitimate misunderstanding between the coach and an associate athletics director and the coach followed proper procedures by seeking the associate athletics director's input and approval) and Wichita State University (2015) (concluding that the head baseball coach rebutted his presumption when he failed one time to ask follow-up questions regarding his administrative assistant's benefits violation and had properly monitored the assistant and set a tone of compliance for decades). Unlike in Pacific and Wichita State, the head coach was personally involved in the recruiting violations over a two-month span, permitted his assistant coach to commit other violations and never once checked with compliance regarding the permissibility of the prospect’s involvement in his program.


Generally, head coach responsibility violations derive from the level of the underlying violations that support it. Thus, consistent with the COI’s past cases and NCAA Bylaw 19.1.2-(e), the head coach responsibility violation is Level II because it resulted from underlying Level II violations.


Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Constitution 2.8.1 (2018-19)


Over a two-month span, Mercer failed to monitor the recruiting activities in its women's cross country program by failing to adequately gather facts, address the prospect's continued presence on campus and report any violations in a timely manner. Mercer disputed the allegation. The Panel concluded that a Level II violation occurred.

Between September 4 through November 4, 2018, Mercer violated the NCAA principles of rules compliance when it failed to adequately monitor the women's cross country program's to ensure that the recruiting legislation surrounding inducements, tryouts and contact opportunities were adhered to. Due, in part, to Mercer's failure to monitor, Mercer did not prevent, detect or deter the assistant coach's and head coach's violations. Later, after learning of potential violations, Mercer also failed to meet its obligation to timely report the conduct. In failing to adequately monitor the recruiting activities of its women's cross country coaching staff members, the Panel concluded that Mercer violated its obligations under NCAA Constitution 2.8.1.

Article 2 of the NCAA Constitution sets forth core principles for institutions conducting intercollegiate athletics programs. NCAA Constitution 2.8.1 requires an institution to abide by all rules and regulations, monitor compliance and report instances of noncompliance.

Mercer’s compliance staff failed to promptly identify and investigate the issues surrounding the prospect’s early arrival and continued presence on campus. The institution immediately learned of the prospect’s presence and impermissible involvement in one practice just one day after the prospect’s arrival. COI acknowledged that Mercer quickly uncovered the initial violation due to the processes and education in place. For example, it a was member of the athletic training staff who reported the prospect’s presence to Mercer’s compliance officer. Following the report, Mercer acted swiftly to investigate and report the violation. COI acknowledged and applauded Mercer’s initial compliance efforts. Mercer’s obligations, however, did not end there, and Mercer failed to meet its monitoring obligations in the weeks that followed.

Despite knowing that the prospect was in the locale and had been involved in a violation, Mercer never met with the prospect to ensure that her arrangements were permissible. Likewise, Mercer did not monitor the cross country program’s practices over the following weeks, allowing the prospect’s continued impermissible involvement to continue and go undiscovered and unreported. Mercer also learned of problematic conduct in October 2018 when current student-athletes reported that the assistant coach arranged from them to provide cost-free accommodations to the prospect. Mercer sat on that information and did not report it the enforcement staff for nine months. During that time, the prospect enrolled at Mercer and competed while ineligible.

Mercer’s inaction failed to meet the compliance obligations for member institutions outlined in NCAA Constitution 2.8.1. This is particularly true in this area—international prospects’ early arrival prior to enrollment—where the COI has cautioned the membership that heightened monitoring is required. Mercer’s monitoring efforts fell short of what is required and expected of member institutions. The COI has regularly concluded that institutions fail to monitor when they know (or should have known) of prospects’ early arrival prior to enrollment and subsequent violations occur. See St. John’s (concluding that violations occurred when a prospective women’s volleyball student-athlete stayed in the vicinity of the institution for an extended period of time and participated in activities, all of which went undetected and unreported to athletics staff members and administrators); USF (concluding that the men’s golf violations occurred in part due to a failure to monitor the prospects visiting campus); Monmouth (concluding the institution failed to monitor the men’s tennis program when a prospect lived near campus with enrolled student- athletes and participated in team practices); and Southeastern Louisiana University (2015) (concluding that the institution failed to monitor the volleyball program, resulting in inducement violations going undetected). In this case, and similar to the previously noted cases, Mercer’s inaction, regardless of whether it knew or should have known about the recruiting violations being committed by its assistant coach and head coach, demonstrated that it failed to monitor the women’s cross country program.

