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Florida State Ending Probation Tomorrow

Today is the last day of Florida State’s four year probation imposed by the Committee on Infractions for major violations involving academic fraud. Certainly a big day for Florida State, but what does it actually mean. For starters, this is NCAA’s definition of a probation period from Bylaw

The committee (or the Infractions Appeals Committee per Bylaw 19.2) may identify possible conditions that an institution must satisfy during a probationary period. Such conditions shall be designed on a case-by-case basis to focus on the institution’s administrative weaknesses detected in the case and shall include, but not be limited to, written reports from the institution pertaining to areas of concern to the committee (or the Infractions Appeals Committee), in-person reviews of the institution’s athletics policies and practices by the NCAA administrator for the Committee on Infractions, implementation of educational or deterrent programs, and audits for specific programs or teams. If the institution fails to satisfy such conditions, the committee (or the Infractions Appeals Committee per Bylaw 19.2) may reconsider the penalties in the case and may extend the probationary period and/or impose additional sanctions.

Probation is at its heart a period of increased monitoring by the NCAA. Institutions are required to report on their progress in correcting whatever lead to a major violation. Probationary periods can also include other specific requirements, but Florida State’s were rather general:

During this period of probation, the institution shall:

  1. Continue to develop and implement a comprehensive educational program on NCAA legislation, including seminars and testing, to instruct the coaches, the faculty athletics representative, all athletics department personnel and all institution staff members with responsibility for the certification of student-athletes for admission, retention, financial aid or competition;
  2. Submit a preliminary report to the office of the Committees on Infractions by May 15, 2009, setting forth a schedule for establishing this compliance and educational program; and
  3. File with the office of the Committees on Infractions annual compliance reports indicating the progress made with this program by October 15 of each year during the probationary period. Particular emphasis should be placed on monitoring to ensure academic integrity is maintained and to provide education to student-athletes on the importance of adherence to high standards of conduct in their academic affairs. The reports must
    include documentation of the institution’s compliance with the
    adopted and imposed by the committee.

At the conclusion of the probationary period, the institution’s president shall provide a letter to the committee affirming that the institution’s current athletics policies and practices conform to all requirements of NCAA regulations.

Boiled down to the essence, FSU’s probation period requires the school to implement an educational program on NCAA rules and monitoring procedures with a focus on academic integrity. FSU had to file an initial report, followed by four annual reports. Now that probation is ending, FSU must send a final letter affirming that it met its obligations during probation and that the athletic department policies meet NCAA standards. After that, FSU no longer needs to report on its compliance efforts to the Committee on Infractions.

End of probation does not, however, mean that Florida State is “back to strike one.” That happens next year when FSU finishes the repeat violator period. The repeat violator period is always five years and is not impacted by the length of probation imposed by the Committee on Infractions. Although committing another major violation while under not only the repeat violator period but also probation is likely to be looked upon even worse by the Committee on Infractions.

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