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December 21, 2013 at 10:31 AM

A closer look at the NCAA’s new violation structure

As explained by former compliance director John Infante in our story today, it’s too early to tell what the ramifications might be for Washington, for Tosh Lupoi, for USC and for Steve Sarkisian after allegations surfaced this week that Lupoi paid for a recruit’s educational expenses.

Lupoi denies the claims.

The NCAA was scheduled to be on the UW campus Friday.

The payments, if proved, would be a violation of NCAA Bylaw 13.15.1.

What does that mean?

The NCAA adopted a “tougher, more efficient” enforcement program in October 2012.

The new violation structure features four levels:

Level I: Violations that seriously undermine or threaten the integrity of the NCAA collegiate model as set forth in the Constitution and bylaws, including any violation that provides or is intended to provide a substantial or extensive recruiting, competitive or other advantage, or a substantial or extensive impermissible benefit.

Examples of Level I infractions:

– Lack of institutional control.
– Academic fraud.
– Failure to cooperate in an NCAA enforcement investigation.
– Individual unethical or dishonest conduct.
– Head coach responsibility violation by a head coach resulting from an underlying Level I violation by an individual within the sport program.

Level II: Violations that provide or are intended to provide more than a minimal but less than a substantial or extensive recruiting, competitive or other advantage; includes more than a minimal but less than a substantial or extensive impermissible benefit; or involves conduct that may compromise the integrity of the NCAA collegiate model as set forth in the Constitution and bylaws.

Examples of Level II infractions:

– Violations that do not rise to the level of Level I violations and are more serious than Level III violations.
– Failure to monitor.
– Systemic violations that do not amount to a lack of institutional control.
– Multiple recruiting, financial aid, or eligibility violations that do not amount. to a lack of institutional control.
– Collective Level III violations.

Level III: Violations that are isolated or limited in nature; provide no more than a minimal recruiting, competitive or other advantage; and do not include more than a minimal impermissible

Level IV: Incidental infractions that are inadvertent and isolated, technical in nature and result in a negligible, if any, competitive advantage. Level IV infractions generally will not affect eligibility for intercollegiate athletics.

The new enforcement program also makes head coaches more accountable — the coach “presumes responsibility” now. Which is why USC is involved in the investigation, as Sarkisian was, of course, the head coach presumed responsible for Lupoi’s actions at UW. For a Level II or II violation, a head coach could be given a “show-case” order and suspended up to an entire season.

Some examples of Level III infractions that could “result in a head coach suspension”:

– In-person, off-campus contacts during a dead period (particularly during the National Letter of Intent signing dead period).
– Intentional or significant game-day simulations and/or impermissible recruiting aids.
– Exceeding the permissible number of contacts with a prospective student-athlete.
– Providing team gear or other inducements to prospective student-athletes.
– Providing a written offer of athletically related financial aid to a prospective student-athlete prior to August 1 of the prospect’s senior year in high school.

Infante said it’s “especially hard to say right now” what the potential ramifications for UW and Lupoi might be.

“Is this a Level I or II infraction?” he said. “Are there mitigating or exacerbating circumstances? How will (an NCAA) panel drawn from a more diverse committee approach the case?”

It appears to be new territory for the NCAA with its new enforcement structure.

“We know the intent of the new enforcement program, but not how it will be executed,” Infante said. “This will be a good test of the new system to see if the case is handled quickly, if the new committee brings a different perspective, and whether the penalties are properly apportioned between school and any involved individuals.”

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