Athletics Update and Response to NCAA Notice
December 20, 2016
Dear Rutgers Community:
Today, I write to you about the release of a Notice of Allegations (NOA) issued by the NCAA enforcement staff stemming from an investigation that began more than a year and a half ago into allegations that some members of the Department of Athletics had not been operating in full compliance with NCAA and University standards.
These allegations by the NCAA enforcement staff are primarily focused on issues that have been well reported and discussed throughout our community. The allegations are the result of a lengthy joint investigation with the NCAA enforcement staff. As you know, we have already taken significant remedial actions concerning many of these matters.
In the Spring of 2015, the NCAA began an inquiry into our athletics program. During the course of the review process, potential NCAA rules violations came to light involving the former head football coach and his communication with a member of the faculty on behalf of one of his student-athletes. Other possible violations were also identified in the prospective student-athlete host/hostess program used in the Department of Athletics and inconsistencies in the administration of the Department of Athletics drug testing procedures and policies. The University retained outside counsel for the investigation and has cooperated fully with the NCAA enforcement staff as the investigative process continued.
After more than eighteen months of inquiry and cooperation, the NCAA issued the NOA to the University, alleging seven violations of NCAA and University rules by two former football staff members, the Department’s host/hostess program, and a staff member with oversight of the drug testing program, and a charge to the University of a “failure to monitor” for part of its athletics program. A summary of allegations is provided below and further details can be found in the Notice of Allegations. Per NCAA enforcement legislation, the University has ninety days to formally respond to the NOA.
In an effort to be as transparent as possible while the infractions process continues, I thought it important to share some basic details, as well as the proactive steps that the University has already undertaken.
NCAA violations are designated as Level I and Level II, major violations, or Level III and Level IV, secondary violations. Our case has been given an initial Level II designation by the NCAA enforcement staff.
The alleged violations of NCAA bylaws include:
- The former head football coach is alleged to have provided a former student-athlete with an impermissible extra benefit by directly contacting a professor seeking special consideration for the student-athlete in an academic course relating to the 2014-2015 academic year. In addition, he is charged with failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance in the football program, violating the principles of NCAA head coach responsibility legislation. Both allegations are deemed Level II by the NCAA.
- A former assistant football coach is alleged to have had improper off-campus recruiting contact with a prospective student athlete in 2014 (Level III) and the NCAA has also charged the coach with unethical conduct for providing false or misleading information to the NCAA and the institution during the investigation. (Level II)
- The NCAA has alleged that between the 2011-12 academic year and the Fall of 2015, the Rutgers football host/hostess program, staffed by student workers, was not properly operated and supervised as required by NCAA legislation; that two student hostesses had impermissible off-campus contact and electronic correspondence with prospective student athletes; and that the former football director of recruiting impermissibly publicized the recruitment of prospective student-athletes. (Level II)
- It is alleged that between September 2011 and the Fall of 2015, the University and the Director of Sports Medicine employed practices and procedures that violated the institution’s drug-testing policy by: failing to notify the Director of Athletics of positive drug tests; along with the former head football coach, failing to implement prescribed corrective and disciplinary actions and penalties; and failing to identify select drug tests as positive in accordance with University policy. (Level II)
- Because of the scope of these alleged violations, the NCAA has also alleged that between 2011 and 2016, the University failed to monitor its football program regarding its host/hostess program and drug-testing program. (Level II)
The University has begun the process of reviewing the allegations in the NOA as well as assessing the level of severity assigned to each allegation by the NCAA enforcement staff. The University will comply with the NCAA process and submit its full response within ninety days followed by a hearing before the NCAA Committee on Infractions. The Committee will determine whether violations occurred, will consider aggravating and mitigating factors, and will ultimately decide what penalties should be assessed. The entire process may not be concluded until well into 2017.
The University has cooperated fully with the investigation since the start, including both the discovery and self-reporting of several of these violations. The University has also taken action against employees who violated the basic principles on which Rutgers stands and enacted measures to prevent future violations of NCAA bylaws including, but not limited to:
- The former Head Football Coach and former Assistant Football Coach involved in these alleged violations are no longer with the University and the two student host assistants have been terminated from their positions;
- Prior to his termination, after an initial review in the Fall of 2015, the University suspended the former Head Football Coach for three games and imposed a $50,000 fine;
- In August 2016, Rutgers instituted a comprehensive new drug testing policy as well as overhauled oversight and reporting lines of the drug test program and, in October 2016, a new chief medical officer assumed oversight of the drug test program;
- In November 2015, Pat Hobbs was hired as the new Director of Athletics after serving for many years as Dean of the Seton Hall College of Law and after serving as Ombudsman to the Office of the Governor to oversee compliance and ethics training and as Chairman of the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation;
- In 2016, the University hired an outstanding and highly qualified Senior Vice President for Enterprise Risk Management, Ethics and Compliance (ERM) and the Department of Athletics has added a Chief Compliance Officer, two new Directors of Compliance, and a new Coordinator of Student-Athlete Services and has committed a designated compliance staff member to work with the football program;
- The Department of Athletics launched a strategic plan initiative with a focus on compliance and risk management;
- A robust rules education program has been implemented, including monthly NCAA rules education during the academic year for coaching staffs, and the Office of Athletic Compliance and ERM have constructed a program to educate specific groups on various NCAA policies, institutional policies, and federal/state regulations;
- Head coaching contracts have been revised to include specific language regarding responsibilities in academics and compliance;
- The duties of members of the football host/hostesses program have been revised and regular compliance meetings with all program student workers are held.
We will continue to identify areas in which we can improve and implement new policies or procedures, if warranted. In addition, as we review the NOA, we expect to follow NCAA practices and precedents with respect to addressing those findings.
Rutgers is a proud member of the NCAA and of the Big Ten Conference and we must act in good faith and with the utmost integrity in our Department of Athletics. The strong leadership of Pat Hobbs, new Head Football Coach Chris Ash, and new Head Men’s Basketball Coach Steve Pikiell has us headed in the right direction.
Despite my disappointment over these allegations, I believe we are a stronger University because of our immediate and transparent response to them, and you have my word that we will continue to strive for excellence with integrity. In order to keep you abreast of developments in this process, we have set up a website at ncaaupdate.rutgers.edu.