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The NCAA Committee on Infractions Has Spoken: University of Massachusetts, Lowell


The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee” or“ COI or “panel”) recently issued its findings and found that the University of Massachusetts, Lowell (“UML” or “institution”) committed violations of NCAA legislation. UML and the NCAA enforcement staff agreed with the violations and penalties detailed below. The parties also agreed this case should be resolved as Level I – Mitigated for the institution. The then head coach is a non-participating party. The NCAA enforcement staff believed this case should be resolved as Level I – Aggravated for then head coach. This matter was resolved through the NCAA's negotiated resolution process.


Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 10.01.1, 10.1, 15.3.2.3 and 15.3.4.2 (2020-21) (Level I)


The institution and NCAA enforcement staff agreed that in January 2021, then head coach violated the NCAA principles of ethical conduct when he failed to deport himself in accordance with generally recognized high standards of honesty and sportsmanship normally associated with the conduct and administration of intercollegiate athletics when he directed student-athlete 1 to pay him $7,000 in cash from the institution's approximately $20,000 athletics aid award to student-athlete 1. Student-athlete 1 did not engage in any activities that would permit the institution to reduce the aid award. In addition, the institution failed to notify student-athlete 1 in writing that his institutional athletics aid was reduced during the period of the award and of the opportunity for a hearing regarding the reduction.


Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 10.01.1, 10.1, 10.1-(b), 12.11.1, 16.8.1 and 16.11.2.1 (2018-19 through 2021-22); 16.11.2.2-(a) (2019-20); and 16.11.2.2-(c) (2020-21 and 2021-22) (Level I)


The institution and NCAA enforcement staff agreed that during the 2018-19 through 2021-22 academic years, then head coach violated the NCAA principles of ethical conduct when he knowingly provided impermissible benefits in the form of cash loans to two then men's soccer student-athletes and use of an automobile to a third men's soccer student-athlete. The approximate value of the impermissible benefits was $4,173. As a result of the impermissible benefits, three men's soccer student-athletes competed in 64 contests and received actual and necessary expenses while ineligible.


In January 2019, then head coach knowingly provided $2,000 cash to student- athlete 1 for his rent and living expenses. NCAA Bylaws 10.01.1, 10.1, 10.1-(b) and 16.11.2.1 (2018-19). During the summer of 2020, then head coach knowingly provided a $1,000 cash loan to a then student-athlete (student-athlete 2) for personal expenses. NCAA Bylaws 10.01.1, 10.1, 10.1-(b), 16.11.2.1 and 16.11.2.2-(a) (2019-20). From September 2020 through December 2021, then head coach knowingly provided a then student-athlete (student-athlete 3) the use of a car, paid for the automobile insurance and an on-campus parking permit. The total value of the impermissible benefits was approximately $1,173. NCAA Bylaws 10.01.1, 10.1, 10.1-(b), 16.11.2.1 and 16.11.2.2-(c) (2020-21 and 2021-22).


Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 17.1.1.1, 17.1.3, 17.1.7.2-(a) and 17.1.7.3.4 (2020-21) (Level II)


The institution and NCAA enforcement staff agreed that from September to November 2020, then head coach and two then assistant men's soccer coaches directed men's soccer student-athletes' participation in countable athletically related activities (CARA) beyond NCAA legislated playing season limitations. Further, then head coach failed to ensure the accurate recording of student- athletes' countable hours in weekly reports to the compliance staff. Specifically, for approximately three months, when the institution's competition season was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the men's soccer coaching staff directed and observed men's soccer student-athletes in off-campus practice for approximately one and one-half hours per day, four days per week for 13 weeks outside the season. As a result, the men's soccer program violated CARA limitations for a total of approximately 26 practice hours.


Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 12.11.1, 12.11.2, 13.1.1.3 and 16.8.1 (2019-20) (Level II)


The institution and NCAA enforcement staff agreed that from September through December 2019, then head coach had impermissible communications with a student-athlete (student-athlete 3) enrolled at another NCAA Division III institution. Specifically, then head coach had regular communications with student-athlete 3 via text message without first obtaining written permission or authorization from the Division III institution. As a result of the impermissible contact, student-athlete 3, who transferred to the institution, participated in 17 contests and received actual and necessary expenses while ineligible.


Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 13.02.5.5 (2020-21) (Level III)


The institution and NCAA enforcement staff agreed that during the December 2020 COVID-19 recruiting dead period, then head coach and then assistant men's soccer coach (then assistant coach) engaged in impermissible recruiting activities with a then men's soccer prospective student-athlete when he visited the institution's campus. Specifically, then head coach and then assistant coach arranged for a then men's soccer student-athlete to provide the then men's soccer prospective student-athlete with an in-person tour of the campus.


Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 11.1.1.1 (2018-19 through 2021-22) (Level I)


The institution and NCAA enforcement staff agreed that from January 2019 through December 2021, then head coach is presumed responsible for the violations set forth above and did not rebut the presumption of responsibility. Specifically, then head coach did not demonstrate that he promoted an atmosphere for compliance due to his personal involvement and involving his assistant coaches in the violations.


Violations of NCAA Division I Manual Bylaws 19.2.1-(d), 19.2.2-(a) and 19.2.2-(b) (as of January 2023) (Level I)


During his January 6, 2023, interview, after then head coach's employment with UML had ended, he failed to cooperate with the NCAA enforcement staff when he refused to provide truthful and complete information. Specifically, he refused to answer questions related to specific possible violations.


Aggravating and Mitigating Factors


Institution Aggravating Factors


Multiple Level I and/or multiple Level II violations of which the institution is responsible. NCAA Bylaw 19.12.3.1-(a).


