To federal officials, it represented "perhaps the largest centralized fraud upon the federal Pell Grant program ever committed." To Sports Illustrated, it was part of a string of issues that prompted an open letter to the university president urging him to drop football as a sport. It included a pay-for-performance fund years before future Miami alum Jonathan Vilma and the Saints would face Bountygate. And it involved an athletic director, Paul Dee, who would later go on to chair the committee that handed down the penalties against USC. The infractions spanned ten years.
Violations in Football
- For two academic years (1989-90 and 1990-91), an assistant director for academics in athletics support
services arranged for 77 student-athletes (including 55 football
players) to fraudulently receive a total of $212,969 in Pell Grant
funds that they were not entitled to receive. Adjusted for inflation,
this would equal approximately $326,828.80 ($233,449.14 pro rata in
football) in extra benefits in 2005. [side note: approximately 60 student-athletes avoided criminal prosecution by enrolling in the government's pretrial-diversion program. The assistant director pled guilty to obtaining Pell Grant funds through fraud, false, statements, and forgery, and was sentenced to three years in prison.]
- For two academic years (1993-94 and 1994-95), the institution failed to follow and enforce its drug abuse policy by permitting three football players to compete despite failing multiple drug tests each. [side note: this infraction was discovered after a report on the eve of the NFL Draft alleged that Warren Sapp failed seven drug tests at Miami.]
- The head football coach and the associate director of athletics for compliance and internal operations were aware that, for seven football seasons (1986 to 1992), football players and at least one former Miami player then with the NFL contributed money to a pay-for-performance pool that impermissibly rewarded players for the best tackle during the course of regular season and postseason games.
- For four academic years (1990-91 to 1993-94), the institution improperly awarded $223,705.04 in excessive financial aid to a total of 141 football players who lived off campus due to the institution's miscalculation of the off-campus room and board stipend. Adjusted for inflation, this would equal $321,102.72 in excessive financial aid in 2005.
- For seven academic years (1985-86 to 1991-92), numerous football players received compensation for impermissible employment during the academic year arranged by two former Miami football players. The football players worked as security guards at an art festival and received approximately $100 per day. The amount paid could have been as much as $9,000 in any one year.
- For five academic years (1989 fall semester through 1993 fall semester), the assistant director (from the Pell Grant fraud) permitted approximately 40 to 60 student-athletes to receive without cost an average of $110 in impermissible books that were not required, course-related, or included in the student-athlete's scholarship. [Note: the report does not break down what sports were involved, except that one student-athlete competed in track and field]
- [Secondary violation] From 1986 to 1995, a booster group impermissibly provided paper, pencils, pens, and notepads to the Academic Support Center where they could be taken by student-athletes
- The scope and nature of the violations described, and the length of time that some went undiscovered, demonstrate a lack of appropriate institutional control.
For a list of the violations in the USC case, click here.
Violations in Other Sports
At the teleconference announcing the USC penalties, the NCAA stated that violations in men's basketball and women's tennis were treated independently from football. Thus, those violations are irrelevant to the penalties in football. Likewise, Miami had violations in basketball, swimming, golf, baseball, track, tennis, and crew.
Repeat Violator Status
NCAA bylaws permit the Committee on Infractions to impose presumptive and enhanced "repeat violator" penalties on institutions who commit violations within five years of a prior infractions report, including the infamous "death penalty." The repeat violator window runs from the effective date of the penalties in the prior report.
Miami's previous major infractions case was in 1981, but Miami was apparently not considered a repeat violator in 1995 as the term does not appear in the report. This may be because the repeat violator rule was adopted in 1985, and the NCAA may not have made it retroactive. Had it done so, Miami's repeat violator window would have run from November 2, 1981, to November 2, 1986. Thus, the pay-for-performance pool, impermissible employment, and impermissible course supplies infractions would have fallen within that hypothetical window.
However, Miami was certainly a repeat violator when it went back before the Committee on Infractions in 2002 for recruiting and financial aid violations in baseball. Nevertheless, the committee "chose not to impose" the enhanced repeat-violator penalties. The NCAA docked Miami's baseball team 4.66 scholarships over three years.
USC's repeat violator status from a 2001 infractions report, involving tutors improperly drafting papers for two football players and a women's diver, ran from August 23, 2001, to August 23, 2005. This window included many of the Bush-Lake violations. The NCAA's report in the Reggie Bush case notes this and states, "Although the committee chose not to impose any of these enhanced [repeat violator] penalties, stiff sanctions are warranted in light of the serious violations found by the committee and the fact the institution is a 'repeat violator.'"
Knowledge/Participation of Institution
Miami personnel were directly involved in the Pell Grant fraud, the failure to enforce the drug abuse policy, the impermissible book distribution, and the miscalculation of the room and board stipend. Additionally, the head coach and the associate director of athletics for compliance and internal operations had knowledge of the pay-for-performance pool. The report does not indicate that Miami personnel participated in or had knowledge of the employment violations.
For purposes of penalties against the institution, the NCAA did not find that any USC personnel participated in or had knowledge of the Bush violations. What about assistant coach Todd McNair, you ask? In refusing to permit USC to appeal the findings against McNair, the NCAA clarified, "[T]he penalties imposed against the football program were not based on, or enhanced because of, any NCAA violations committed by [Todd McNair]." Thus, the USC penalties were imposed in the absence of any finding that USC personnel had knowledge of the Bush violations. The head coach was directly involved in the coaching staff limitation violation.
