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The NCAA Committee on Infractions Has Spoken: University of Hartford

The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee” or “Panel” or “COI”) recently issued its findings and found that the University of Hartford (“institution” or “UH” or “Hartford”) committed violations of NCAA legislation.

Beginning during the 2015-16 academic year and continuing through the 2018-19 academic year, the institution improperly certified 27 student-athletes on 30 occurrences in eight sports. As a result, ten student-athletes competed and received actual and necessary expenses while ineligible. Additionally, the institution failed to withhold three student-athletes from competition during subsequent academic years before their eligibility was reinstated. The institution and NCAA enforcement staff agreed that these eligibility certification violations should be processed as Level II.

One of the eligibility certification violations the institution self-reported involved a women's basketball student-athlete. The institution learned of this violation when athletics administrators from another NCAA Division I institution contacted Hartford athletics administrators about the student-athlete. After the student-athlete entered the NCAA Transfer Portal, the other institution realized the student-athlete never had her initial eligibility and amateurism certified by the NCAA Eligibility Center. When the institution requested final certification, the Eligibility Center certified the women's basketball student-athlete as a nonqualifier on May 21, 2019. The women's basketball student-athlete practiced, competed and received athletics aid at Hartford prior to being certified over the course of two academic years.

Further, as part of the institution's newly hired associate director of athletics for compliance's review of compliance systems, the institution discovered one baseball student-athlete practiced, competed and received athletics aid during the 2018-19 academic year prior to having his initial eligibility certified. The student-athlete's standardized test score was then submitted to the Eligibility Center, which certified the student-athlete as a qualifier.

The institution also discovered that during the 2018-19 academic year, one men's basketball student-athlete competed without successful completion of his required percentage-of-degree requirements. Specifically, the institution mistakenly believed the student-athlete was a two-year transfer. After reviewing his complete academic record, the institution discovered the student- athlete began his enrollment at a foreign four-year institution prior to his enrollment at the two- year institution. Although the student-athlete satisfied the percentage-of-degree requirements for a two-year transfer at the certifying institution, he did not meet those requirements for a 4-2-4 transfer because of these additional academic terms.

The institution also discovered that beginning in the 2015-16 academic year and continuing through the 2018-19 academic year, nine student-athletes practiced and competed prior to having their amateurism certified. Consequently, the student-athletes received institutional financial aid prior to meeting applicable NCAA regulations to be eligible for institutional aid. Additionally, during the 2018-19 academic year, 14 student-athletes practiced prior to completing drug testing consent forms.

During the institution's review of compliance systems, it discovered potential violations related to the issuance of financial aid renewal letters. The institution and enforcement staff submitted a joint interpretation request to the NCAA academic and membership affairs staff for clarification. In accordance with academic and membership affairs' October 15, 2019, response, it was determined the institution failed to provide a signed grant-in-aid renewal agreement from the institution's regular financial aid authority to 62 student-athletes the summer prior to the 2018-19 academic year because, although ultimately completed, the agreement was provided to the student- athletes before the financial aid office signed it. In addition, between the 2015-16 and 2018-19 academic years, the institution failed to notify 68 student-athletes in writing that their institutional athletics aid was reduced/cancelled during the period of the award or reduced/not renewed for the following academic year and of the opportunity for a hearing regarding the reduction, cancellation or nonrenewal of such aid. Each of these student-athletes had indicated an intent to either not participate further in their respective sport program or transfer from the institution. No student- athletes were identified who raised any concerns to the institution or contested the reduction or cancellation of his or her athletics aid. The institution and NCAA enforcement staff agreed that this violation should be processed as Level II.

In May 2019, the institution erroneously administered the 2018-19 NCAA Recruiting Certification Test. As a result, after July 31, 2019, those coaches who took the certification test in May did not have proper certification to recruit off campus. Due to this error, eight coaches contacted or evaluated prospective student-athletes off campus while being erroneously certified. This violation occurred as a result of an administrative error. The associate director of athletics of compliance scheduled the recruiting test, which was administered electronically, for May 21 and 22, 2019. The institution's faculty athletics representative administered the test without realizing the previous year's test was being taken. The associate director of athletics for compliance was under the impression that the 2019-20 test had gone "live" at that point since he observed practice exams were available. The eight coaches subsequently took and passed the 2019-20 test. The institution and NCAA enforcement staff agreed that this violation should be processed as Level III.

In May 2019, the institution became aware that two of its men's lacrosse coaches had impermissibly contacted a men's lacrosse student-athlete at an NCAA Division III institution without obtaining permission from that institution to contact the student-athlete. When Hartford contacted the head coach and assistant coach, they acknowledged that contact had been made with the student-athlete and cooperated fully in the investigation.

