The NCAA is ordering Notre Dame to vacate wins in the 2012 and 2013 football seasons, part of their penalties in connection to the Frozen Five academic misconduct investigation that derailed the 2014 season. Notre Dame plans to appeal the decision.
The NCAA found that a former student athletic trainer committed academic misconduct for two football student-athletes and provided six other football players with impermissible academic extra benefits. Another football student-athlete committed academic misconduct on their own. They put the Irish program on one year of probation and a two-year show-cause order for the former student trainer. They also levied a $5,000 fine against the university.
In his weekly press conference, Brian Kelly defended his program and their actions in the aftermath.
“We did the right thing. I’m proud of the academic support staff. I’m proud of the people that represented us at the time,” Kelly said.
The university released a statement minutes after the NCAA’s with university leadership acknowledging the investigation, though vowing to appeal the vacation of wins.
“We very much appreciate the hard work of the NCAA enforcement staff and the members of the Committee on Infractions for their review of our case, but we believe the penalty they have imposed is not justified,” Father Jenkins said.
“We disagree with the decision of the hearing panel to impose, at its own discretion, a vacation of records penalty. In past academic misconduct cases, the Committee on Infractions has imposed this penalty only when it has found serious institutional misconduct, such as actions with the direct involvement or knowledge of a coach or academic personnel, a failure to monitor or a lack of institutional control. The NCAA enforcement staff and the hearing panel agreed with Notre Dame that no such institutional misconduct occurred in this case. Indeed, the only reason the NCAA reviewed the matter was because the misconduct involved a former fellow student who happened to participate in the University’s student trainer program—an activity which involved no responsibility for the academic work of student-athletes.
“We believe that imposition of the vacation of records penalty without serious underlying institutional misconduct will not primarily punish those responsible for the misconduct, but rather will punish coaches, student-athletes and indeed the entire institution who did nothing wrong and, with regard to this case, did everything right. We are also concerned that establishing this precedent will infringe on universities’ autonomy in deterring academic dishonesty, for it will discourage the retroactive lowering of grades even when an honor code committee deems this appropriate.
“As we said at the outset of this investigation, Notre Dame would willingly accept a vacation of records penalty if it were appropriate. It is not in this case. Indeed, should this precedent stand, it could create a perverse incentive that will discourage institutions from investigating so aggressively and imposing the penalties for academic dishonesty that their honesty committees might judge appropriate.”
The process is not complete as Notre Dame will now submit its case to the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee.