Contact: Melanie Magara, Office of Public Affairs
August 2, 2006
DeKalb – Northern Illinois University will not appeal an NCAA Committee on Infractions ruling handed down today in which the committee acknowledged “mitigating circumstances” and imposed a reduced minimum penalty.
Instead, NIU officials say the report and its one-year probation penalty brings closure to a long-standing case involving a former women’s basketball player. NIU first notified the NCAA of possible violations more than two years ago.
“At the heart of this case was a faculty member who, at the request of the athletic department, reached out to help a struggling student,” said NIU President John Peters. “We’re grateful to the infractions committee for recognizing that context and for acknowledging that NIU’s excellent compliance history strongly influenced their final decision.”
In late 2003, the former student-athlete sought help for personal problems and was referred by an employee of Intercollegiate Athletics to a faculty member well known for her compassion and ability to connect with students. Over the next several months, the faculty member (who is not connected with Athletics) provided financial help and temporary housing for the student-athlete, unaware that these “extra benefits” violated NCAA rules.
NIU compliance staff discovered the violations in July of 2004 and immediately reported them to the Mid-American Conference and the NCAA. Even as the case made its way through the NCAA, NIU took separate action, removing the student-athlete from her team, changing the process for referrals to faculty and staff outside Athletics, and issuing reprimands to two other members of the athletic department staff. NCAA investigators ultimately concurred with those decisions, and adopted the NIU-imposed staff penalties as part of their final report. Additionally, the NCAA report notes that most of the individuals involved in the case are no longer with the university.
“No one is harder on us than we are on ourselves,” said Jan Rintala, NIU’s faculty representative to the NCAA. “The NIU athletics program is operated with great integrity, and when mistakes occur, we own up to them.”
Rintala said NIU does educate faculty and staff about NCAA rules, and continues to study this case for insights that may improve those efforts.
“Deep and abiding concern for student welfare is part of our campus culture,” Rintala said. “We’re grateful to the NCAA for acknowledging that trait and for making clear that the ‘extra benefits’ the student-athlete received had nothing to do with basketball and provided absolutely no competitive advantage.”
“We are prepared to put this incident behind us,” said Peters. “My confidence in our athletic program and its compliance operation remains high. We’ve taken every lesson we can from this incident, and the result is a stronger program and better overall support for our student-athletes.”
The Committee on Infractions public report may be viewed on the NCAA’s website at www.ncaa.org.