Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ball State Penalized; More Trouble on the Horizon

At least where academics are concerned, Ball State is one of the better actors amongst NCAA Division I schools. Graduation rates run from a low of 52% in the baseball program to 100% in women's gymnastics. Unfortunately, it is finally facing the consequences of rules infractions dating from the tenure of former Athletic Director Lawrence 'Bubba' Cunningham, who is now safely ensconced at the University of Tulsa. Yesterday, the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions announced penalties stemming from prohibited practices and excess financial aid, and it was determined that there was the 'lack of institutional control' which Athletic Directors dread:

INDIANAPOLIS---The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions has penalized Ball State University for major violations in its athletics program, which included several student-athletes using nearly $27,000 in scholarship funds for books for other students through the university bookstore. The violations include a lack of institutional control, excessive financial aid and exceeding practice hour limitations.

Penalties for the violations include placing the university on probation for two years; reducing the number of football and men’s tennis scholarships; and reducing the maximum number of hours per week spent on countable athletically related activities for the softball team. . . .

From the 2003 spring semester through the 2004-05 academic year, 89 student-athletes in 10 sports impermissibly obtained a total value of $26,944 in textbooks through the book loan program for scholarship student-athletes. The textbooks were obtained by the student-athletes for classes in which they were not enrolled or for classes in which student-athletes obtained multiple copies of the same book. . . .

At the time the violations occurred, the university’s bookstore had a computerized system that placed a $1,000 per semester balance in the account of each student-athlete with a book scholarship. There was no system in place to check the class schedules of all student-athletes to ensure the books being obtained corresponded with the classes each student-athlete was taking. . . .

During an investigation by the NCAA enforcement staff, it was also found that from 1999 through 2006 the then head softball coach and the university’s softball program failed to count student-athletes’ work at camps, clinics and program fundraising events as mandatory athletically related activities. The program repeatedly exceeded daily and weekly practice hour limitations, failed to give student-athletes a required day off each week from athletically related activities, and conducted individual skill instruction sessions in violation of NCAA rules. . . .

While this activity was corrected, the violation was not reported to the NCAA. Further, the university received information in exit interviews with student-athletes that these violations might be occurring; however, it failed to act on the information. . . .
One of the strengths of the current enforcement regime is that this has become one of the biggest no nos for athletics programs. Athletic Director Tom Collins, who inherited the mess, commented on the sanctions:
Anytime you have rules violations, anything like that, I think it puts a mark on you. . . .I think the good news now is, now we know what it is. Now that it is done we can move forward. We just need to be diligent in our rules education for not only the staff, coaches and student-athletes, but we also have to be diligent in our monitoring.
The football and men's tennis coaches were, however, none too pleased by the additional sanctions which the NCAA meted out. Football coach Brady Hoke commented:
It was a little bit of shock that there were more penalties by the NCAA. I really thought it was over with. I haven't thought about it until today. I thought because of the actions of the university to right what went wrong and to punish the people involved, that would be enough. . . .Whenever you don't have your full compliment of scholarships it's disappointing, regardless of the sport you play. If you say you get 85 scholarships, I wouldn't know why you would want less than 85 student athletes.
As for Tom Collins, he is still facing a potential train wreck over allegations of significant rules violations committed by former basketball coach Ronny Thompson:

The allegations described by the NCAA include that:

• Thompson may have provided financial assistance to someone involved with a basketball player at another university whom the coach was recruiting to transfer to Ball State.

• The possible recruiting violation was brought to the attention of associate athletics director Pat Quinn, who tried to investigate before being reprimanded by athletic director Tom Collins for pursuing the matter.

• Thompson provided Nike shoes to athletes as a reward for improved grades, which could be considered an extra benefit.

If the second allegation is true, then this is a mess which is entirely of Collins' making, and one which should cost him his job.

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