This case involved the football program at San Diego State University and was centered on violations of NCAA bylaws governing impermissible out-of-season practice activities and a failure to monitor. The case was handled through the summary disposition process and was reviewed by the Division I Committee on Infractions during its October 11-12, 2002, meeting. During this meeting, the committee spoke with the university’s director of athletics with regard to several issues, including the likelihood that the committee would impose a two-year probationary period, the presumptive period of probation for a major case. In subsequent communications between the institution and the committee, it was made clear that the university did not agree that a probationary period was warranted. As a result, the institution requested an expedited hearing before the committee in accordance with NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199.3. That hearing took place on December 14, 2002.
The institution and the enforcement staff initially considered that the case should be categorized as secondary, but the institution subsequently agreed that this case was major in nature because the violations were neither isolated nor inadvertent, as is required under the definition of a secondary violation, Bylaw 19.02.2.1. The committee concurred with this assessment, and also concluded that a competitive advantage was obtained through these out-of-season workouts. The assistant football coach who supervised the activities wrote in a newsletter that these workouts “have been good for our explosiveness and balance, (as well as) for building cohesiveness as a unit,” and “No other O-Line in the country is working out at 6 a.m. on the beach carrying a heavy LOG on their back.” In addition to the out-of-season practice activities, there was an associated failure to
monitor the football program and one violation of extra-benefit legislation. The violations were committed by the football coaching staff and demonstrate a lack of respect at times for certain rules. For example, the current head coach (henceforth, the Case No. M190 - “head coach”), should have known that using a taped towel in lieu of a ball (Finding II-B-3) would not legitimize impermissible team (11-on-11) activities. The former head coach and an assistant coach (henceforth, “the assistant coach”), should have realized that the sand workouts (Finding II-A) were, at a minimum, questionable, and the assistant coach also should have questioned the permissibility of the shirts and caps he issued to student-athletes (Finding II-C). The institution’s inadequate monitoring compounded the seriousness. However, the committee recognized that there was no improper booster involvement and no recruiting, financial aid, academic or unethical conduct violations in this case.
The summary disposition process is a cooperative endeavor that may be used when the NCAA enforcement staff, the member institution and involved individuals agree on the facts of an infractions case and that those facts constitute major violations of NCAA legislation. The institution also proposes penalties. In this instance, the committee approved the findings included in the report as well as the self-imposed penalties, which the committee found to be meaningful and significant. However, due to the seriousness of the out-of-season practice violations, the committee concluded that a waiver of the presumptive two-year probationary period was not warranted. After the expedited hearing on December 14, the committee deliberated on the issue of the probationary period, and concluded that a two-year period of probation was appropriate. As indicated in the introduction to this report, the two-year probationary period is a presumptive penalty in a major case, and, with very few exceptions, is considered by the committee to be the minimal amount of time an institution is placed on probation for major infractions. Probation is a period of increased self-evaluation by the institution and scrutiny by the NCAA, and includes annual reporting requirements by the affected institution.
In this case, the out-of-season practice impacted on student-athlete welfare issues since these practices were considered by the majority of the student-athletes to be mandatory and thus contrary to the spirit of mandated “time off” requirements for student-athletes. Student-athlete welfare is a point of emphasis among the membership in recent years. Moreover, the committee was concerned that these workouts were not sufficiently
monitored for potential safety issues.
San Diego State is a Division I institution and a member of the Mountain West and Mountain Pacific Conferences. The university has an enrollment of approximately 30,000 students and sponsors six men's and 12 women's intercollegiate sports. The university had previous major infractions cases in 1991 (women’s basketball) and 1983
II. FINDINGS OF VIOLATIONS OF NCAA LEGISLATION.
A. IMPERMISSIBLE MANDATORY OUT-OF-SEASON WORKOUTS; IMPROPER USE OF STUDENT-ATHLETES IN A COMMERCIAL PRODUCTION. [NCAA Bylaws 188.8.131.52.2, 17.02.1-(c) and 184.108.40.206]
During the summers of 1998 through to 2001, the assistant coach conducted mandatory workouts with student-athletes who played the position of offensive line. The workouts (known as “sand training”) were conducted at 6 a.m. each Wednesday morning from late May through July. The sessions were approximately one hour in duration and consisted primarily of conditioning activities (e.g., plyometrics). The practices were held at Mission Beach, and the assistant coach kept attendance that was periodically posted in a newsletter distributed to the offensive line.
