$255,000 in improper financial aid, cash given to Baruch student-athletes, NCAA finds

More than $255,000 in improper benefits were given to 30 student-athletes at Baruch over the course of five years, according to a decision issued by the National Collegiate Athletic Association on Thursday. Among the infractions listed in the NCAA Division III Committee’s report was erroneous financial aid, cash and other benefits awarded during the 2011-2015 academic years.

An investigation into the matter began after the college received an anonymous letter in February 2013, followed by a second letter in March of the same year. The letters alleged that the then former vice president of student affairs and enrollment management provided improper financial aid to two student-athletes. In response, Baruch launched an internal investigation and submitted a report of its findings to the NCAA enforcement staff in January 2014.

The self-report detailed that student-athletes had received in-state residency for which they did not qualify and/or for which they received due to their participation in athletics at the college. Additionally, student-athletes were selected for resident assistant positions that they did not qualify for and received the position based on their status. One student did not pay tuition for a full academic year and also received a reduced-cost room in the Baruch residence hall.

After reviewing the self-report, NCAA enforcement staff members issued a Notice of Allegations in July 2015. Both the former vice president and former head women’s basketball coach, who was accused of being well aware that financial aid packages could not include aid related to athletics criteria, remained unnamed throughout the NCAA’s report. The former coach also argued that the NCAA’s investigation was conducted unfairly because enforcement staff failed to question them on several issues. The former head women’s basketball coach admitted to knowing that factoring in a student-athlete’s status into financial aid awards was impermissible, however, he argued that he had insufficient education of Division III bylaws.

Baruch’s women’s basketball program was found by the NCAA to also have committed major violations in 2011, the majority of which involved extra benefits and a lack of institutional control. In that case, the program received a penalty of a year-long probation, a two game suspension for the team’s coach, recruiting restrictions and a $5,000 fine.

Due to its major infractions in 2011, Baruch is considered to be a repeat violator by the NCAA’s bylaws. Under NCAA bylaw 19.5.2.3.2., Baruch could have been subject to more severe penalties due to their repeat violator status. However, the NCAA decided not to pursue more severe penalties due to the college taking corrective actions immediately after discovering the violations.

As punishment for this most recent case, the women’s basketball program will face a probationary period of four years, from June 30, 2016 to June 29, 2020 and the women’s basketball team will not be eligible for postseason competition for the 2016-17 season. Additionally, Baruch is to make use of an outside entity in order to carry out an audit of its athletics program. Both the former head women’s basketball coach and the former vice president are to be barred from any athletics-related duties from June 30, 2016 to June 29, 2017.

At the end of its probationary period, Baruch’s president is to provide a letter to the NCAA committee affirming that the college’s athletic policies conform to all regulations mandated by the NCAA.