NCAA penalizes UMass for violations in basketball, tennis

The NCAA is stripping Massachusetts of victories in men’s basketball and women’s tennis for overpaying 12 athletes about $9,100 in financial aid over three years.

The NCAA announced Friday the Committee on Infractions had imposed a two-year probation on UMass that will end October 2022 in addition to vacating results involving athletes who received what were determined to be a total of 13 inappropriate payments.

The school will also pay a self-imposed fine of $5,000.

UMass plans to appeal the committee’s decision to vacate victories from 2014-17 that include 59 basketball wins and an Atlantic 10 Conference championship in women’s tennis.

The NCAA said four athletes received a higher housing rate after they moved to less-expensive off-campus housing, and eight continued to receive a telecom fee for those who live in on-campus after they moved to off. One athlete received both.

The NCAA determined UMass officials and coaches were unaware of the overpayments at the time, but they still caused the athletes to compete while ineligible.

The committee said a former associate athletics director’s misunderstanding of financial aid rules and administrative error resulted in the violations. The committee did not find a failure to monitor infraction because 98% of the time during the period where the overpayments occurred, UMass appropriately doled out financial aid.

Dave Roberts, COI chief hearings officer and special assistant to the athletic director at Southern California, said previous case precedent based on ineligible competition by athletes led to the penalty of vacating results.

“We look at a multitude of factors, not just the dollar amount involved,” Roberts said. “The number of students involved. The number of competitions involved. The duration of detection. Many, many factors.”

UMass said the NCAA’s investigation was initiated by the school, which was self-investigating possible low-level violations in basketball that occurred under former basketball coach Derek Kellogg.

According to the NCAA’s report, UMass and NCAA enforcement had agreed to a negotiated resolution of the case. Because it did not include a penalty of vacated results, a COI panel rejected the agreement, sent the case back to enforcement and held a hearing to resolve the case and hand down penalties.

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