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Publish date: May 26, 2011

Appeals committee upholds infractions decision
for University of Southern California

The NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee has upheld the findings of NCAA violations and associated penalties for the University of Southern California. The case primarily involved agent and amateurism violations for a former football student-athlete and a former men's basketball student-athlete.

The findings in this case include a lack of institutional control, impermissible inducements, extra benefits and exceeding coaching staff limits.

Explaining USC’s postseason ban and scholarship reductions

The Infractions Appeals Committee’s decision to uphold the penalties for the University of Southern California means the penalties are now in effect. The appealed penalties are placed on hold until the appeals process is completed. The penalties appealed by the university include a reduction in football scholarships for three years and the second year of the postseason ban.

In this case, USC requested they be able to immediately enact the first year of the postseason ban during the appeals process. The appeals committee granted this request and the first year of the postseason ban was applied to the 2010 season. The remaining year will be applied to the upcoming 2011 season.

The reduction in football scholarships will begin with the 2012-13 academic year. USC will be able to offer 15 initial scholarships (instead of the maximum of 25) and 75 total scholarships (instead of the maximum of 85) for each of the next three academic years. This reduction will not impact those student-athletes who have already signed for the 2011-12 academic year.

The penalties include four years probation; a two-year football postseason ban; a one-year basketball postseason ban; vacation of regular and postseason wins for all three involved sports (football, basketball and women’s tennis); scholarship reductions for football and basketball; and recruiting restrictions for men's basketball. They also include a $5,000 financial penalty; forfeiture of revenue from the 2008 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship; and limitations for the access granted to boosters and non-university personnel to team charters, sidelines, practices, locker rooms and camps for men's basketball and football. The university also must disassociate itself from three boosters, including the former football and men's basketball student-athletes involved in this case. As a part of this disassociation, the university will not be able to accept financial contributions or other assistance for the athletics department from these individuals, and is prohibited from providing these individuals with any benefits or privileges.

In its appeal, the university requested the penalties be reduced, asserting they were not supported by the facts and were excessive to an extent that they constituted an abuse of discretion. It also contended that the findings of violations should be set aside as contrary to the evidence.

While the university stated that the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions erred in concluding that sports marketers in the case were Southern California boosters, the appeals committee disagreed, “We are persuaded that there is sufficient evidence to support the Committee on Infractions’ conclusions regarding these issues, and find no basis on which to reverse the pertinent findings,” the appeals committee said in its public report.

The university also argued the lack of institutional control finding should be set aside because some of the facts found by the Committee on Infractions did not constitute rules violations and that the Committee on Infractions did not consider a number of mitigating factors. The appeals committee, however, did not find any basis to reverse the finding.

The appeals committee also upheld all penalties in the case, noting there was no basis to conclude the Committee on Infractions departed from prior decisions.

In considering the university’s appeal, the Infractions Appeals Committee reviewed the notice of appeal; the transcript of the university’s Committee on Infractions hearing; and the submissions by both the university and the Committee on Infractions.

The Infractions Appeals Committee may overturn a determination of fact or finding of violation if the Committee on Infractions’ finding is contrary to the evidence presented; the facts found by the Committee on Infractions do not constitute a violation of NCAA rules; or a procedural error affected the reliability of information that was used to support the findings. A penalty by the Committee on Infractions may be set aside on appeal if the penalty is excessive such that it constitutes an abuse of discretion.

The members of the Infractions Appeals Committee who heard this case were: Christopher L. Griffin, Foley & Lardner LLP, chair; Jack Friedenthal, professor of law at George Washington University; William Hoye, executive vice president for administration, planning and legal affairs at the Institute for the International Education of Students; Patti Ohlendorf, vice president for
legal affairs at University of Texas at Austin; and David Williams, vice chancellor and general counsel at Vanderbilt University.