NCAA warned SFA in 2014, but did not fix its eligibility certification process until 5 years later


NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KETK) – In 2014 the NCAA warned Stephen F. Austin that it needed rectify its academic certification process, which is how colleges verify whether student-athletes remain academically eligible.

The Lumberjacks athletic department failed to do so.

Now, SFA is having to vacate nearly 300 wins from four of its sports.

Over a six-year period 82 student-athletes were improperly verified on nine different Lumberjack teams.

Finally in the spring of 2019, the current SFA athletics department administration led by current athletics director Ryan Ivey discovered the error. They were incorrectly counting all semester credit hours instead of just degree-applicable classes as mandated by the NCAA.

When speaking to reporters Wednesday Ivey said that the two people responsible for the mistakes according to the NCAA investigation are no longer part of the SFA athletics department.

“It’s hard for me to speculate in 2014 because obviously I wasn’t here. You know I can tell you that the NCAA was pretty clear in their letter that told us exactly what we were doing which is what we reported on that we were counting all hours versus degree applicable hours. And that we needed to strengthen our processes and procedures around that certification process. And obviously that did not occur. And again, that responsibility rests with the former Senior Associate A.D. for Compliance and the former (Senior) Associate A.D. for Academics (Services),” said Ivey.

However one of them, Matt Fenley, who retired as Senior Associate A.D. for Compliance in February of 2019 tells the Dallas Morning News that academic certification was not his responsibility.

KETK spoke to Ivey on the phone Wednesday, and he states that he, “stands by the NCAA investigation,” which names Fenley and Rob McDermand, the then Senior Associate A.D. for Academic Services as the responsible parties for the error.

McDermand remains employed by the university as a senior lecturer.

Furthermore Ivey explained that in the way they have restructured their compliance process so this doesn’t happen again, everyone involved now works together to make sure everything is correct.

Ivey echoed University President Dr. Scott Gordon’s earlier explanation that “These measures include the hiring of an assistant to work with our compliance officer for eligibility checks and identifying a lead NCAA eligibility staff member in the Office of the Registrar who will be housed outside of the athletics program.”

The Level I (Mitigated) sanctions agreed upon by the NCAA and Stephen F. Austin include the following:

  • Three years of probation;
  • Public reprimand and censure;
  • A fine of $5,000 plus one-half of one percent of the total budgets for football and men’s basketball;
  • The return of 50 percent of the University’s financial share earned from participation in the 2016 NCAA Tournament; (The total financial penalties add up to $94, 207).
  • The forfeiture of all records and contests in which an ineligible SFA student-athlete competed, which includes 29 football victories from 2013-2019; 117 men’s basketball victories from 2014 to 2019; 112 baseball victories from 2015 to 2019; 31 softball victories from the 2018 season; and adjusted conference championship scores from women’s golf, women’s track and field, men’s cross country and men’s track and field.
  • Included in the vacation of wins are conference championships in men’s basketball in 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2017-18, as well as the program’s First Round win in the 2016 NCAA Tournament.  The banners recognizing those achievements will be removed from William R. Johnson Coliseum.
  • A 2.5% reduction in financial aid awards (scholarships) in football for 2020-2021 and 2021-2022; a 5% reduction in baseball in either 2020-21 or 2021-2022 and the loss of one scholarship in men’s basketball in either 2020-2021 or 2021-22.
  • Prior to the conclusion of the probationary period, the institution will submit to a data review with APP staff.

In conjunction with standard NCAA APR penalties, three of SFA’s teams that fell below the 930 threshold will serve postseason bans.

The SFA football team is prohibited from participating in the 2020 postseason; the men’s basketball team will not participate in the postseason in 2021-22, and the baseball program is ineligible from postseason play in the spring of 2021.

Watch the video to see the story.

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