The University of San Diego withdrew its football team from contention for the Pioneer Football League championship and FCS playoffs after discovering a financial aid violation earlier this year. The violation is not one of NCAA rules but of the PFL’s ban on athletic scholarships. The PFL uses Division III athletic aid rules. Not only can the athletic department not award scholarships to the football team, the university may also not award scholarships that take into account athletic participation:
“That, in formulating the need-based financial aid package for students that came to USD, the students participating in high school football was considered,” [USD athletic director Ky] Snyder said in response to the specific violations that were under speculation. “Although we compete in Division I in the FCS, the PFL follows Division III rules which…in essence…state that athletics participation cannot be identified.”
The article By Taylor Cabalse, Davis Jones, and Jackson Somes suggests that USD had a financial aid program which was mostly need-based but which also included some consideration of merit. Merit in this case included participating in high school athletics. Participation on sports teams is often one way an applicant for a scholarship can show “leadership” when it is a criteria for an award.
In addition to what amounts to a postseason ban, comments from the PFL suggest USD will also have to vacate every conference game they won. The investigation will be turned over to the conference when it is finished, and the conference presidents and athletic directors will decide on any further sanctions. USD is not expected to face any sanctions from the NCAA or West Coast Conference.