By Steven Stamps
The NCAA has reacted quickly to criticize a study claiming that Bowl Conference Series (BCS) schools receive lighter probation penalties for NCAA violations than other Division I universities. The study also claims that Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and Southwestern Athletic Conference have higher probation penalties imposed upon them than any other Division I category.
The study was commissioned and conducted by the Michael L. Buckner Law Firm. Mr. Buckner, who authored the study, advises universities on NCAA enforcement issues and has worked for the NCAA as an independent consultant. The study looked at NCAA imposed probations during a 56-month period between January 1, 2005 and September 2, 2009. The stated purpose of the study was to “determine whether the average duration of probation penalties served by the well-funded universities in the NCAA Football Bowl Sub-division (FBS) is less than the length imposed on Football Championship Sub-division (FCS) institutions and non-football sponsoring schools (Division I-AAA).”
The study found that the NCAA:
• Issued an average 2.58-year probation penalty to universities in the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC (BCS automatic-qualifier schools) while imposing an average 2.74-year probation penalty on all other Division I institutions.
• Issued an average 2.58-year probation penalty to FBS schools while imposing an average 2.86-year probation penalty on all other Division I schools.
• Issued an average 3.83-year probation penalty to HBCUs while imposing average 2.58, 2.58 and 2.54-year probation penalties on BCS automatic-qualifiers, FBS schools and on all Division I schools (excluding HBCUs), respectfully.
The firm claimed to have tested the study’s results using their representation of Alabama State, a FCS school and HBCU. Alabama State received five years probation for academic fraud and other major NCAA violations. In comparison, the study claims that between October 28, 1970 and December 10, 2008, BCS automatic-qualifier schools received an average of 2.5 years probation in cases involving academic fraud and other major violations.
The NCAA quickly rejected the claims made in the study stating that they are “are based upon an inadequate examination of the facts” and are “reliant on a very small sample size of a handful of institutions and a methodology that fails to tests the claims against standard statistical criteria.” The NCAA responded that the Committee on Infractions determines penalties based on the facts of each unique situation. The NCAA’s statement read, “Attempts by others to compare cases without consideration of the details of the violations involved are misleading and lead to erroneous assumptions.” The statement went on to say that probation is only one of many penalties that the Committee on Infractions can impose for violations. The NCAA closed by saying, “Assertions that the NCAA makes these determinations based on any other factor, such as the financial status or size of the schools, are baseless and flat-out wrong.”
The Michael L. Buckner law firm responded to the NCAA’s statement claiming that their press release was, “incomplete, ignores the NCAA’s own practice of using averages for studies and fails to provide a complete description of probation penalties imposed by the NCAA.” The firm defended their study by claiming that the NCAA uses the mean for their own internal reports. The response said that probation was used as the measurement in the study because it was the only common sanction imposed during the timeframe researched. The firm argues that probation indicates the severity of the violations, the nature of the violations, and whether the school is a repeat offender.