NCAA says Irish football must vacate 2012, 2013 wins; Notre Dame appealing

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The Notre Dame football team has been placed on probation by the NCAA, college athletic governing body says the team must vacate all its wins from 2012 and 2013 seasons because of the fallout from the Frozen Five academic misconduct scandal.

Notre Dame is appealing the decision.

In a 19-page report, the NCAA says a Notre Dame student athletic trainer committed academic misconduct for two football players and gave six other players impermissible academic extra benefits over the course of multiple years.

(Click to read the full 19-page document from the NCAA)

The incidents occurred over a period of time from 2011-2013. The university self-reported the potential violations and kept five players off the field before the 2014 season. Four other additional players were involved but because they were no longer at the university when Notre Dame discovered the misconduct, they were not previously mentioned.

In addition to a year’s probation, the university was reprimanded and censured. Every win from the 2012 and 2013 seasons will be vacated. In 2012, Notre Dame won 12 games and lost to Alabama in the BCS National Championship game.

The student trainer has been disassociated from the program.

Shortly after the NCAA announced Notre Dame’s probation, the university released a statement saying it would appeal the decision to vacate wins from the 2012 and 2013 seasons..

“The NCAA has never before vacated the records of an institution that had no involvement in the underlying academic misconduct, and the membership has since voted to change the rule that brought this case within NCAA jurisdiction,” Notre Dame’s statement explains.

The NCAA referred to the then student athletic trainer as an ‘institutional staff member’ multiple times in its report. The NCAA is penalizing Notre Dame based on the bylaws at the time the incidents occurred and when it was self reported.

However, Notre Dame is arguing that the bylaw has since changed and that a student employee is no longer considered an ‘institutional staff member’ unless they were instructed to assist student-athletes with course work by a staff member. Since there is no evidence of that occurring in this case, Notre Dame argues that the institution shouldn’t be punished so harshly.

Notre Dame first learned of the academic misconduct in July of 2014 when a member of the Notre Dame academics staff contacted ND’s faculty athletics representative and athletic department compliance staff that a football student athlete might be getting inappropriate academic assistance. With a month, Notre Dame had investigated the situation, and self reported itself about the potential violations to the NCAA. At that time, they began the process of removing the five football players who were still enrolled at the university for athletic competition. Those five players did not play during the 2014 football season.

The NCAA panel proposed its penalties on July 5, 2016 with Notre Dame requesting an expedited hearing on July 15th. On July 25th, Notre Dame clarified it was only contesting the vacation of institutional and head coaching records at the expedited hearing.

The expedited hearing was held on September 23rd. Notre Dame lost to Duke the next day and fired its defensive coordinator on September 25th.

Notre Dame is now appealing.

Brian Kelly met with the media Tuesday afternoon, and he voiced his frustration with the NCAA decision.

“It’s never happened before in the history of the NCAA. A penalty has never been issued in this fashion before,” Kelly said. “First of all, it was discretionary, this was a discretionary action by the committee. That’s number one. Number two, it was student-on-student cheating. There was nobody implicated. The NCAA agreed across the board with that finding, and it was clearly excessive. So as you know, we’re going to appeal this.”

The news comes in the middle of a 4-7 season where Irish fans are already questioning whether Brian Kelly is the right man for the job. While there is a single mention of Kelly having anything to do with this infraction in the NCAA’s report, it’s a major black eye for the program. With all that in play, NewsCenter 16’s Angelo Di Carlo asked Kelly if he thinks he’ll be the head coach of Notre Dame next season.

“I have no reason to believe that I’m not,” Kelly answered. “I think you guys are confusing this statement with the win-loss record. A win-loss record is always under scrutiny at Notre Dame, and it should be. That’s part of it. But this matter here has been a long-standing matter that the university has handled, handled in a positive way relative to how we handled it internally. Every support staff member has represented Notre Dame in a positive way. Today’s statement should be a validation that my collateral responsibilities at Notre Dame as the head coach are outstanding. However, ‘He’s gotta win more football games!’ And so that hasn’t changed; we’re still 4-7. So if you want me to answer the question on 4-7, I think every football coach who’s 4-7 has gotta win more football games.”

Read both the NCAA’s press release and the full Notre Dame statement below. The full 19-page NCAA release is linked at the top of this story.

Former Notre Dame student trainer acted unethically, committed academic misconduct
From an NCAA media release

A former University of Notre Dame student athletic trainer violated NCAA ethical conduct rules when she committed academic misconduct for two football student-athletes and provided six other football student-athletes with impermissible academic extra benefits, according to a Division I Committee on Infractions panel. One additional football student-athlete committed academic misconduct on his own.

The panel prescribed one year of probation, a two-year show-cause order and disassociation for the former student trainer, and a $5,000 fine for the university. During that time, if a member school hires the former student trainer in an athletically related position, she and the school must appear before a Committee on Infractions panel.

This case was resolved through the summary disposition process, a cooperative effort during which the involved parties collectively submit the case to the Committee on Infractions in written form. The NCAA enforcement staff, university and involved individuals must agree to the facts and overall level of the case to use this process instead of a formal hearing. The panel reviewing the case held an expedited penalty hearing because the university did not agree with one of the penalties.

During two academic years, the former student trainer and two football student-athletes engaged in academic misconduct when the former student trainer completed coursework for the student-athletes. These student-athletes, in addition to a third football student-athlete, also committed academic misconduct individually. The university determined the three student-athletes violated its academic integrity policies. The misconduct resulted in the student-athletes playing while ineligible — one student-athlete during the 2012-13 season and the other two student-athletes during the 2013-14 season.