According to the men's lacrosse student-athlete, in February 2019, he made the decision that he would not return the following year to the Division III institution where he was then currently enrolled. He conveyed this information to a lacrosse club coach in Boston, Massachusetts, who, in turn, contacted the assistant coach and indicated that the men's lacrosse student-athlete intended to transfer. The assistant coach at Hartford contacted the student-athlete on or about February 13, 2019. Between February 13 and May 14, 2019, the assistant coach placed three phone calls and text messaged the men's lacrosse student-athlete on approximately 12 occasions in an effort to recruit him to Hartford. In addition, the head coach and assistant coach hosted the student-athlete for an unofficial visit in April 2019 in a continued effort to recruit the student-athlete. During the unofficial visit, both coaches engaged in a 90-minute meeting with the student-athlete and his father, provided the student-athlete with an athletics-specific tour and allowed him to attend a team practice. The student-athlete withdrew from the Division III institution in May 2019. That institution indicated that it would have granted a request for permission to contact the student- athlete in February 2019 if it had been requested.

Hartford self-reported the impermissible contact violation on June 28, 2019. The student- athlete enrolled at Hartford in August 2019. The institution did not declare the student-athlete ineligible and did not seek reinstatement of his eligibility. Subsequently, he competed in six contests while ineligible and received actual and necessary expenses while ineligible during the 2020 spring season prior to it being halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The head coach violated head coach responsibility legislation because he failed to rebut the presumption of responsibility. The head coach failed to promote compliance due to his personal involvement in the recruiting violation and was aware that an assistant coach was involved in this same violation and did not take steps to stop or prevent the violation or report it to the institution so that it could conduct an independent review. No information developed during the investigation, however, indicated any other violations or a pattern of noncompliance within the men's lacrosse program. The parties agreed that the recruiting violation and the head coach responsibility violation should be processed as Level II.

In May 2020, the institution discovered it had erroneously certified the same men's lacrosse student-athlete as academically eligible for competition because he had only transferred in 22 credit hours from his previous Division III institution. Because he was, in fact, entering his second full-time academic year, he was two hours short of the 24-hour requirement. Consequently, he competed prior to fulfillment of his credit-hour requirement.

Finally, the institution and NCAA enforcement staff agree that the institution failed to monitor. The institution did not monitor the academic certification process and the financial aid cancellation, reduction and renewal process. Additionally, the institution did not educate staff members responsible for the administration of athletics financial aid on pertinent NCAA legislation. As noted, the institution did not seek reinstatement for the men's lacrosse student-athlete. In addition, frequent turnover of staff members during this time adversely impacted Hartford's compliance processes. This turnover resulted in a lack of continuity and experience among staff members with eligibility certification responsibilities and decreased communication between those staff members. The institution and NCAA enforcement staff agreed this violation should be processed as Level II.

This case was resolved through a negotiated resolution.

The Committee concluded that UH committed the following violations:

Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 12.1.1.1.3, 12.10.1 and 15.01.5 (2015-16 through 2018-19); 12.11.1 and 16.8.1 (2015-16 through 2019-20); 14.01.1, 14.3.1 and 14.3.5.1 (2017-18 and 2018-19); 12.7.3.1 and 14.4.3.2 (2018-19); and 14.4.3.1.2-(b) (2019-20) (Level II)

The institution and NCAA enforcement staff agree that beginning in the 2015-16 academic year and continuing through the 2019-20 academic year, the institution improperly certified as eligible for practice and/or competition 27 student-athletes on 30 occurrences in eight sports. As a result, ten student-athletes competed and received actual and necessary expenses while ineligible. Additionally, the institution failed to withhold three student-athletes from competition during subsequent academic years before their eligibility was reinstated.

Beginning in the 2015-16 academic year and continuing through the 2018-19 academic year, six student-athletes practiced and competed prior to having their amateurism certified. Consequently, the student-athletes received institutional financial aid prior to meeting applicable NCAA regulations to be eligible for institutional aid. NCAA Bylaws 12.1.1.1.3, 12.10.1 and 15.01.5 (2015-16 through 2018-19).

Beginning in the 2017-18 academic year and continuing through the 2018-19 academic year, one women's basketball student-athlete practiced, competed and received athletics aid prior to having her amateurism and initial eligibility certified. The NCAA ultimately certified the student-athlete a nonqualifier. Additionally, during the 2019 spring semester, one baseball student-athlete practiced and competed prior to having his initial eligibility certified. Consequently, the student-athlete received institutional financial aid prior to meeting applicable NCAA regulations to be eligible for institutional aid. NCAA Bylaws 12.1.1.1.3, 12.10.1, 14.01.1, 14.3.1, 14.3.5.1 and 15.01.5 (2017-18 and 2018-19).