Further, in the summer of 2000, at least one of the sand practices (involving student-athletes with remaining eligibility) was videotaped at the assistant coach's request by the institution's video coordinator assistant. The video, entitled, “Deep Sand Training,” was subsequently made available for commercial sale through the assistant coach's Internet web site (www.offensiveline.net) to the general public, citing the assistant coach's institutional office telephone number as a contact source. “Deep Sand Training” was part of a three-video package. “Run Fundamentals” and “Pass Protection Fundamentals” were also videotaped on the university’s campus and depicted student-athletes with remaining eligibility performing drills specific to the position of an offensive lineman.
Information about this violation was initially reported to the NCAA and then appeared in an article in a San Diego newspaper. The enforcement staff, the institution and the assistant coach agreed that the sand workouts occurred over a four-year period and violated basic rules governing out-of-season practice activities (i.e., staff members having mandatory sessions with student-athletes).
The evolution of the sand workouts dates back to a practice of the offensive line coach who preceded the assistant coach. These workouts were held at the sand volleyball courts on campus as part of the strength and conditioning program. When the assistant coach assumed duties as offensive line coach in 1998, campus construction necessitated the removal of the sand volleyball courts and the relocation of the sand workouts to Mission Beach. The workouts in 1998 were loosely structured in the beginning and Case largely served the purpose of building comradery among the offensive linemen. The workouts were not exclusive to the offensive line, as several other position players and former student-athletes attended the workouts. By the summer of 1999, the assistant coach exerted more control over the workouts; attendance was perceived by the majority of student-athletes to be mandatory and was recorded. A typical workout consisted of the following activities: (1) warm-up jog and stretch, (2) explosions out of stance, (3) high jumps, (4) long jumps, (5) back pedaling and (6) plyometric movements performed with a log. The assistant coach contended that he could attend these workouts as long as student-athletes were not engaging in specific football-related activities and did not consider the workouts as mandatory. However, during the joint interviews of the staff and institution, the majority of the football student-athletes believed the workouts to be mandatory and a violation of NCAA legislation.
The previously referenced newsletters written and distributed by the assistant coach provided especially compelling evidence of the organized and mandatory nature of the summer beach workouts. One of the newsletters stated, “I have been pleased and proud of those who have made the workouts…It is being noticed by all!” Later in that same newsletter, the names were listed of all the student-athletes who had perfect attendance at these sessions. Next to this list was the following statement: “Congratulations to those
with PERFECT Sand Training attendance. Your commitment is respected and admired!”
B. IMPERMISSIBLE COUNTABLE ATHLETICALLY RELATED ACTIVITY.
[NCAA Bylaws 17.02.1-(a)-(3) and 17.02.1-(a)-(4), 17.02.1-(h), 220.127.116.11, 18.104.22.168.1, 22.214.171.124.2 and 17.10.6]
During the spring semester of the 2001-02 academic year and prior to the official starting date of spring football practice on March 19, 2002, the football coaching staff conducted countable athletically related activities during a time when they were not permissible. Specifically,
1. Several assistant football coaches held position meetings to discuss academics or other issues with the student-athletes they coached. However, each of these meetings included the diagramming of plays and “chalk talk,” in which the student-athletes took notes.
2. On at least eight occasions, the assistant coach conducted pass-protection drills that were referred to as "focus mitts." These sessions occurred immediately after the organized conditioning activities and lasted a total of 15 minutes. The assistant coach videotaped at least one focus mitts session. Focus mitts are large padded gloves held by one offensive lineman to absorb a blow delivered by another offensive lineman. Focus mitts are commonly used in martial arts training.
3. During the March 8-18, 2002, time period and in addition to permissible organized conditioning activities, the football coaching staff had members of the football squad participate in impermissible position-specific and 11-on-11 activities designed to simulate game or practice situations. The 11-on-11 activities were conducted on five occasions during afternoon practice sessions, while position-specific activities were conducted on eight occasions during both morning and afternoon sessions. Specifically, the one-on-one drills consisted of wide receivers running pass patterns against the defensive backs, who were covering them while other student-athletes were performing position-specific agility drills. The team activities consisted of an offensive and a defensive squad simulating plays with 11-on-11 activities including a taped towel in lieu of a football, as well as “11-on-air” situations. In this regard, the student-athletes followed formations, motions, cadences of the offense; and adjustments of alignment and coverages by the defense.