Generally, the level of failure to monitor violations derives from the level of the underlying violations. In this case, the underlying violations are Level II, thus so is the failure to monitor violation. Consistent with NCAA Bylaw 19.1.2-(b), the Panel concluded that the failure to monitor is Level II.

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


Aggravating Factors for the Institution


19.9.3-(g): Multiple Level II violations by the institution;

19.9.3-(h): Persons of authority condoned, participated in or negligently disregarded the violation or wrongful conduct;

19.9.3-(i): One or more violations caused significant ineligibility or other substantial harm to a student-athlete or prospect; and

19.9.3-(m): Intentional, willful or blatant disregard for the NCAA constitution and bylaws.


Mitigating Factors for the Institution


19.9.4-(d): An established history of self-reporting Level III or secondary violations; and

19.9.4-(h): The absence of prior conclusions of Level I, Level II or major violations committed by the institution or sport program.


Aggravating Factors for the Assistant Coach


19.9.3-(d): Obstructing an investigation or attempting to conceal the violation;

19.9.3-(e): Unethical conduct;

19.9.3-(f): Violations were premeditated, deliberate or committed after substantial planning; 19.9.3-(g): Multiple Level II violations by the individual;

19.9.3-(h): Persons of authority condoned, participated in or negligently disregarded the violation or wrongful conduct;

19.9.3-(i): One or more violations caused significant ineligibility or other substantial harm to a student-athlete or prospect; and

19.9.3-(m): Intentional, willful or blatant disregard for the NCAA constitution or bylaws.


Mitigating Factors for the Assistant Coach


19.9.4-(b): Prompt acknowledgement of the violations and acceptance of responsibility; 19.9.4-(c): Affirmative steps to expedite final resolution of the matter; and

19.9.4-(h): The absence of prior conclusions of Level I, Level II or major violations committed by the involved individual.


Aggravating Factors for the Head Coach


19.9.3-(g): Multiple Level II violations by the individual;

19.9.3-(h): Persons of authority condoned, participated in or negligently disregarded the violation or wrongful conduct;

19.9.3-(i): One or more violations caused significant ineligibility or other substantial harm to a student-athlete or prospect; and

19.9.3-(m): Intentional, willful or blatant disregard for the NCAA constitution or bylaws.


Mitigating Factors for the Head Coach


19.9.4-(c): Affirmative steps to expedite final resolution of the matter; and

19.9.4-(h): The absence of prior conclusions of Level I, Level II or major violations committed by the involved individual.


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


1. Public reprimand and censure.


2. Probation: Three years of probation from September 30, 2021, through September 29, 2024.


3. Financial Penalty: Mercer shall pay a fine of $5,000 plus one percent of the women's cross country and women's track and field budgets.


4. Postseason Ban: Mercer implemented a one-year postseason ban from the NCAA Championship during the 2020-21 academic year for the women's cross country program.


5. Scholarship Reductions: Mercer shall reduce the total number of grants-in-aid awarded in women's cross country and women's track and field by five percent during the 2022-23 academic year.


6. Recruiting Restrictions: (a) Mercer shall reduce the number of official visits in women's cross country and women's track and field by 12.5% and shall implement a seven-week ban on unofficial visits in women's cross country and women's track and field during the 2021-22 academic year; (b) Mercer shall implement a 12.5% reduction or seven-week ban on all recruiting communications for women's cross country and women's track and field during the 2021-22 academic year; and (c) Mercer shall reduce the amount of off-campus recruiting activities by 12.5% in women's cross country and women's track and field and shall implement a seven-week ban on off- campus recruiting activities in women's cross country and women's track and field during the 2021-22 academic year.


