NCAA doles out two-years probation; other probes pending
INDIANAPOLIS -- The NCAA put Ball State on probation for two years and cut three football scholarships because of misuse by athletes of a textbook loan program.
The penalties announced Tuesday by the Division I Committee on Infractions also included a reduction of money available for men's tennis scholarships and a restriction on the number of hours per week allowed for softball practice.
The infractions involved 89 athletes in 10 sports from the spring semester of 2003 to the end of the 2004-05 school year. A separate investigation is ongoing involving former men's basketball coach Ronny Thompson, who resigned in July amid accusations that he and his assistants broke NCAA rules by attending voluntary offseason workouts in 2006 and 2007 and lying about their involvement.
The unidentified athletes in the textbook investigation obtained $26,944 in books for classes in which they weren't enrolled. In some cases, they obtained more than one copy of a book, which they gave to others.
The university, which began its own investigation more than two years ago, accepted the NCAA findings without a formal hearing before the infractions committee. The probation will run through Oct. 15, 2009.
"While it is always difficult when penalties are involved, we accept them as appropriate and a valuable lesson," Ball State athletic director Tom Collins said. "I've already spoken with the coaches. The loss of scholarships and practice time will be a challenge, but I have great confidence in our coaches' abilities to work through those challenges."
The NCAA said the extra benefits to the athletes through the book program resulted in Ball State exceeding limitations on financial aid in football and men's tennis for 2004-05.
At the time, the university's bookstore had a computerized system that placed $1,000 per semester in each athlete's account, but there was no system to check the class schedules to make sure the books corresponded with the classes the athletes were taking.
Those whose schedules did not require $1,000 worth of textbooks were able to use the balance to obtain books for friends and other athletes who were not on scholarship, the NCAA found.
The university has been reimbursed for the value of the books and "all books involved were accounted for," Collins said.
The NCAA also found that from 1999 through 2006 the softball program failed to count athletes' work at camps, clinics and program fundraising events as athletically related activities. The program therefore exceeded daily and weekly practice hour limitations, failed to give athletes a required day off each week from athletically related activities, and conducted individual skill instruction sessions in violation of NCAA rules.
The NCAA said the university's compliance staff became aware of the violations but failed to act on the information or report it to the NCAA.
"The Committee on Infractions believed that the scope and nature of the violations demonstrated a failure to exercise institutional control in the conduct and administration of the book-loan and softball programs," the NCAA said. "It found that the university failed to establish adequate rules education to student-athletes and staff to ensure the use of athletics aid at the bookstore met NCAA regulations."
The football scholarship reduction may be applied in a single year or divided over the next two years. Tennis financial aid will be reduced by .04 of one scholarship during the 2008-09 year.
For the softball violations, no more than four players may participate in any individual skill-related instruction sessions with the coach until April 15, 2008. Also, for the rest of the 2006-07 year and all of the 2007-08 academic year, no softball player may participate as a counselor, demonstrator or instructor in a university camp or clinic.
The softball team will be limited to a maximum of 18 hours per week of countable athletically related activities.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press