The University of Oregon this week received a Notice of Allegations from the NCAA relating to infractions that took place in the track and field, and men’s and women’s basketball programs.
After careful review of the notice, the UO acknowledges that infractions occurred and takes responsibility for the actions of the involved staff members. The university, however, disagrees with the level of infraction that NCAA enforcement staff has assigned to some of the charges as well as with the decision to level charges against two of our head coaches. In those instances, the facts do not support the enforcement staff’s position nor does NCAA case precedent, and we plan to defend the university, our faculty and our head coaches.
The university has taken steps to address the issues and has confidence that such errors will not take place in the future. We have imposed discipline on involved personnel and enhanced our compliance education for all staff and coaches.
As noted by the NCAA, the UO detected and self-reported all infractions contained in the notice and imposed “meaningful corrective measures and/or penalties.” The NCAA also stated that the UO has an established history of self-reporting violations and that the institution “exhausted significant resources and spent countless hours reviewing surveillance footage” in the identification of the alleged infractions in men’s and women’s basketball.
The UO will provide detailed evidence in each of the cases in our response to the notice, which must be filed with the Committee on Infractions within 90 days. A summary of the charges includes:
- Allegation 1 charges academic misconduct involving a former track and field student-athlete and a faculty member. The faculty member changed a grade from failing to passing for a student-athlete, contingent on that student completing coursework at a later date. The university’s faculty athletics representative discovered the grade change, the university determined it was a violation of the UO’s grading policy, the student was immediately removed from competition and it was reported to the NCAA. As recent Committee on Infractions rulings have made clear, the NCAA gives sole power to the university in determining what constitutes academic misconduct. In this case, the university’s internal controls worked; there was no academic misconduct. The violation should be charged as an impermissible academic benefit.
“It is the role of the University Senate, the administration and other campus stakeholders to define and assess academic standards at the University of Oregon. Our faculty take very seriously our responsibility to ensure that no student is unfairly advantaged or disadvantaged as it relates to academic opportunity,” said Chris Sinclair, president of the University Senate and professor of mathematics. “While we acknowledge this was a violation of grading policy, this incident does not rise to our community standards for academic fraud or misconduct.”
- Allegation 6 charges that head men’s basketball coach Dana Altman failed to properly monitor his program when it was discovered that noncoaching staff members had conducted prohibited workouts with a handful of student-athletes and improperly participated in on-court activities (outlined in allegations 2 and 3). While we acknowledge the impermissible workout violation — one of the noncoaching staff members was suspended — the charge of head coach responsibility is not justified. We believe such a charge was intended for coaches who do not demonstrate a strong commitment to compliance and ethical stands, and this instance falls considerably short of the legislative intent and case precedent. The violation should be charged as an impermissible coaching activities infraction.
“I fully acknowledge that some members of our staff made mistakes when it comes to refereeing practice games and working out some players,” Altman said. “We have taken steps to correct these issues with our staff, and we are committed to complying with NCAA rules.”
- Allegation 7 charges that head women’s basketball coach Kelly Graves failed to properly promote an atmosphere of compliance under the head coach responsibility bylaw. The charge stems from strength and conditioning staff members participating in on-court drills and assisting in voluntary workouts outside the presence of the coaching staff (outlined in allegation 4). The charge of head coach responsibility is, again, not justified and falls short of the legislation’s intent and case precedent. The violation also should be charged as an impermissible coaching activities infraction.
“I regret that some members of my staff made errors of judgment, and I have taken actions to ensure that it doesn’t happen again,” Graves said. “I am steadfastly committed to building a winning program at the UO that operates in full compliance with NCAA bylaws and is committed to the highest levels of integrity.”
“Coach Altman and coach Graves are committed to compliance with NCAA bylaws, they have the highest ethical standards on and off the court, and each acknowledges the infractions that took place within their programs,” said UO Athletic Director Rob Mullens. “In both cases, our monitoring program identified the issues and they were reported to the NCAA. We have addressed the matters with the responsible employees and enhanced compliance training within the department. These cases do not merit the level of charges against the coaches sought by the NCAA.”
In an unrelated matter, in fall 2016, as a result of a misinterpretation by the UO compliance staff in advising then-football staff members, the UO football program improperly utilized an electronic reader board in the Casanova Center for recruiting purposes. The UO will not contest the charge.
The UO will continue to work in good faith with the NCAA staff as we defend our head coaches and institutional right to make academic misconduct decisions on these charges. We are appreciative of the NCAA staff’s professionalism and cooperation, and we look forward to filing our response and concluding this process.