During the 2018-19 academic year, 14 student-athletes practiced prior to completing drug testing consent forms. NCAA Bylaws 12.7.3.1 (2018-19).

In the 2018-19 academic year, one men's basketball student-athlete competed without successful completion of his required percentage-of-degree requirements. Specifically, the institution mistakenly believed the student-athlete was a two-year transfer. After a review of his complete academic record, the institution discovered that the student-athlete began his enrollment at a four-year institution prior to his enrollment at the two-year institution. Because of these additional academic terms, he did not meet the appropriate percentage- of-degree requirements at the certifying institution. NCAA Bylaw 14.4.3.2 (2018-19).

During the 2019-20 academic year, one men's lacrosse student-athlete competed prior to meeting the 24-hour credit requirement. Specifically, the institution erroneously coded the transfer student-athlete's first semester as the fall of 2019. The student-athlete transferred in 22 credit hours from his previous institution. Because he was, in fact, entering his second full-time academic year, he was two hours short of the 24-hour requirement. Consequently, the men's lacrosse student-athlete competed while ineligible in six contests and received actual and necessary expenses prior to fulfillment of his credit-hour requirement. NCAA Bylaw 14.4.3.1.2-(b) (2019-20).

Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 15.3.2.2, 15.3.2.3, 15.3.4.2.1 and 15.3.7.1 (2015-16 through 2018-19) (Level II)

The institution and NCAA enforcement staff agreed that during the 2015-16 academic year through the summer of 2018, the institution failed to notify in writing 68 student-athletes who indicated an intent to either not participate further in their respective sport program or transfer from the institution that their institutional athletics aid was reduced/cancelled during the period of the award or reduced/not renewed for the following academic year. The institution also failed to notify those same 68 student-athletes in writing of the opportunity for a hearing regarding the reduction, cancellation or nonrenewal of institutional athletics aid. Additionally, during the summer prior to the 2018-19 academic year, the institution failed to provide a signed grant-in-aid renewal agreement from the institution's regular financial aid authority to 62 student-athletes.

Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 13.1.1.3 (2018-19); 12.11.1 and 16.8.1 (2019- 20) (Level II)

The institution, assistant coach, head coach and NCAA enforcement staff agreed that from February 13 through May 14, 2019, the head coach and assistant coach had impermissible recruiting communications and an in-person recruiting contact with a student-athlete at an NCAA Division III institution without first obtaining written permission from that institution. Specifically, the assistant coach placed three phone calls and text messaged the student-athlete on approximately 12 occasions. In addition, the assistant coach and head coach hosted the student-athlete for an unofficial visit in April 2019. During the unofficial visit, the assistant coach and head coach engaged in a 90-minute meeting with the student-athlete, and the assistant coach provided him with an athletics-specific tour of campus and attendance at a men's lacrosse practice. The student- athlete left his NCAA Division III institution and enrolled at the institution in August 2019.

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

The institution, head coach and NCAA enforcement staff agreed that between February 13 and May 14, 2019, the head coach is presumed responsible for the violations detailed above and did not rebut the presumption of responsibility. Specifically, the head coach did not demonstrate that he promoted an atmosphere of compliance due to his personal involvement in the violations, some of which he engaged in and endorsed in the presence of his staff. Additionally, the head coach did not demonstrate that he monitored his direct reports, as the head coach was aware of his assistant coach's involvement in the violations above, but did not prevent or stop the violations, or report the matter to the institution's compliance staff for an independent investigation.

Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 11.5.1 and 11.5.1.1 (2018-19) (Level III)

The institution and NCAA enforcement staff agreed that in May 2019, the institution did not ensure the required annual certification of its coaches occurred prior to permitting them to contact or evaluate prospective student-athletes off campus. This occurred inadvertently when the institution mistakenly administered the certification test from the previous academic year. Subsequently, eight coaches engaged in off-campus contact and evaluations prior to successfully completing the proper certification.

Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Constitution 2.8.1 (2015-16 through 2019-20) (Level II)

The institution and NCAA enforcement staff agreed that the scope and nature of the violations set forth above demonstrated that from the 2015-16 academic year through the 2019-20 academic year, the institution violated the NCAA principles of rules compliance when it failed to adequately monitor the athletics eligibility certification process; failed to provide student-athletes with written notification of the cancellation, nonrenewal or reduction of athletics aid; failed to ensure the notification of financial aid renewals and nonrenewals that came from the institution's regular financial aid authority; and failed to provide a hearing opportunity. Also, the institution failed to provide adequate rules education to its staff on NCAA certification legislation. In addition to the erroneous certification outlined above, the institution failed to seek reinstatement of a men's lacrosse student- athlete related to the recruiting violation outlined above.

