INDIANAPOLIS, IN (WIS) - The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions has cited the University of South Carolina for failing to monitor its athletics program, impermissible recruiting, extra benefits and preferential treatment, according to a decision announced today. The violations in this case primarily involved football student-athletes and prospects.
Penalties in the case, many of which were self-imposed by the university, include three years of probation, scholarship reductions, recruiting restrictions, a $18,500 fine and disassociation of two involved boosters.
According to the NCAA, twelve student-athletes lived in a local hotel while paying a daily rate of less than $15 per person, an amount that was considerably less than what was available to the general student population. In addition, nine student-athletes received special loan arrangements by deferring rent payments through an agreement with the hotel. In total, the student-athletes received approximately $51,000 in impermissible extra benefits and preferential treatment.
In addition, two boosters provided more than $8,000 from their foundation for recruiting inducements and extra benefits to football prospects and student-athletes. These boosters also were involved in recruiting contacts. The committee noted that while some of the motivation and purpose for establishing the foundation were well-intentioned, it was clear that some efforts were aimed at assisting the university in its recruitment efforts. The benefits from the boosters included cash, gift cards, entertainment and funding of multiple unofficial visits.
The committee noted the trend of an increased importance placed on unofficial visits, particularly for football and men's basketball. Rather than utilizing school-funded official visits, unofficial visits can be utilized to circumvent certain requirements for recruits to provide academic transcripts or test scores before they visit. These expanded recruiting opportunities are often funded by a third party other than the student-athlete's family and provide coaches with important early access to prospects.
The university failed to monitor and investigate the impermissible recruiting activity by boosters, according to the committee. Specifically, at least four athletics department employees did not recognize the potential violations.
With the exception of determining when the local hotel should be considered a booster organization, the university agreed with all of the allegations in this case, including the failure to monitor.
"The University regrets the past actions and decisions by individuals that resulted in violations of NCAA legislation," Eric Hyman, USC Director of Athletics said. "We are pleased, however, that the Committee on Infractions found the corrective actions we have taken and the penalties we have self-imposed reflect the University's commitment to full compliance with NCAA rules."
"We appreciate the Committee on Infractions' thoughtful consideration of our case," Dr. Harris Pastides, USC President, said. "While it is most unfortunate that we stumbled, we have certainly had a teachable moment from this experience which will strengthen our resolve to ensure that our athletics and our university operate in full compliance with NCAA legislation."
When determining the penalties, the committee noted the university's cooperation in the investigation, which went beyond standard expectations, and the university's self-imposed penalties. The penalties in this case include:
- Public reprimand and censure.
- Three years of probation from April 27, 2012, through April 26, 2015.
- Reduction of total football scholarships by three (from 85 maximum) during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic years.
- Reduction of initial football scholarships by three (from the 25 maximum) during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic years (self-imposed by the university).
- $18,500 fine (self-imposed by the university).
- Indefinite disassociation of both involved boosters and the local hotel (self-imposed by the university).
- Limit of 30 official visits in football (from the 56 maximum) for the 2012-13 academic year (self-imposed by the university).
- Limit of 50 official visits in men's and women's track and field (from unlimited maximum) for the 2012-13 academic year (self-imposed by the university).
- Suspension of the head track coach during the 2012 Penn Relays (self-imposed by the university).
- An assistant men's basketball coach was withheld from recruiting in December 2011 (self-imposed by the university).
- An assistant football coach was withheld from off campus recruiting during January 2012 (self-imposed by the university).
Back in September of 2011, the NCAA outlined three potentially major violations against the school, claiming South Carolina athletes received $55,000 in impermissible benefits for staying at a hotel for a reduced rate and for dealings with a Delaware-based mentoring group.
The letter says the Whitney Hotel provided $47,000 worth of reduced rent to 12 student-athletes from 2009 through 2010 at rates as low as $14.59 per day. None of the athletes were identified, but the NCAA said 10 were football players and two ran women's track.
The NCAA also alleged that USC boosters Kevin Lahn and Steve Gordon provided "impermissible recruiting inducements to prospective student-athletes" through their Student-Athlete Mentoring Foundation.
The NCAA says USC failed to monitor either situation.
In a response to the NCAA, USC acknowledged the violations and said that some of them "should have been avoided altogether". They also moved to eliminate six scholarships over the next three years and reduce official recruiting visits in football and track and field.