UAF's athletic department has slashed a combined nine scholarships across five sports for three years after self-reporting infractions committed by the school's administration to the NCAA, which is investigating.
UAF emphasized at a press conference Tuesday in Fairbanks that the mistakes were made by the school's advising and sports eligibility systems, and not by the athletes.
The infractions occurred because the school failed to alert athletes who switched majors about necessary paperwork to officially make the change, or failed to alert athletes who had not earned enough credits toward their major.
The infractions occurred from the 2007-08 school year to the spring of 2011 and involved 17 athletes, the school said. They were reported to the NCAA in June 2011.
Two scholarships each were suspended from the hockey program, men's basketball program, women's basketball program and riflery program. The women's nordic skiing program lost one scholarship. The swim team also came under scrutiny for infractions, but did not lose any scholarships.
"I think it's important to note that these infractions were not the result of wrongdoing or poor academic performance by student athletes, who collectively have higher-than-average GPAs and graduation rates,'' UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers said Tuesday at a news conference on campus. "This was the university's mistake, not the student athletes.''
UAF said it has placed itself on a two-year probation that does not include limits on postseason play. Presumably, the scholarship cuts are part of that probation.
It is unclear when the three years of scholarship cuts began, in the 2011-12 school year or the current one.
NCAA athletes are generally required to complete a minimum of 12 credits per semester, maintain at least a 2.0 GPA and make specific progress toward a declared degree.
UAF said the NCAA told the school it was launching a major investigation because of the series of secondary violations. UAF said it will not contest the case because it already has self-reported.
The NCAA can either rule that UAF's self-imposed penalties suffice or it can impose further penalties such as fines, more scholarship reductions or postseason sanctions.
UAF said it already has made changes to stem the possibility of future infractions. The school's Academic Advising Center has hired a full-time advisor for athletes, and two employees in the registrar's office have been trained in NCAA eligibility requirements and assigned to athlete records.
"While infractions are not something we want to have, we have used these as a springboard to help improve the systems we have to support our student-athletes," said new athletic director Gary Gray. "We plan to work closely with the NCAA as they work through this case and provide any additional information they need to resolve it."
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