The NCAA enforcement program strives to maintain a level playing field for the more than 400,000 student-athletes. Commitment to fair play is a bedrock principle of the NCAA. The NCAA upholds that principle by enforcing membership-created rules that ensure equitable competition and protect the well-being of student-athletes at all member institutions.
The committee decides penalties case-by-case. Each case is unique, and applying case precedent is difficult (if not impossible) because all cases are different. Each case has its own aggravating and mitigating factors, and the committee considers both sides in assessing penalties.
Penalties are determined by the Committee on Infractions on a case-by-case basis and vary depending on the severity of the violations and the specifics of the case. NCAA sanctions must be legitimately punitive to be effective. The intent of penalties is to ensure they are sufficient to deter schools from breaking the rules again and that they remove any competitive advantage that may have been gained. For this reason, penalties can be retrospective (such as a vacation of records) or prospective (such as scholarship losses or recruiting restrictions). Usually, based on the specifics of the case, it is a combination of both. Penalties can be applied across the entire athletics department, to a specific sport and/or individuals involved in the case. The penalty structure was established based upon the NCAA as an association of member institutions rather than individuals. Unfortunately, some sanctions, such as a ban on postseason competition, while serving as a deterrent for institutions, also negatively affect innocent student-athletes. Language in enforcement procedures states that the interests of innocent individuals should be taken into account when imposing penalties.
However, the simple fact is that the punitive nature of NCAA-imposed sanctions make it unavoidable that the penalties imposed on institutions as a result of their involvement in major infractions will have some negative effect on innocent student-athletes.
The repeat-violator legislation (“death penalty”) is applicable to an institution if, within a five-year period, the following conditions exist:
Penalties for repeat violators of legislation, subject to exemptions authorized by the committee on the basis of specifically stated reasons, may include any of the following:
Penalties should be sufficient to deter an institution from breaking the rules again and should remove any competitive advantage that may have been gained by cheating.
The committee occasionally tailors penalties to the offenses that were committed. For example, if the violation involved excessive recruiting, the committee will assign penalties aimed at reducing future recruiting opportunities (prohibiting coaches from off-campus recruiting, reducing official visits for a period of time, etc.). If the committee finds extra benefits were extended to a student-athlete or group of student-athletes, scholarship penalties could apply.
Some penalties, such as public reprimand and censure, are commonplace. Others, such as bans on postseason competition and television, are rarely applied.
The committee attempts to protect student-athletes who were not involved in the violation. However, as with the enforcement process in general, the focus is at the institutional level.
In some cases, the committee determines that insufficient evidence exists to support the finding of a major violation. When that happens, a case is essentially “thrown out.” In such cases, the committee sometimes has decided that a school committed a secondary violation, not a major one. In that event, the case is sent to the secondary-violations wing of the enforcement staff for processing. In both instances, no infractions report is issued and the committee issues no penalties (although institutions may be subject to minor penalties for the secondary violations).
All penalties and findings can be appealed to the Infractions Appeals Committee, a separate body of membership and independent individuals.Last Updated: May 10, 2011