Southeastern Louisiana University received NCAA penalties for a lack of institutional control after self-reporting 137 athletes were academically ineligible over a five-year period, but was largely spared severe punishment Tuesday.
The school, which first reported the violations in late March, self-imposed a myriad of penalties, including scholarship reductions, a two-year probationary period and vacating victories from 2005-06 until 2009-10.
Yet the NCAA on Tuesday ordered SLU to pay an additional $25,000 fine and extended the probationary period to four years, but avoided any postseason bans. SLU must also submit itself to an external review of its audit system.
The scholarship reductions include the following:
- Football from 63 to 60 in the 2013 and 2014 seasons, along with 62 in 2015.
- Men’s basketball falls to 11 from 13 this season and to 12 over the next two seasons.
- Baseball from drops to 10.7 from 11.7 for the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
- Women’s basketball drops to 14 from 15 for this and next season.
“We are pleased to put resolution of this case behind us,” said Jay Artigues, who was recently named SLU’s athletic director. “These infractions occurred years ago, and current coaches, staff and administration are absolutely committed to ongoing compliance with all NCAA rules.”
In an internal report, obtained in records request by The Advocate, SLU stressed there was no deliberate effort circumvent NCAA bylaws or improperly certify athletes, but acknowledged a lack of institutional oversight and that it “should have known the student athletes did not meet NCAA requirements based on academic and other records available at the time.”
The report, which was submitted to the NCAA, said in 90 percent of ineligibility among athletes resulted from the timing of a degree change. It added that 86 percent of all ineligible athletes wound up graduating, and they would have remained eligible had they been properly advised about NCAA deadlines for changing majors, the report stated.
The SLU report attributed the violations to the following causes:
- Inadequate checks and balances in the certification process.
- A lack of adequate staff was added after the school re-established football in 2003, adding 125 athletes to certify.
- Heavy reliance on an automated degree-audit system and a lack of certification done by academic colleges and departments.
- Heavy turnover in personnel, which included five athletic directors and three compliance directors.
- The misapplication of a 1992 NCAA ruling as it applied to hours and applicable courses needed for a degree by Greg Harrod, who oversaw compliance matters at SLU from 2000 until 2006.
- Improper advice given to SLU athletes on the timing of degree changes.
The university uncovered the violations during an extensive internal investigation, which was launched after irregularities were uncovered trying to fulfill a July 2008 mandated Academic Performance Program review from the academic years 2004-05 until 2006-07.
During that review, Sherry Kennemer, who was SLU’s associate athletic director for compliance, uncovered irregularities in certification sheets and records for athletes, and passed along the findings to the NCAA and the Southland Conference, according to the report.
Often, this required reprinting transcripts and degree plans, identifying majors and recreating eligibility certification forms that could not be located, according to the SLU report.
The review overseen by Kennemer, who followed her boss and former SLU Athletic Director Joel Erdmann to South Alabama in the spring 2010, involved contacting Harrod to learn where records might have been stored. Harrod told SLU officials at the time they might have been put in storage during a renovation, but an extensive search could not locate the documents, according to the report.
After Kennemer and Erdmann left for South Alabama, John Long, who oversees SLU’s compliance efforts, continued the review effort, which ultimately led to the NCAA requesting in October 2011 a departmentwide review of all sports programs. Earlier in spring 2011, the school retained an outside consultant, The Compliance Group, to assist in its review, according to the summary report.
SLU staff members responsible for academic advising and eligibility certification when the violations occurred are no longer associated with SLU and no current student-athlete participated while ineligible.