NCAA certification procedure in place

John Binder

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After an investigation into the university’s athletics eligibility process, an updated eligibility certification procedure has been formed to prevent ineligible athletes from actively competing in university athletics.
The Certification Committee, along with seven procedural phases, was created in fall 2010 to ensure a checks and balances arrangement executed by faculty members with specific traits, each contributing their expertise within the committee.
“Beginning in fall 2010, we implemented a system of checks and balances across campus to basically verify the eligibility of student athletes,” said Assistant President of Athletic Compliance John Long. “That process entails pulling out each student athlete who may compete in athletics, having to pull their transcript, having to pull any pertinent eligibility information from their prior school, whether it be high school, whether it be junior college, and getting the information that you need there.”
Unlike the past eligibility process, the revised certification process collects competition information from Sports Information personnel on the previous season to determine seasons of competition used for each student-athlete.
The procedure then files proof of initial eligibility certification and the most current academic transcript, updates curriculum sheets, runs a degree audit report after grades become official, determines eligibility and later cross-checks random verification forms before and after certification.
Committee members undertaking these procedural phases are current Southeastern faculty members Lori Fairburn, Sarah Pinion, John Long, Josh Smith and Dr. Joe Morris, as well as Mary Catherine Borland who was hired by the university to act specifically as Academic Affairs Director.
The previous certification system established one faculty member as responsible for all bookkeeping, which proved to be disastrous in regards to compliance with National Collegiate Athletics Association standards, allowing nearly 140 ineligible student-athletes to compete.
“Basically what this system does, is it takes the people on campus who are in charge and know the most about those various elements and puts them all in the room at the same time so that they can make a group determination on whether a student athlete is eligible or isn’t eligible,” said Long. “In the past, you had one individual who was attempting to do all those things which demand various expertise in areas across campus but trying to make those determinations by themselves with very little oversight from the person on campus who’s responsible for supervising that individual.”
The certification procedures renovation comes after a request for data review of academic years 2004-05, 2005-06 and 2006-07 by the NCAA. The reviews discovered the university had permitted 137 ineligible student-athletes, by NCAA standards, in 16 sports to compete.
Self-investigating the disregard for NCAA standards and compliance, the university submitted a report, which called for self-imposed sanctions on university athletics, to the NCAA on July 28, 2012. The report was officially made public on March 28, 2013.
However, Long says the mismanagement should not be solely blamed on the Athletics Department, as the university in its entirety failed to do its job when verifying student-athletes.
“While this is an athletic story, the fact of the matter is, the whole institution really let the process down in this situation because it’s not just athletics that needs to be involved in eligibility certification, it’s everyone,” said Long. “There are departments who need to be involved with that. In that respect, it’s amazing talking to people who were around then and who are around now, who can see the amount of order and the demand for attention to compliance that’s in place now.”
Final penalties, which may become institutional actions on the university, are currently awaiting response from the NCAA.

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