Committee chair Paul Dee famously said at the teleconference
announcing USC's penalties that "high profile players demand high-profile
compliance." Dee also stated, "The sanctions that were put in place, we believe, most properly respond to the benefits gained by the institution through the notoriety that occurred during these periods of time, which led to enhanced recruiting, which led to their ability to recruit other athletes. And consequently we thought, at least in the area of the scholarship limitations, that that would be an appropriate penalty."
The violations involved substantial numbers of football players (55 in the Pell Grant fraud, three in the drug abuse policy violation, 141 in the room and board stipend, and an unknown number in the pay-for-performance and employment violations). Warren Sapp was reportedly one of the players who failed multiple drug tests. Sapp was a highly-recruited player who was named to the Florida High School Association All-Century Team. At Miami, Sapp was a consensus All-American, won the Lombardi Award and Bronko Nagurski Trophy, and was a first round draft pick (12th overall). During the course of the violations, Miami played in three Sugar Bowls, four Orange Bowls, two Fiesta Bowls, and a Cotton Bowl. Miami won three National Championships and three Big East Championships.
Reggie Bush was a highly-rated prospect (#1 RB, 5-star recruit per Rivals.com; #3 RB, 4-star recruit per Scout.com) when he signed with USC in 2003. He was a two-time consensus All-American and won the Heisman Trophy in 2005. During the course of the violations, USC played in two BCS National Championship games, won one National Championship, and won two Pac-10 Championships.
NCAA bylaws require institutions and individuals to "cooperate fully" and "impose an affirmative obligation on each institution to assist the enforcement staff in developing full information to determine whether a possible violation of NCAA legislation has occurred and the details thereof." NCAA Bylaws 19.01.3, 32.1.4.
"The institution's cooperation and active role during the investigation resulted in its agreement with the enforcement staff as to material facts, and the institution admitted a majority of the violations. Most of the matters in dispute at the hearing before the committee were confined to interpretation and application of NCAA legislation."
"The committee determined that the cooperation exhibited by the institution met its obligation under Bylaws 19.01.3.3 [sic] and 32.1.4. The cooperation the institution demonstrated in this case must be weighed against the conduct and failures of the institution and its personnel as set forth in Findings B-1-(b), B-6 and B-7. The committee concluded that in light of the serious nature of the violations and the failure of the institution to detect and/or prevent them, the institution's cooperation did not warrant relief in the penalties imposed by the committee in this case."
- Miami - one year (1995)
- USC - two years (2010 and 2011)
Former Miami athletic director Paul Dee, speaking for the NCAA at the conference announcing the USC penalties, explained the calculation for USC's bowl ban, stating, "Frankly, it was the number of bowl games that the individual participated in." Miami participated in ten bowl games during the span of its infractions.
- Miami - none
- USC - Juniors and seniors in 2010, and seniors in 2011, could transfer to other schools and be immediately eligible to play (i.e., without the usual one-year waiting period).
The number of football scholarships a school can give out is capped in two ways: (1) a school can have no more than 85 total players on scholarship ("total scholarships"); and (2) a school can award no more than 25 new scholarships ("initial scholarships") per year (e.g., to high school recruits)
- Miami - Loss of 15 total and 31 initial (new player) scholarships spread over 3 years (Year 1: loss of 5 total and 7 initial scholarships [self imposed by Miami] | Year 2: loss of 5 total and 13 initial scholarships | Year 3: loss of 5 total and 11 initial scholarships)
- USC - Loss of 30 total and 30 initial (new player) scholarships spread over 3 years (Year 1: loss of 10 total and 10 initial scholarships | Year 2: loss of 10 total and 10 initial scholarships | Year 3: loss of 10 total and 10 initial scholarships)
- Miami - None
- USC - Vacated all wins from December 2004 through 2005 season (14 wins).
- Miami - None
- USC - Reggie Bush permanently disassociated (Bush may not be involved with or donate money to USC athletics -- ever). [self imposed by USC; unclear if this was permanent or if the NCAA made it permanent]
- Miami - None
- USC - $5,000 [self imposed by USC]
- Miami - three years
- USC - four years
- Miami - None
- USC - USC must inform recruits of the violations committed and penalties imposed, either in advance of an official visit or prior to signing. USC must also publicize the information in its football media guide and a general institution alumni publication to be chosen by the institution with the approval of the NCAA.
Those familiar with the Miami case may wonder about the absence of any reference to former 2 Live Crew rapper Luther Campbell, who reportedly contributed money to the pay-for-performance pool (allegedly as much as $500 for a touchdown against Notre Dame). This excerpt from the Daily News is interesting, especially in light of the NCAA's criticism of USC for allowing celebrities on the sidelines:
Miami believes it won at least one point, convincing the committee that rap star Luther Campbell - who paid Hurricane players cash for game performances - is not a booster, as the NCAA enforcement staff charged.
Campbell stood on the Miami sideline for several years, thanked the Hurricanes on album jackets, had players rapping on albums and hired players as bodyguards. But Campbell was not a season-ticketholder and did not give money to the athletic department.
This account appears to be accurate as the Miami infractions report does not indicate that boosters contributed to the pay-for-performance pool. The report says the money was collected from current players and at least one former player.