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

Aggravating Factors for the Institution

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

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

One or more violations caused significant ineligibility or substantial harm to a student-athlete. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3-(i).

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

Mitigating Factors for the Institution

Prompt self-detection and self-disclosure of the violations. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.4-(a).

Prompt acknowledgement of the violation, acceptance of responsibility and (for an institution) imposition of meaningful corrective measures and/or penalties. 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 committed by the institution. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.4-(h).

Aggravating Factors for the Head Coach

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

One or more violations caused significant ineligibility or substantial harm to a student-athlete. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3-(i).

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

Mitigating Factors for the Head Coach

Prompt acknowledgement of the violation, acceptance of responsibility and (for an institution) imposition of meaningful corrective measures and/or penalties. 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 committed by the institution. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.4-(h).

Aggravating Factors for the Assistant Coach

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

One or more violations caused significant ineligibility or substantial harm to a student-athlete. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.3-(i).

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

Mitigating Factors for the Assistant Coach

Prompt acknowledgement of the violation, acceptance of responsibility and (for an institution) imposition of meaningful corrective measures and/or penalties. 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 committed by the institution. NCAA Bylaw 19.9.4-(h).

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

1. Public reprimand and censure.

2. Probation: Two years of probation from November 5, 2020, through November 4, 2022.

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

4. Scholarship reductions: (a) In women's basketball, the institution will reduce by one (seven percent reduction) the countable scholarships for each of the 2020-21 and 2022-23 academic years; and (b) In men's lacrosse, the institution will reduce the team equivalency scholarships by .40 (three percent reduction) for the 2021-22 academic year.

5. Recruiting restrictions: In men's lacrosse, the institution shall impose a two-week ban on unofficial visits and a reduction of 10 percent of official paid visits based on the previous four- year average in the 2020-21 academic year.

6. Show-cause order: The head coach was personally involved in impermissible recruiting communications and an in-person recruiting contact with a student-athlete of an NCAA Division III institution without first obtaining written permission from his institution. Therefore, the head coach shall be subject to a one-year show cause order from November 5, 2020, through November 4, 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 four weeks. The head coach will attend one NCAA Regional Rules Seminar in 2021 at his own expense. Any member institution employing the head coach during the one- year show-cause period shall adhere to this penalty.

7. Head coach restriction: The head coach violated Bylaw 11 head coach responsibility legislation when he failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance and monitor his direct report. Specifically, the head coach did not demonstrate that he promoted an atmosphere of compliance due to his personal involvement in the violations, some of which he engaged in and endorsed in the presence of his staff. He did not demonstrate that he monitored the assistant coach, as he was aware that the assistant coach was engaged in violations that he did not stop or prevent. Bylaw 19.9.5.5 and the Figure 19-1 penalty guidelines contemplate head coach suspensions to address head coach responsibility violations. During the one-year show cause period, the head coach shall be suspended from the first regular season (championship segment) contest (seven percent of the regular season competitions) during the 2020-21 season. 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 men's lacrosse coaching staff members or student-athletes during the one-game suspension period. The prohibition includes all coaching activities for the period of time that begins at 12:01 a.m. the day of the game 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 his career coaching record. Any member institution employing the head coach during the one-year show-cause period shall adhere to this penalty.

8. Show-cause order: The assistant coach had impermissible recruiting communications and an in-person recruiting contact with a student-athlete of an NCAA Division III institution without first obtaining written permission from his institution. Therefore, the assistant coach shall be subject to a one-year show-cause order from November 5, 2020, through November 4, 2021. During the one-year show-cause period, the assistant coach shall be prohibited from participating in all recruiting communication contacts and off-campus recruiting for two weeks and shall be suspended from the second regular season (championship segment) contest (seven percent of the regular season competitions) during the 2020-21 season. The provisions of this suspension require that the assistant coach not be present in the facility where games are played and have no contact or communication with men's lacrosse coaching staff members or student- athletes during the one-game suspension period. The prohibition includes all coaching activities for the period of time that begins at 12:01 a.m. the day of the game and ends at 11:59 p.m. that day. During that period, the assistant 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 assistant coach is suspended shall not count toward his career coaching record. The assistant coach will attend one NCAA Regional Rules Seminar in 2021 at his own expense. Any member institution employing the assistant coach during the one-year show-cause period shall adhere to this penalty.

9. Vacation of records: The institution will vacate all regular season and conference tournament wins, records and participation in which the ineligible student-athletes in the sports of men's basketball, women's basketball, men's lacrosse, baseball and women's volleyball competed from the time they became ineligible through the time they were reinstated as eligible for competition.

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