NCAA Investigations of Student-Athletes

If you are an NCAA student-athlete, you already understand the additional demands you have as a member of a university team. Being a student-athlete also comes with a bevy of conduct requirements that must be followed by you as a student-athlete and by your institution. A failure to adhere to the conduct requirements can result in an investigation, resulting in a violation that can lead to being removed from your team and even expelled from your school. If you face an NCAA investigation, you must speak to an experienced attorney as soon as possible.

What is an NCAA Investigation?

AN NCAA investigation occurs whenever there are alleged NCAA rules violations by a student-athlete and/or an athletic program. The infractions process expects cooperation from NCAA member institutions when investigating and processing alleged NCAA rules violations. The enforcement staff of the NCAA is entrusted with investigating any suspected NCAA violations. The enforcement staff may first request the institution conduct its own inquiry before opening an investigation related to any NCAA violations. NCAA member institutions must have clearly outlined institutional investigative policies regarding how investigations related to possible NCAA rules violations must be handled.

What Type of Violations Do NCAA Investigations Look For?

NCAA investigations can result in one of three levels of violations if misconduct is found.

  • Level I Violations: this type of violation is considered the most serious and is referred to as a severe breach of conduct. Violations at this level are considered to undermine or threaten the integrity of the NCAA Collegiate Model. Level I violations can include lack of institutional control, academic misconduct, or other unethical conduct such as receiving cash payments.
  • Level II Violations: this type of violation is considered the next most serious and is referred to as a significant breach of conduct. These types of violations provide or are intended to provide an unfair advantage over other NCAA member institutions. Level II violations can include failure to monitor, recruiting violations, or financial aid violations, among other issues.
  • Level III Violations: this type of violation is considered the least serious and simply referred to as a breach of conduct. These are violations that are isolated or limited in nature. Level III violations can include inadvertent violations, extra benefits, or other eligibility or recruiting violations.

How Should an Institution Initiate an NCAA Investigation?

The first step of any NCAA member institution investigation is to contact the NCAA enforcement staff to coordinate the investigation and avoid any delays. Before starting an investigation, it is important for an institution to review its investigative policies and procedures. These policies and procedures should include specific criteria and guidelines for how an investigation is supposed to be conducted. An institution must first receive permission from the NCAA enforcement staff to conduct its own investigation. Once an institution is authorized to conduct an investigation, it should develop a strategy and framework of the case and potential violations.

What Type of Documents Can Be Collected in an NCAA Investigation?

When an institution conducts an NCAA investigation, the potential documents that can be requested and collected include:

  • Academic records
  • Computer records
  • Financial records
  • Cell phone records
  • Social media records
  • Recruiting files
  • Travel records
  • Vehicle information

It is common for investigators to request things like transcripts, ACT/SAT scores, emails, text messages, and recruiting visit files. Some of these records will be easier for investigators to obtain than others. Any student that is facing a request for records should immediately contact an experienced attorney.

Interview Guidelines for NCAA Investigations

An institution is expected to interview anyone that has potential knowledge or involvement in any potential violations. Potential people who can be interviewed include any source of information, current and former student-athletes, and any involved institutional staff. An institution may interview anyone that appears to have any knowledge of any alleged violations. It is important for investigators to clearly outline an interview order, consider interview logistics, and use proper interview techniques. Investigators are instructed to ask open-ended questions to solicit as much information as possible. Investigators are also instructed to avoid asking leading questions and interrupting the person being interviewed.

When is Someone Required to Cooperate with an NCAA Investigation?

Certain individuals are required to cooperate with an NCAA investigation. These individuals include current and former institutional staff and student-athletes. A student-athlete must cooperate whether they are a current, former, or prospective student-athlete. This means that they must hand over any documents requested or give access to social media and other information channels. Individuals that have never worked for the institution such as other coaches, agents, or financial advisors, are not required to cooperate with an NCAA investigation. Even with these parameters, investigators will still attempt to interview anyone they can during an investigation.

What Are Corrective Actions and Penalties for NCAA Violations?

Once an investigation has been completed, the investigators must then prepare a written summary discussing their findings. The institution must state a position regarding whether a violation was a Level I, II, or III violation or if there was no violation at all. If there are any violations, then an institution can be subject to corrective actions and/or penalties. Corrective actions are measures to fix, eliminate, or strengthen something within the institution's practices. A penalty can be any punishment levied against the institution, its programs, employees, or athletic department. A combination of corrective actions and penalties may be necessary as the result of an investigation.

What Are Some Common Errors Made During NCAA Investigations?

While NCAA investigations are meant to follow a certain structure, there are errors that are commonly made. Some of the most common errors that are made during an NCAA investigation include:

  • Failing to properly warn an interviewee about giving false or misleading information,
  • Failing to recognize eligibility issues for a student-athlete,
  • Failing to submit all necessary information,
  • Failing to state-specific violations,
  • Failing to identify and collect relevant records, and
  • Failing to include all reported information.

If an institution properly follows its investigative policies and procedures, these errors should be at a minimum. When an institution fails to follow its policies and procedures, mistakes like the ones listed above become more commonplace.

Is an Institution Required to Self-Report?

Under NCAA rules, member institutions are required to comply with all rules and regulations to ensure compliance will all NCAA rules. This rule requires all NCAA member institutions to identify, investigate, and report on any instances where NCAA compliance has not been achieved. This is known as self-reporting. Institutions must report any and all findings to the NCAA, even if the findings don't substantiate a violation. The NCAA enforcement staff will then review the findings of the institution to determine what the appropriate next steps are. If you have questions about NCAA investigations, then call attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm so we can help!

Why Hiring the Lento Law Firm is the Right Choice

If you are facing an alleged NCAA violation at your university, then you likely realize the potential impact that a finding of responsibility can have on your athletic and academic career. When facing a challenge like this, it is important to seek the advice of an experienced attorney. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have successfully represented hundreds of student-athletes across the country facing disciplinary actions and other challenges at their schools and universities. Call us today at 888-535-3686 to learn why hiring the Lento Law Firm is the right choice to help with a NCAA investigation and to fight allegations involving student-athletes.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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