The NCAA announced Wednesday that Southern University demonstrated a lack of institutional control in its eligibility and certification processes and penalized Southern with five years probation.
The NCAA also imposed scholarship reductions and a $5,000 fine, and Southern must vacate wins in which ineligible athletes participated.
Southern improperly certified more than 200 athletes across each of its 15 sports over a six-year period, according to the NCAA report.
The NCAA report identified three reasons for the improper certification issues: errors that occurred when academic records were transferred to a new system, poor record-keeping within the athletic department and a lack of training by those involved within the certification process.
Short of an actual death penalty for Southern University’s entire athletic program, it’s hard to imagine the NCAA handing down a harsher set o…
"These issues resulted in 439 instances of improper certifications for 218 student-athletes,” the report stated.
Though at first glance it appears to be a big blow to Southern athletics, interim athletic director Roman Banks seemed relieved that the university will finally be able to move past the struggles it's had in recent years.
Mostly, Banks was happy the NCAA went along with Southern’s self-imposed penalties rather than crippling the athletic department with stricter sanctions.
“It’s a great win for Southern University. ... We’ve been saying this thing is coming. … The great thing is that I think the NCAA showed trust in the leadership of this university,” Banks said. “They accepted all our self-imposed penalties, they did not add any postseason bans or anything like that.”
In a statement released by the university, SU system President and Chancellor Raymond Belton said he was ultimately pleased with the decision by the NCAA Committee on Infractions.
"Over the past several years, the University and the Department of Athletics have been aggressively pursuing and implementing measures and investing resources to address deficiencies that contributed to previous inaccuracies and NCAA infractions," Belton said in the statement.
"Corrective actions, including dedicating additional resources and adopting improved policies and procedures, have had a measurable and positive impact on our data collection, student-athlete certification, student academic performance, and compliance. ...
"Today’s outcome is the end of a long journey. Going forward we remain committed to investing to ensure we have the infrastructure to support a productive athletic program and strong institutional control and outstanding NCAA compliance."
The NCAA’s case ultimately “centered on an expansive, systemic breakdown in the eligibility certification process at Southern University that caused numerous violations of multiple NCAA bylaws,” according to Wednesday’s report.
Among the NCAA’s numerous examples of rules violations: two Southern athletes were allowed to compete beyond their four years of eligibility, six non-qualifiers — those who do not meet initial eligibility requirements — were allowed to compete, and 17 student-athletes who did not meet minimum GPA standards of 2.0 who were not held out.
The report also indicated that 188 ineligible student-athletes received travel expenses.
These violations were chalked up to a lack of institutional control, thanks to multiple failures at the administrative level.
Southern made an abrupt switch to a new student information system which required “a daunting amount of coding” to transfer student records, according to the NCAA report.
Several coding errors were made in this transfer, which among other problems erroneously listed the student’s major, which rendered Southern “incapable of generating accurate academic records,” according to the report. Because of this, Southern was not able to furnish transcripts and certification forms when asked.
There was also an issue with the application of financial aid. By law, out-of-state students attending a Louisiana school on an athletic scholarship are able to waive the non-resident fee at their institution. Southern had several instances with out-of-state athletes not on scholarship receiving the non-resident tuition waiver.
In addition to breaking the rule, the problem there is that NCAA legislation requires those waivers to be counted toward the financial aid given out by the university, which Southern did not do in all instances, resulting in a competitive advantage.
Southern also failed to comply with limitations in practice and competition time as prescribed by the Committee on Academic Performance (CAP) in May 2014. According to the report, this was as simple as the message not being proliferated to the coaches that their practice and competition time was limited to 16 hours and five days per week.
The NCAA report stated, “due to extensive turnover in the institution's administrative staffs, especially in the athletics compliance office, the institution never communicated these restrictions to the coaches. Consequently, during the 2014-15 academic year and fall 2015 semester, the institution did not comply with these CAP prescribed penalties.”
The NCAA committee on infractions deemed the violations to be Level I, or the most severe, “because it seriously undermines and threatens the integrity of the NCAA collegiate model.”
Still, the NCAA mostly went along with Southern’s self-imposed sanctions.
Among them were a total reduction of 18.5 scholarships across nine sports, including five in football and 3.6 in women’s track over the course of the next three academic years.
In the five-year probationary period, Southern must develop and implement a comprehensive educational program on academic eligibility certification for its coaches and athletic department staff, submit an annual progress report with the Office of the Committee on Infractions and inform prospective student athletes in writing about its probationary status and the violations committed.
The penalties did not include an expansion of Southern’s postseason ban, which currently allowS Southern to participate in conference tournaments and championship games. That was a win for Banks.
“For the NCAA to accept self-imposed penalties, you have to know they have a lot of confidence in what you’ve been doing as it relates to investigating yourself and taking corrective measures,” Banks said. “That’s a huge vote of confidence, so you know how I feel right now about the outcome. This is great.”