The National Collegiate Athletic Association handed down its ruling on Tuesday, placing the University of New England on probation as a result of rules violations regarding the amount of financial aid awarded to players from the hockey team.
The NCAA Division III Committee on Infractions cited in a press release that UNE “violated financial aid rules and failed to adequately monitor admissions officers who were responsible for awarding scholarships”.
The rules violations occurred as a result of UNE distributing financial aid from the university’s Diversity Scholarship, which was “intended to be awarded to students that demonstrated the ability to contribute to the cultural and ethnic diversity” of the university’s community, in higher amounts to student-athletes compared to the student body of the university.
As a result, the NCAA handed down penalties that included placing the school on two years of probation, suspension of the director of athletics and forfeiture of the financial aid in question to the six hockey players who received the funds.
UNE over a two-year period from 2008 to 2010 awarded the Diversity Scholarship in excess to student-athletes at the university.
The NCAA noted that the university failed to monitor the admissions personnel involved in the determination of financial aid awards by failing to educate them regarding NCAA financial aid rules as well as failing to monitor athletics staff members who engaged in inappropriate communications with personnel involved in financial aid decisions.
When UNE was made aware of possible rule violations, they fully cooperated with the NCAA investigation while conducting its own review of policy regarding financial aid.
UNE suspended athletic director Kimberly Allen in January 2011 and reassigned to another position within the school. Curt Smyth has been acting as interim athletic director since that time.
That action likely spared the university any further sanctions from the NCAA.
The NCAA said the committee noted that the violations of Division III financial aid rules were unintentional; however, members of the admissions, financial aid and athletics departments lacked an adequate understanding of the financial aid rules.
The NCAA indicated in its press release that the while American awards were no more than $6,000, international student-athletes received from $12,000 to $20,500 in financial aid.
During the 2008-09 academic year that 34 percent of the students receiving Diversity Scholarship funds were athletes, but they accounted for 43 percent of the total funds distributed and in the 2009-10 academic year 27 percent of those receiving funds were involved in athletics, while getting 42 percent of total funds awarded.
Because of the disparity in the amount received by the student-athlete compared to the rest of the student body, the university was in violation of Division III rules, which prohibit athletic financial aid.
The NCAA only cited violations that only involved players from the hockey team; however, the basketball team was investigated for rules infractions as well.
The six players from the hockey team were informed at the start of the 2010-11 season could choose to continue to play, but would receive reduced financial aid, or continue to receive the higher amount, but could not play on the team.
Four of the six players from the hockey team who enrolled at UNE in 2008 have moved on with Adam Laite and Scott McManaman staying at the university and continuing to play hockey.
Kody Collins finished 2010-11 academic year at UNE before transferring to the University of Southern Maine where he played last season with the Huskies. Collins joined Jon Grandinetti, who left for USM after the violations were brought to his attention. Grandinetti finished last season tied for the scoring lead with the Huskies.
Goaltender Dallas Ungarian returned to Alberta while defenseman Dave Walters transferred to Plymouth State College in New Hampshire where he played last season.
The penalties include:
•Public reprimand and censure.
•Two years of probation from June 13, 2012 through June 12, 2014.
•The former director of athletics was suspended from her position and reassigned to other duties at the university outside of athletics and placed on probation (self-imposed by the university).
•Should the former director of athletics be employed by any NCAA member school in any capacity involving athletics during the term of probation, she must attend an NCAA Regional Rules Seminar.
•Campus personnel responsible for oversight attended the 2011 NCAA Regional Rules Seminar (self-imposed by the university).
•All individuals who attend a Regional Rules Seminar must become part of the on-campus education program.
•Six ice hockey student-athletes who received aid from the Diversity Scholarship could choose to continue to participate in athletics and receive reduced financial aid, or continue to receive the higher amount and no longer participate in athletics (self-imposed by the university).