The enforcement staff and the institution agreed that improper meetings and practice sessions helped the team get an early start on spring football and that an advantage was gained from these activities, especially those described in Finding II-B-3. The committee agreed with this assessment. The violations resulted from the eagerness of a new football staff to familiarize the team with new offensive and defensive schemes.
With specific reference to Finding II-B-1, this violation was discovered through on-campus interviews conducted by the university and the enforcement staff. The coaches viewed the position meetings as a method to keep tabs on their players’ academics and for the student-athletes to familiarize themselves with the new coaches. The coaches reported that although the meetings began on the basis of discussing academic or other issues, the student-athletes often asked coaches to explain how the new “west coast offense” was going to operate; hence, the discussions digressed to “chalk talks.” The coaches would then diagram some of the plays and answer questions from the student-athletes. The student-athletes, however, viewed the meetings primarily as “chalk-talks” designed to familiarize them with the offense.
Like Finding II-B-1, the violations set forth in Finding II-B-2 were uncovered through on-campus interviews. The focus mitts sessions were conducted at the conclusion of organized strength and conditioning workouts in the weight room. These sessions were generally short and concentrated on one aspect of offensive line play.
The position-specific and team (11-on-11) activities took place during six days of a two-week period between the conclusion of the formal strength and conditioning program and the official start of spring practice. The one-on-one and agility drills were 20 to 30 minutes in duration, and were held after the morning and the afternoon weight training sessions. [Note: Some organized weight training continued after the “formal” conditioning program was finished.] Although there were a total of eight times when these activities occurred, it is important to note that each student-athlete was involved in only four of these sessions. This occurred because the team was split into two groups for the weight training sessions. Therefore, in the morning, for example, half the team lifted weights while the other half participated in the position-specific agility drills. In the afternoon, the groups rotated. Hence, each student-athlete participated in drills for 20 to 30 minutes on four occasions.
The team activities were rationalized by coaches as serving a conditioning component while simultaneously familiarizing the student-athletes with the movements (e.g., formations, motions, coverages) that would be used during official spring practice. These sessions were of 30 to 45 minutes in duration. The team and individual sessions provided at least a basic knowledge of the teams’ offensive and defensive schemes, reduced the learning curve of the new offense and defense, and ensured that the 15 permissible practice opportunities were more meaningful. The head coach acknowledged that these activities were “pushing it” and that the compliance staff should have been consulted about the appropriateness of these workouts.
C. IMPERMISSIBLE EXTRA BENEFITS – PROVISION OF APPAREL ITEMS.
[NCAA Bylaws 16.02.3 and 126.96.36.199]
During the 1998-99 through 2001-02 academic years, the assistant coach provided impermissible apparel to the student-athletes who played the position of offensive line. Specifically, at the commencement of training camp each year, the assistant coach distributed “flexi-fit” hats embroidered with the offensive line’s theme for the particular year. Themes have included “Big Block Boys,” “O-Line Finish the Block” and “Trench Warriors.” Further, at the conclusion of the 2002 spring practices, the assistant coach distributed shirts embroidered with the phrase “Tuff 15” to only those members of the offensive line who attended all 15-spring practice sessions. The fair market value of the shirts was approximately $35 and the hats, approximately $25.
The enforcement staff and the institution agreed that the apparel items were provided with no intent to violate a rule and provided little, if any, competitive advantage. However, the violations occurred over a period of four years, was not isolated or inadvertent and thus could not be considered a secondary violation. No student-athlete was withheld from a competition via the student-athlete reinstatement process due to these violations.
D. FAILURE TO MONITOR.
[NCAA Constitution 2.8.1]
During the period of the violations noted in this report, the institution failed to monitor its football program and failed to successfully establish an environment in the sport of football that caused the athletics department staff to report possible rules violations.
1. The "sand practices" were common knowledge among the football student-athletes, members of the strength and conditioning program, athletics training and football coaching staffs. The head football coach observed at least seven or eight of these workouts. Yet, the compliance staff and athletics department administrator charged with oversight of the football program were unaware of these activities. Furthermore, even though the student-athletes and the strength and conditioning staff considered the workouts to be a violation, no one reported a violation or requested an interpretation of the rules to determine whether these workouts were permissible.
