TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The University of South Florida’s Department of Athletics has been placed on probation for three years by the NCAA after a lengthy investigation found that non-coaching staff engaged in “impermissible practice activities” with USF student-athletes.
In February 2020, a member of the institution’s athletics staff reported that multiple football non-coaching staff members engaged in prohibited activities like “technical” and “tactical coaching” of football student-athletes during practices.
While members of USF’s compliance staff regularly visited practices, they did not observe foul-play in part because of a scheme they say warned non-coaching staff of approaching authority.
“If an equipment staff member observed a member of the compliance staff approaching the practice field from the athletics department office, they would alert the other equipment staff members dispersed throughout the practice field via radio headsets,” a document containing official findings said.
Those staff would then tell non-coaching members that compliance was on its way, allowing time for non-coaching staff to step back or stop their activities.
An NCAA Committee on Infractions investigation later found that a football non-coaching staff member “regularly led the special teams’ on-field practice activities and off-field film assessments and instruction,” the document added.
While the football investigation was ongoing, USF received an internal report of potential violations involving the women’s basketball program where non-coaching staff members also engaged in “impermissible activities.”
A separate investigation found that specifically, two noncoaching staff members participated in walk-throughs in the presence of the head women’s basketball coach despite training from a previous Level III violation similar in nature from February 2018.
“The women’s basketball coaching staff also required all student-athletes to complete 50 daily free throws and certain student-athletes to complete up to an hour of extra cardio workouts per week,” the report stated.
Conduct may be determined to be a violation on a case-by-case basis. According to the NCAA, conduct violations are categorized under three levels.
- Level III – Violations that are minimal or isolated in nature
- Level II – One or more significant violations that provide or are intended to provide more than a minimal advantage
- Level III – Severe breaches of conduct that seriously undermine or threaten the integrity of the NCAA Collegiate Model
“While these were isolated incidents, I appreciate the NCAA’s diligence in this inquiry and take full responsibility,” Jose Fernandez, the head women’s basketball coach, said.
Women’s golf, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball
During the course of the investigation, the university and enforcement staff also identified a number of minor Level III violations that were previously unreported involving the women’s golf, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball programs as well as the baseball and men’s soccer programs.
“I believe we have a strong culture of compliance at USF,” Vice President of Athletics Michael Kelly said.”As such, we will use this as an opportunity to learn and improve as a department as we continue to pursue best practices and the highest standards of compliance.”
As a result of the violations, the University of South Florida Department of Athletics has been placed on probation for three years through 2024. Probationary punishments may include, but are not limited to:
- Submission of compliance reports during the period of probation (ending in 2024),
- Acknowledgement in alumni publications, media guides and recruiting materials identifying the violations committed, the terms of probation, and penalties prescribed,
- Requiring an institution to announce during broadcast contests, on its website and in institutional publications that it is on probation and the reasons why the probation was prescribed
- Implementation of educational or deterrent programs,
- Audits for specific programs or teams, among others.
In addition, USF has agreed to the following penalties:
- The institution shall pay a fine of $10,000 plus one-half of one percent of each of the football and women’s basketball budgets.
- The institution shall reduce the number of initial grants-in-aid awarded in the football program by two for the 2022-23 academic year.
- The head women’s basketball coach shall be subject to a one-year show-cause order and shall be restricted from participation in 15 hours of team practices during the 2021-22 women’s basketball playing season.
- A reduction of 12 total practice hours for the women’s basketball team during the 2021-22 playing season.
- A number of smaller, short-term penalties were also imposed on the women’s basketball, women’s golf, women’s volleyball and football programs.
The negotiated and violation resolutions can be found here.