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UW-River Falls Given Probation for Impermissible Scholarships

The University of Wisconsin-River Falls was placed on probation by the Division III Committee on Infractions for failing to monitor their financial aid practices, resulting in seven football players being awarded athletically-related financial aid between 2007–08 and 2010–11. The violations centered around the awarding of scholarships to undergraduate student coaches in the football program as well as two other scholarships which had athletics participation as a criteria.

Chief among the committee’s concerns was that from 2007–08 to 2010–11, the head football coach was solely responsible for recommending who would receive scholarships as student assistant coaches. In addition, the head football coach would mention these scholarships to prospects during the recruiting process. If a prospect mentioned a desire to enter the coaching ranks, the head coach would discuss the possibility of receiving a scholarship to be a student-assistant coach after his eligibility was used up.

It was the mentioning of the scholarships in recruiting which was key in turning a series of secondary violations into major violations. Because the scholarships were used as part of the recruitment process, the committee determined that the institution could not prove one of the prongs of the test for a secondary violations, that it “Provides or is intended to provide only a minimal recruiting, competitive or other advantage”.

In addition to the underlying violations, UW-River Falls was also found to have failed to monitor the awarding of financial aid to athletes. No formal rules education was conducted with financial aid personnel, which allowed the violations to continue for an extended period of time. The DIII COI also cited the recent Oregon case to state that monitoring required more than just providing rules education but also follow-up to make sure the rules were understood and being followed.

As a result of the violations, UW-River Falls received one year of probation, during which it must undergo a Level II review by the Committee on Financial Aid. Various campus staff including the athletic director, head football coach, and financial aid personnel must attend an NCAA Regional Rules Seminar and provide a workshop on DIII financial aid rules when they return. And the institution must arrange for an outside audit of athlete employment procedures.

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