2. The institution failed to monitor the out-of-season activities of the football coaching staff during the 2002 spring semester. These workouts were conducted on campus proximate to the institution's athletics facilities and were clearly contrary to the legislation governing countable athletically related activities. Furthermore, the head coach considered the activities to be in a “gray area” with regard to NCAA legislation, yet did not request an interpretation of the rules to determine whether these workouts were permissible or report a violation.
The violations acknowledged were of sufficient visibility and/or common knowledge to conclude that more vigilant monitoring could have detected the violations in Findings A and B. The institution has acknowledged its failure to adequately monitor its football program and has taken meaningful corrective actions and self-imposed penalties. A key aspect of the failure to monitor can be attributed to a communication gap between the compliance and football staff that began with the former head football coach. During his tenure, the former head coach tended to take compliance-related issues to the then faculty athletics representative rather than the director of compliance. This practice contributed to a disconnection between the compliance office and the sport of football, and hands-on monitoring suffered to some extent. The former head coach’s tendency to contact the faculty athletics representative for interpretation stemmed in part from the fact that the faculty athletics representative handled that responsibility before a full-time director of compliance was hired in October 1997. Although the responsibility for rules interpretation shifted to the director of compliance, the former head coach continued to contact the faculty athletics representative due to the trust and comfort level with one another. The decision to bypass the compliance director did not appear to be motivated to circumvent the rules, or to obtain a more favorable or sympathetic ear on questions of rules application. [Note: Neither the former head coach nor the current head coach reported the practice activities to the faculty athletics representative or sought a rules interpretation on this issue from him.]
III. COMMITTEE ON INFRACTIONS PENALTIES.
For the reasons set forth in Parts I and II of this report, the Committee on Infractions found that this case involved several major violations of NCAA legislation.
A. PENALTIES SELF-IMPOSED BY THE UNIVERSITY.
In determining the appropriate penalties to impose, the committee considered the institution's self-imposed penalties and corrective actions. [Note: the institution’s corrective actions are contained in Appendix 2.] The university imposed the following penalties on its football program:
1. The university reduced the total maximum number of allowable football scholarships from 85 to 82 in the 2002-03 academic year, 85 to 83 in the 2003-04 academic year and 85 to 84 in the 2004-05 academic year.
In addition, these reductions of the total number cause a direct reduction in the number of scholarships the university can offer at midyear, and a reduction of the number of initial scholarships it can award over the next three years. Normally, the football program is able to utilize Bylaw 188.8.131.52.5 (Midyear Replacement), to bring in on average 2-5 midyear transfer student-athletes on scholarship and defer them being counted in the initial category until the following academic year. This self-imposed penalty precludes the use of this bylaw because the university will not meet the prescribed bylaw criteria of having reached the maximum number of scholarships.
2. The university eliminated (or will eliminate) 21 practice days: three days from the 2002 preseason practice schedule, four days during the 2002 football season, seven of the 15 allowable days for the 2003 spring practice and seven of the 15 allowable days for 2004 spring practice.
3. The university reduced the number of permissible football coaches recruiting off-campus by one for a period of four days during the April 15 to May 31, 2002, evaluation period.
4. The assistant coach was removed from off-campus recruiting activities for a period of 17 days during the April 15 to May 31, 2002, evaluation period and was suspended for six practice days, five without pay, during preseason practice for the 2002 season. During that time, the assistant coach was not allowed to have contact with the program. The assistant coach was also suspended for an additional five days without pay at the conclusion of the 2002 football season. As a part of that suspension, the assistant coach was required to reimburse the university for the cost of supplies, equipment and staff time used in videotaping the sand workouts. Finally, a letter of reprimand was placed in the assistant coach’s personnel file with a specific warning that involvement in any other NCAA rules violations will lead to dismissal.
5. A letter of reprimand will be placed in the current head football coach's personnel file.
6. Letters of admonishment will be placed in the personnel files of the remaining eight football coaches as well as those of the head strength and conditioning coach.
7. The current head football coach and the assistant coach will be required to attend one of the spring 2003 NCAA regional rules seminars at their own expense.
B. ADDITIONAL PENALTIES IMPOSED BY THE COMMITTEE ON INFRACTIONS.
The institution has agreed that these violations were major and, as a result, imposed significant penalties and meaningful corrective actions. As previously set forth, these penalties resulted in the reduction of total grant numbers in football and reduced practice opportunities during the fall of 2002 and for spring football practice in 2003 and 2004. There were also significant disciplinary actions taken against those who were responsible for the violations. The self-imposed penalties and disciplinary measures are consistent with those penalties and disciplinary measures for “major violations” as identified in Bylaw 184.108.40.206.
