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NCAA investigates UAF athletics for possible rules violation

  • Author: Beth Bragg
  • Updated: March 12
  • Published March 11

The NCAA is investigating the athletic department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks for a possible rules violation, a probe that began shortly after the school reported a possible infraction in late January.

“I can’t share very many details, since the investigation is still happening,” university spokeswoman Marmian Grimes said Thursday by email. “We continue to work with the NCAA to gather information and determine whether violations occurred and, if so, to what extent and who was involved.

“Because the information-gathering work is still in process, I don’t have any details that I can share. We don’t know, at this point, when the investigation will be completed.”

UAF reported a possible violation on Jan. 26, Grimes said.

The investigation was first reported by the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. In more recent developments, one department administrator has resigned to return to a faculty position and another is on administrative leave, Grimes said.

She did not say if either move was related to the NCAA investigation.

When UAF contacted the NCAA about the possible infraction, Peggy Keiper was the interim athletic director, a position she took in early January. On Friday of last week, Keiper sent a letter to the athletic department saying she was returning to her faculty role in the School of Management.

“It was a hard decision for me to make as I’ve truly enjoyed working with all of you and see how hard you work on a daily basis,” she wrote. “However, health was the deciding factor for me. I will definitely remain engaged with athletics, but from an external perspective.”

The same day, UAF chancellor Dan White announced Keiper’s change in duties in a note to all UAF staff and faculty. “I appreciate her willingness to serve when asked and understand her desire to focus on her work as a faculty member,” he said.

Steve Patin, the chief human resources director for the statewide university system, was named interim athletic director on March 5. White told staff and faculty that a search for a permanent athletic director is underway “with the intention to have the position filled in June.”

Before Keiper, Keith Champagne worked as both athletic director and vice chancellor for student affairs. He’s still vice chancellor for student affairs.

Meanwhile, Kayne Gutierrez, a former interim athletic director whose current position is associate athletic director for facilities and events, is on administrative leave, Grimes said. The leave is not disciplinary in nature, she said.

In another recent move, Jim Hall was named interim associate athletic director for compliance.

In 2014, UAF was hit with stiff penalties for a series of minor violations the NCAA blamed on the school’s lack of institutional control. In its announcement of sanctions, the NCAA said UAF had an inadequate compliance system, did not sufficiently train the staff members responsible for monitoring academic eligibility and “failed to follow through” despite warnings that its system was deficient and needed to be improved.

Those violations happened in a five-year span from 2007-08 to 2011-12. In many cases, because of mistakes made by administrators and staff, athletes had not declared majors, were not completing sufficient credits toward their declared majors or did not meet eligibility requirements when they transferred from junior colleges.

As a result of the violations, the Nanooks were banned from postseason play in basketball and hockey in 2014-15 and had to forfeit dozens of victories accumulated in multiple sports during the five years when the violations occurred. Hardest hit was the hockey team, which had about 100 victories and ties vacated.