Persons of authority condoned, participated in or negligently disregarded the violation or related wrongful conduct. NCAA Bylaw 19.12.3.1-(e).


One or more violations caused ineligible competition. NCAA Bylaw 19.12.3.1-(f).


Intentional, willful or blatant disregard for NCAA bylaws by a person with institutionally derived authority. NCAA Bylaw 19.12.3.1-(i).

Institution Mitigating Factors


Prompt self-disclosure of the violation(s). NCAA Bylaw 19.12.4.1-(a).


Prompt acknowledgement and acceptance of responsibility for the violations. NCAA Bylaw 19.12.4.1-(b).


Institution self-imposed meaningful corrective measures and/or penalties. NCAA Bylaw 19.12.4.1-(c).


Affirmative steps to expedite final resolution of the matter. NCAA Bylaw 19.12.4.1- (d).


An established history of self-reporting Level III violations. NCAA Bylaw 19.12.4.1- (e).


Exemplary cooperation. NCAA Bylaw 19.12.4.1-(g).


The absence of prior conclusions of Level I, Level II or major violations committed by the institution within the past 10 years. NCAA Bylaw 19.12.4.1-(h).


Securing the meaningful cooperation of an individual who does not have an affirmative obligation to cooperate under Bylaw 19.1.1. NCAA Bylaw 19.12.4.1-(i).


Involved Individual Aggravating Factors


Multiple Level I and/or multiple Level II violations of which the institution is responsible. NCAA Bylaw 19.12.3.1-(a).


Failing or refusing to take all appropriate steps outlined in Bylaw 19.2.1 to advance resolution of the matter including steps that hinder or thwart the institution and/or enforcement staff's investigation. NCAA Bylaw 19.12.3.2-(b).


Persons of authority condoned, participated in or negligently disregarded the violation or related wrongful conduct. NCAA Bylaw 19.12.3.2-(d).


Persons of authority condoned, participated in or negligently disregarded the violation or related wrongful conduct. NCAA Bylaw 19.12.3.1-(e).


Conduct intended to generate pecuniary gain for the individual. NCAA Bylaw 19.12.3.2-(h).


Intentional, willful or blatant disregard for NCAA bylaws by a person with institutionally derived authority. NCAA Bylaw 19.12.3.1-(i).

Involved Individual Mitigating Factors


The absence of prior conclusions of Level I, Level II or major violations committed by the involved individual. NCAA Bylaw 19.12.4.2-(e).


Penalties


1. Probation: Two years of probation from September 13, 2023, through September 12, 2025.


2. Financial penalty: The institution shall pay a fine of $5,000 plus 1% of the men's soccer budget to the NCAA.


3. Recruiting restrictions in the men's soccer program: (a) The institution shall reduce official paid visits in the men's soccer program during the 2023-24 and 2024-25 academic years by 12.5% of the average number of official paid visits in the men's soccer program during the previous four years; (b) A four-week reduction in unofficial visits (to be satisfied by December 31, 2023); and (c) A four-week reduction in off-campus recruiting (to be satisfied by December 31, 2023).


4. Show-cause order: Then head coach engaged in unethical conduct when he knowingly provided impermissible benefits to student athletes and directed a student-athlete to pay him cash from his athletics aid refund. Further, then head coach directed men's soccer student-athletes' participation in countable athletically related activities beyond the legislated playing season limitations and violated recruiting legislation. Then head coach also violated head coach responsibility legislation when he did not demonstrate that he promoted an atmosphere of compliance due to his personal involvement in the violations detailed above. Finally, then head coach (while no longer with the institution) failed to meet his responsibility to cooperate with the enforcement staff when he failed to provide truthful and complete information in his interview and subsequently refused to participate in the processing of this case. Given the scope of violations in the men's soccer program and disregard for the cooperative principle, a significant show-cause order is warranted. Therefore, then head coach is subject to a five-year show cause order from September 13, 2023, through September 12, 2028.


5. Head coach restriction: Then head coach violated head coach responsibility legislation when he engaged in Level I violations and did not participate in the processing of the case. Bylaw 19.12.6.5 and the Figure 19-1 penalty guidelines contemplate head coach suspensions to address head coach responsibility violations. Therefore, in the year following the expiration of the show-cause period, any member institution employing the head coach in an athletically related position shall suspend the head coach from 100% of the men's soccer regular season dates of competition. The provisions of this suspension require that head coach not be present in the facility where the contests are played and have no contact or communication with the men's soccer coaching staff members or student-athletes during the 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, then 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 then head golf coach is suspended shall not count toward then head coach's career coaching record.


6. CARA: Countable activities in the men's soccer program will be reduced by 26 hours during the 2023-24 academic year.


7. Public reprimand and censure through the release of the negotiated resolution agreement.


8. Vacation of team and individual records: Ineligible participation in the men's soccer program occurred over 2019 through 2022 as a result of violations in this case. Therefore, pursuant to Bylaws 19.12.8-(g) and 31.2.2.3 and Committee on Infractions IOP 5-15-9, UMass Lowell shall vacate all regular season and conference tournament wins, records and participation in which the ineligible student-athletes competed from the time they became ineligible through the time they were reinstated as eligible for competition. Further, if the ineligible student-athletes participated in NCAA postseason competition at any time they were ineligible, UMass Lowell's participation in the postseason contests in which the ineligible competition occurred shall be vacated. The individual records of the ineligible student-athletes shall also be vacated. However, the individual finishes and any awards for all eligible student-athletes shall be retained. Further, UMass Lowell's records regarding its men's soccer program, as well as the records of the head coach, 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.


If you have any questions, contact Christian Dennie at cdennie@denniefirm.com.










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