Because of the significant impact of these self-imposed penalties, the committee chose to impose only the penalties of public reprimand and censure and the presumptive probationary period, as explained in the introduction of this report.
The additional penalties are as follows:
1. San Diego State University shall be publicly reprimanded and censured.
2. The university shall be placed on two years of probation beginning February 25, 2003, and concluding on February 24, 2005.
3. During this period of probation, the institution shall:
a. Continue to develop and implement a comprehensive educational program on NCAA legislation, including seminars and testing, to instruct the coaches, the faculty athletics representative, all athletics department personnel and all university staff members with responsibility for the certification of student-athletes for admission, retention, financial aid or competition;
b. Submit a preliminary report to the director of the NCAA committees on infractions by April 15, 2003, setting forth a schedule for establishing this compliance and educational program;
c. File with the committee's director annual compliance reports indicating the progress made with this program by October 15 of each year during the probationary period. Particular emphasis should be placed on compliance with NCAA legislation relating to playing and practice seasons; and
d. Include in the annual compliance report documentation of the university's compliance with its self-imposed penalties.
4. At the conclusion of the probationary period, the institution's president shall provide a letter to the committee affirming that the university's current athletics policies and practices conform to all requirements of NCAA regulations.
As required by NCAA legislation for any institution involved in a major infractions case, San Diego State University shall be subject to the provisions of NCAA Bylaw 220.127.116.11, concerning repeat violators, for a five-year period beginning on the effective date of the penalties in this case, February 25, 2003.
The Committee on Infractions wishes to advise the institution that it should take every precaution to ensure that the terms of the penalties are observed. The committee will monitor the penalties during their effective periods, and any action contrary to the terms of any of the penalties or any additional violations shall be considered grounds for extending the institution's probationary period, as well as imposing more severe sanctions
in this case.
APPENDIX ONE: CASE CHRONOLOGY.
December – The NCAA enforcement staff began receiving information regarding the mandatory
summer workouts conducted by the assistant football coach and his provision of impermissible
apparel to student-athletes who played the position of offensive line. Initial information
indicated that documentary evidence was available that would substantiate that practices had
occurred and that they were mandatory.
Late April – The enforcement staff interviewed three individuals about the violations in the San
Diego State University football program who substantially corroborated the initial information,
but these individuals refused to be on the record and allow the staff to share information with the
Early May –The San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper published several articles about the
football program that contained information about the out-of-season practices at a local beach
during the summers of 1998 through 2001. This was the same information that had been initially
reported to the NCAA. The enforcement staff contacted the institution, and a meeting was
scheduled between the enforcement staff and representatives of the institution.
May 9 to July – The institution and enforcement staff began a joint inquiry into the football
program. Approximately 30 individuals were interviewed. Most of the interviews were held on
Late July – The enforcement staff and institution reached agreement on the violations that
occurred. The staff and institution prepared a joint report requesting that the Committee on
Infractions process this case as secondary.
Late July – San Diego State University announced self-imposed penalties, including suspension
without pay of the assistant football coach, loss of practice opportunities in the fall of 2002 and
two subsequent springs, reduction of scholarship limits, and enhanced compliance oversight
September 17 – The enforcement staff and institution agreed to process the case via a summary
September 26 – Letter from the institution’s president to the Division I Committee on Infractions
consenting to the processing of the case as major in nature.
October 12 - The summary disposition report was considered by the Division I Committee on
December 14 − An expedited hearing before the Division I Committee on Infractions took place.
February 25 - Infractions Report No. 207 was released.
CORRECTIVE ACTIONS TAKEN BY THE UNIVERSITY.
1 On one of the days where practice is suspended in the 2002 fall camp, the football
coaches and football operations staff, administrators, strength and condition coaches, and
trainers will attend a one-day mandatory rules seminar.
2. The athletics department will establish mandatory random monitoring by athletic
administrators of individual team practice activities.
3. The athletics department will establish mandatory rules orientation for all new coaches,
individually and by coaching staffs, whenever such a hiring occurs.
4. Senior athletics administrators will be required to attend the annual NCAA regional rules
seminar on a rotating basis.
5. The student-athletes with remaining eligibility, who received impermissible benefits
(special offensive line hats and shirts), were declared ineligible and required to make