The women’s cross country and track and field programs at Tennessee’s Lane College are facing two years of probation along with other sanctions as a result of NCAA violations committed in the 2016-2017 season. An incident involving an ineligible athlete competing under a false name led the NCAA DII Committee of Infractions to investigate the school’s athletic department, and their findings included wrongdoings on numerous occasions by the coaching and athletic staff.
A student-athlete on the Lane College women’s cross country team was deemed ineligible in the 2016-2017 season. Her ineligible status was communicated to coaches by the school’s athletic director as well as the compliance director. They claim that they clearly stated that this athlete was not to travel nor to compete with the team.
Lane College’s former head coach had directed his athlete to travel and compete, even receiving travel expenses (a clear and major violation), under a false name. She was entered into five separate cross country events as well as a spring track and field event, competing under the name of an injured teammate.
A school employee later approached the injured athlete and congratulated her on her top ten finish at a recent cross country event after having read her name in the meet results. The injured athlete informed the employee that she had not, in fact, competed in the meet in which she supposed had a top ten performance. This Lane College employee then reported the incident to the school’s NCAA compliance director.
The NCAA DII Committee of Infractions was eventually notified, they began investigating the situation on January 11, 2018, the start to what would become an eight-month compliance examination. All parties involved including staff, coaches and athletes submitted written accounts of the incidents. Since all written accounts agreed upon the facts of the violations, the lack of dispute allowed the proceedings to happen without a formal hearing.
The Committee of Infractions found Lane College responsible, stating that the college had failed to regulate the coach’s activities. In addition, they were deemed liable for failing to take action on the infractions even when red flags were present. After a spring 2017 track and field event, student-athletes raised issues with the athletic director, claiming that their coach had not fed them the day of competition. The ineligible runner was part of the group that expressed their concern about the coach, and this led to the compliance director being informed that she had competed unethically – however, there was still a lack of action taken.
A similar ruling was made by the COI back in 2013 in regards to an incident with the University of California San Diego’s women’s rowing team, setting a precedent for these types of violations. The San Diego coach was found to have allowed five ineligible athletes to compete. Two of these athletes did so under false names under the instruction of an assistant coach. The head coach was also found to have provided athletes with Voltaren, a prescription anti-inflammatory drug.
Both incidents were found to be a clear violation of NCAA Bylaw 10.1 Unethical Conduct. Section (i) of the bylaw states that “engaging in any athletics competition under an assumed name or with intent to otherwise deceive” is an unethical action. The COI concluded that by allowing ineligible athletes to compete, the program was receiving benefits that are not available to programs which are compliant with NCAA rules.
Lane College willingly admitted to failing to monitor its coaches. They also agreed that there was a lack of education of the staff on compliance rules. The travel logs reported were not monitored, allowing the ineligible athlete to compete in numerous events before it was realized that she was doing so under a false name.
The former Lane College head coach was a first time NCAA coach. However, he had a long-standing membership in the collegiate track and field community. His lack of honesty violated NCAA legislation under Bylaws 10 and 11. Even after he was no longer associated with Lance College, he committed additional violations by providing false information regarding the infractions.
In the case of the Lane College Cross Country and Track & Field program, the infractions were penalized by public reprimand and censure of the program. They also received two years of probation, a ban on postseason competition for the cross country and women’s track and field team in the 2019 season. It did not end there; they also had an elimination of records in which an ineligible athlete participated in competition, a compliance review, and a $2,500 fine. The former head coach is now also required to have any NCAA school that employs him to demonstrate to the NCAA why he should not be restricted in his involvement with athletic activities.
* Originally published on February 11, 2019, by Laura Papili