The former student trainer also provided impermissible academic assistance to six additional football student-athletes in a total of 18 classes. She provided the assistance while she attended the university and a year after she graduated. Two of the student-athletes violated the university’s academic integrity policies. The remaining four student-athletes were not enrolled at the time the violations were discovered, so they were not subject to the university’s policies.

The panel found the former student trainer violated NCAA ethical conduct rules when she committed academic misconduct and provided the impermissible academic extra benefits. She signed documents outlining that she should not complete academic work for student-athletes, but the panel noted she provided the assistance and did not ask the university’s compliance representatives if her actions would violate university and NCAA rules.

Penalties prescribed by the panel include the following:

— Public reprimand and censure for the university.

— One year of probation from Nov. 22, 2016, through Nov. 21, 2017.

— A two-year show-cause order for the former student trainer from Nov. 22, 2016, through Nov. 21, 2018. During that time, any NCAA member school that hires her in an athletically related position must appear with her before a Committee on Infractions panel.

— A disassociation of the former student trainer from the university’s athletics program from Nov. 22, 2016, through Nov. 21, 2018. During this period, the university may not accept assistance in the recruitment of prospects or support of student-athletes from the former student trainer; may not accept donations to the athletics program from the former student trainer; may not extend athletics benefits or privilege to the former student trainer that is not generally available to the public; and must ensure the former student trainer is not involved in the university’s athletics program.

— A vacation of all records in which student-athletes participated while ineligible during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 football seasons.

— A $5,000 fine.

Members of the Committee on Infractions are drawn from NCAA membership and members of the public. The members of the panel who reviewed this case are Gregory Christopher, athletics director at Xavier University; Thomas Hill, senior policy advisor to the president of Iowa State University; Gregory Sankey, chief hearing officer for this panel, chair of the Committee on Infractions and commissioner for the Southeastern Conference; Larry Parkinson, director of enforcement for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; and Sankar Suryanarayan, university counsel, Princeton University.

Notre Dame will appeal NCAA decision
From the University of Notre Dame

The University of Notre Dame will appeal the decision announced Tuesday (Nov. 22) by the NCAA Committee on Infractions to vacate 2012 and 2013 football victories, the University’s president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, said. The NCAA has never before vacated the records of an institution that had no involvement in the underlying academic misconduct, and the membership has since voted to change the rule that brought this case within NCAA jurisdiction.

The penalty was based on misconduct by a former student who participated in the University’s student trainer program. She wrote papers for student-athletes, which was obviously unauthorized academic assistance. The University discovered the academic misconduct in 2014, and then addressed that misconduct through its honor code process. As a result, Notre Dame retroactively lowered grades of three student athletes who received improper assistance from the former student, giving them no academic credit that was not honestly earned.

“We very much appreciate the hard work of the NCAA enforcement staff and the members of the Committee on Infractions for their review of our case, but we believe the penalty they have imposed is not justified,” Father Jenkins said.

“We are disappointed in the actions of students who engaged in dishonesty, but we are gratified that the NCAA investigation confirmed the conclusions of our own internal investigation: Notre Dame acted honorably throughout. As soon as professional staff suspected academic dishonesty on the part of a student, the matter was reported promptly, investigated aggressively and thoroughly and adjudicated in accord with our Academic Code of Honor procedures and norms. In this case, everyone involved — those in Academic Services for Student-Athletes, in our football program and in our Compliance Office — and the faculty and students resolving these cases under our Honor Code did everything that we could have asked of them.

“We disagree with the decision of the hearing panel to impose, at its own discretion, a vacation of records penalty. In past academic misconduct cases, the Committee on Infractions has imposed this penalty only when it has found serious institutional misconduct, such as actions with the direct involvement or knowledge of a coach or academic personnel, a failure to monitor or a lack of institutional control. The NCAA enforcement staff and the hearing panel agreed with Notre Dame that no such institutional misconduct occurred in this case. Indeed, the only reason the NCAA reviewed the matter was because the misconduct involved a former fellow student who happened to participate in the University’s student trainer program—an activity which involved no responsibility for the academic work of student-athletes.

“We believe that imposition of the vacation of records penalty without serious underlying institutional misconduct will not primarily punish those responsible for the misconduct, but rather will punish coaches, student-athletes and indeed the entire institution who did nothing wrong and, with regard to this case, did everything right. We are also concerned that establishing this precedent will infringe on universities’ autonomy in deterring academic dishonesty, for it will discourage the retroactive lowering of grades even when an honor code committee deems this appropriate.

“As we said at the outset of this investigation, Notre Dame would willingly accept a vacation of records penalty if it were appropriate. It is not in this case. Indeed, should this precedent stand, it could create a perverse incentive that will discourage institutions from investigating so aggressively and imposing the penalties for academic dishonesty that their honesty committees might judge appropriate.”

University academic staff members became concerned about potential academic misconduct by one student-athlete and the former student in the summer of 2014. As a result, the University promptly launched a comprehensive investigation that included the review of 95,000 documents. The University immediately suspended the involved student-athletes from all athletic activities. At the conclusion of its honor code process, the University dismissed four student-athletes and imposed retroactive grade changes in the affected courses.

Notre Dame will submit its case to the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee.

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