7. Show-Cause Order: The assistant coach engaged in unethical conduct when he knowingly provided inducements to a prospective student-athlete and instructed the prospective student- athlete and women's cross country student-athletes to provide false and/or misleading information to the institution. Therefore, the former assistant coach shall be subject to a three- year show-cause order from September 30, 2021, through September 29, 2024. Prior to returning to any recruiting activities or taking part in any coaching duties, the assistant coach must attend an NCAA Regional Rules Seminar. Pursuant to COI IOP 5-15-3-1, any NCAA member institution employing the assistant coach in an athletically related position during the three-year show-cause period shall be required to contact the Office of the Committees on Infractions (“OCOI”) to make arrangements to show cause why restrictions on all athletically related activity should not apply.


8. Show-Cause Order: The head coach is presumed responsible for the provision of impermissible inducements to the prospective student-athlete during the prospect's recruitment to attend Mercer. Similarly, he was personally involved in some of the violations. Because the head coach failed to rebut the presumption of responsibility, he violated head coach responsibility legislation. Therefore, the head coach shall be subject to a one-year show-cause order from September 30, 2021, through September 29, 2022. Prior to returning to any recruiting activities or taking part in any coaching duties, and during the show-cause period, the head coach must attend an NCAA Regional Rules Seminar. Additionally, during the show-cause period, any NCAA member institution employing the head coach must provide monthly rules education on the topics of recruiting, extra benefits, head coach responsibility and ethical conduct. The head coach's new institution must keep record of the rules education provide it and provide it to the OCOI at the conclusion of the show-cause period. Pursuant to COI IOP 5-15-3-1, any NCAA member institution employing the head coach in an athletically related position during the one-year show-cause period shall be required to contact the OCOI to make arrangements to show cause why coaching and recruiting restrictions for cross country should not apply.


9. Head Coach Restriction: The head coach violated NCAA Bylaw 11 head coach responsibility legislation when he failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.5.5 and the Figure 19-1 penalty guidelines contemplate head coach suspensions to address head coach responsibility violations. Therefore, should the head coach become employed in an athletically related position at an NCAA member institution during the one-year show-cause period, the head coach shall be suspended from 30 percent of the cross country season's contests. The suspension shall run concurrently with the show-cause order. Because the show-cause order restricts the head track coach from coaching and recruiting activities for cross country, this suspension is subsumed within the show-cause order.


10. Vacation of team and individual records: Ineligible participation in women's cross country and women's track and field occurred over portions of two academic years as a result of Mercer's provision of impermissible recruiting inducements to a prospective student-athlete who later enrolled at and competed for the institution. Therefore, pursuant to Bylaws 19.9.7-(g) and 31.2.2.3 and COI Internal Operating Procedure 5-15-7, Mercer shall vacate all regular season and conference tournament wins, records and participation in which the ineligible student- athlete competed from the time they became ineligible through the time there were reinstated as eligible for competition. Further, if the ineligible student-athlete participated in NCAA postseason competition at any time they were ineligible, Mercer's participation in postseason contests in which the ineligible competition occurred shall be vacated. The individual records of the ineligible student-athlete shall also be vacated. However, the individual finishes and any awards for all eligible student-athletes shall be retained. Further, Mercer's records regarding its women's cross country and women's track and field programs, as well as the records of their head coaches, shall reflect the vacated records and be recorded in all publications in which such records are reported, including, but not limited to, institutional media guides, recruiting material, electronic and digital media plus institutional, conference and NCAA archives. Any institution that may subsequently hire the affected head coaches shall similarly reflect the vacated wins in their career records documented in media guides and other publications cited above. Head coaches with vacated wins on their records may not count the vacated wins toward specific honors or victory "milestones" such as 100th, 200th or 500th career victories. Any public reference to the vacated records shall be removed from the athletics department stationery, banners displayed in public areas and any other forum in which they may appear. Any trophies awarded by the NCAA in women's cross country and women's track and field shall be returned to the Association.


11. Mercer shall remove seven days of the 144 days from the women's cross country playing season in the 2021-22 academic year.


12. During each year of the probationary period, Mercer compliance staff members shall be required to attend NCAA Regional Rules Seminars. The sessions attended shall be identified in the annual compliance reports and, at a minimum and if available, should include sessions specific to recruiting.


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