On Tuesday, March 22, 2016, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) released findings of an investigation conducted collaboratively with Kalamazoo College. The report concluded K committed three major violations: the use of a noncompliant formula for awarding financial aid to student athletes, a recruitment impropriety, and inadequate internal monitoring. The investigation was prompted by reports to the MIAA commissioner of a possible recruiting impropriety at K.
The NCAA concluded there was no intent by Kalamazoo College to circumvent NCAA rules. About two decades ago the College chose a process to award merit aid that considered, among other factors, every student’s entire extracurricular résumé. The College believed that formula to be the most fair to all students, and it believed (mistakenly) that formula to be compliant with NCAA rules.
When K discovered its financial aid formula was not in compliance, it immediately made the changes to ensure its procedures were consistent with NCAA rules. Student athletes who matriculated in the fall of 2015 have compliant merit aid awards. K continues to consider extracurricular information in the admission process, which is permissible, but no longer considers extracurricular activity of any kind when awarding merit aid for any student.
The dissemination of incorrect information to a small group of prospective student-athletes constituted the recruiting violation. The information suggested incorrectly that a coach could influence financial aid award protocol. No coach at a Division III school has that capability, including those at K. None of the prospective students who received the communication came to K. And the College has implemented new procedures for training new athletic department personnel.
The third major violation, standard in these cases, cited the College for not having had in place measures to prevent or detect the other two violations. All of the NCAA concerns have been corrected. Kalamazoo College is committed to complying with NCAA rules and regulations.
The NCAA placed K on probation for a period of three years, beginning immediately, and banned postseason competition, including conference tournaments; regular season conference championship consideration; and NCAA championship opportunities, for any K team whose roster contains a student athlete who received impermissible financial aid.
The College accepted the terms of the probation. It has appealed the postseason ban, which has been stayed pending the appeal’s resolution. The ban, in the College’s opinion, unfairly penalizes student athletes—those who had no role in determining financial aid awards and who were unaware of the violation and those whose aid is compliant with NCAA regulations.
If the appeal is denied (a decision is expected this month), the NCAA would allow Kalamazoo College to recalculate the financial aid packages of next year’s junior and senior student athletes in order to maintain postseason play and championship consideration.
To address the possibility the NCAA will deny the appeal, President Eileen B. Wilson-Oyelaran and Provost Mickey McDonald have selected nine teams that will be repackaged and nine teams that will not. Next year’s junior and senior student-athletes on the following teams will have their financial aid awards recalculated in order to make these teams eligible for postseason play: baseball, men’s cross country, women’s cross country, men’s golf, women’s soccer, men’s swimming and diving, women’s swimming and diving, men’s tennis and women’s tennis. Most junior and senior members of these teams will not see a change in the amount of financial aid they receive. But some will receive less financial aid from K, and they will have two options. They can accept the new financial aid package and continue to play on the team, or they can retain their current aid package and not play on their team.
The president and provost’s decisions were deliberate and difficult, factoring several complex criteria. Among these were the number of team members facing an adverse financial effect; the range of those adverse effects; the continued affordability of a K education for some student athletes and their families; the indispensability of postseason play in composing a meaningful season for some sports; the effect of recalibrating financial aid on retention and recruitment; the College’s desire to honor as many of its original financial aid commitments as possible and to minimize the number of cases where student athletes and their families would feel they had no option other than discontinuing intercollegiate athletic participation.
“On behalf of Kalamazoo College I apologize to every student athlete and family member affected by an error the institution made in good faith so many years ago,” said Wilson-Oyelaran. “We know if the appeal is not successful that nine teams will be denied postseason competition for, at most, two seasons. And even though the nine repackaged teams will be eligible for postseason competition, some of their team members will have to cover a loss in financial aid or discontinue playing on the team. All of those possibilities hurt some student athletes (and their families) in some way, and we profoundly regret that.”
The Kalamazoo College Statement on NCAA Infractions can be found at hornets.kzoo.edu/ncaareport/index