Student-athlete eligibility infractions at UF

By Pulse Staff

University of Findlay athletic accomplishments over the last three years are now tainted by disciplinary action from the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA).

On Wednesday, Sept. 13 the NCAA announced that UF failed to monitor eligibility certification between the spring 2020 semester and the 2022-2023 academic year. The negotiated resolution between NCAA and UF cited the football team, men’s basketball team, men’s soccer team, men’s and women’s swimming teams, men’s and women’s track and field teams, and the women’s lacrosse team.

Vice President for Student Affairs and Athletics Brandi Laurita sent an email to the UF campus community shortly after noon today explaining the infractions. It stated “UF received penalties from the NCAA regarding infractions stemming from the institution improperly certifying 82 student-athletes in 11 sports as eligible for competition between the spring 2020 semester and the 2022-2023 academic year. The penalties resulted in 90 amateurism, initial eligibility certifications, and financial aid violations.”

Penalties for the University include three years of probation beginning Sept. 13, 2023 through Sept. 12, 2026; a $2,500 fine, and a “vacation of all records in which student-athletes competed while ineligible. The university must provide a written report containing the contests impacted to the NCAA media coordination and statistics staff within 14 days of the public release of the decision.”

The negotiated resolution released by the NCAA stated that in April 2022, the conference office let the University know it had not submitted required NCAA eligibility checklists. It said it tried to contact the former compliance director at UF to request the checklists but did not get a response. The conference then contacted the director of athletics. That’s when UF immediately started working with the conference to investigate the matter.

The negotiated resolution from the NCAA states that UF learned the “former compliance director had permitted student-athletes to practice, compete, and receive financial aid prior to receiving final certification for initial eligibility and/or amateurism by the NCAA Eligibility Center.

That’s when the University started working with an NCAA certification consultant to conduct a full certification review.

In a news release, UF President Katherine Fell praised the response by the athletic department.

“Once issues were identified, immediate action was taken to rectify lapses in the process and outline safeguards to prevent this oversight from happening again,” Fell said.

In May 2023 the NCAA enforcement staff and the University began a collaborative investigation and confirmed self-reported violations.

The resolution states, “In his interview with the enforcement staff, former compliance director reported feeling overwhelmed by his job responsibilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic virtual working conditions and the institution’s transition to a new student information system. Former compliance director acknowledged failing to inform his supervisor, then director of athletics, of the delinquent checklists or being overwhelmed and took responsibility for his compliance shortcomings. Ultimately, due to the institution’s lack of oversight and checks and balances in the eligibility certification process, the violations went undetected.”

Moving forward the University has to let prospective student athletes for “baseball, football, men’s basketball, men’s tennis, men’s soccer, men’s wrestling, men’s and women’s swimming, men’s and women’s track and field and women’s lacrosse  know in writing that the institution is on probation for three years and detail the violations committed.”

According to the resolution the university has to “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.”

If the “ineligible student-athletes participated in NCAA postseason competition at any time they were ineligible, the institution’s participation in the postseason contests in which the ineligible competition occurred shall be vacated.” The Pulse is working to confirm the results of that ruling.

“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.”

The news release from the University stated President Fell, “expressed deep regret and took full responsibility for the penalties resulting from the NCAA rules infractions. ‘We sincerely apologize to the affected students and their athletic reputations,’ said Fell.”

The Pulse will continue to report on this story, including student-athlete reaction as well as what this means for the University moving forward.