One Remaining Shadow

West Virginia's self-imposed penalties for using non-coaching football staff members in coaching activities during the off-season for a four-year period have been, for the most part, already served. However, there's one outgrowth of the infractions case which looms over the next five years.

It was almost all good news for West Virginia when the NCAA released its public infractions report on Friday. The organization agreed that West Virginia's self-imposed penalties were sufficient for the violations that were committed under its two previous head football coaches, and did not impose any additional penalties. Each of those are listed below, and include comments on their effects on the program.

  • Public reprimand and censure

    Everyone in the college sports world already knew of the violations, and while WVU is required to post a notice of probation in its alumni publication and in its media guide, and inform players on recruiting visits of that status, it's not likely to have anything other than a minimal effect. Almost every finding by the NCAA includes this "punishment" – it's boilerplate at best.

  • Elimination of two non-coaching graduate assistant positions

    These positions are currently empty, and West Virginia has no current plans to hire anyone to fill them, but it is under no restriction to keep them vacant. This penalty has, in effect, already been served. Instead of seven GA spots, WVU's football program will operate with only five, at least for now. That will have an impact on the workload of the five GAs, but that has already been in place since last year.

  • GA Restrictions

    Various restrictions of GAs involving attendance in meetings or their presence on the sidelines, have already been served. Those restrictions expired over the course of the past year.

  • Recruiting Visits

    WVU limited off-campus recruiting in terms of the number of coaches allowed on the road at different points during the fall of 2010 and the spring of 2011. All of those penalties have been served.

  • Reduced Practice Time

    WVU cut back on its practice time during 2010 by 46 hours. No further penalties are to be served.

  • Scholarship Reductions

    Finally, there's a penalty that is still to be served, but it's minimal in all regards. WVU docked itself two scholarships in 2010-11 (completed), and will cut one scholarship in 2011-12. As the last few scholarships are typically awarded to a distinguished walk-on or a fifth-year senior, this will impact one player who might otherwise have gotten a scholarship this year, but it certainly won't affect the program as a whole.

  • Reporting and Education

    Just as with the Public Notice penalty, these items are standard in enforcement cases. Schools are required to conduct more education and report on its compliance efforts in greater depth, but in the end it's mostly paperwork, record-keeping and seminars that are involved here. The only penalty is the time involved to conduct those sessions and create that documentation.

    That leaves just one penalty – two years' probation, running from July 2011 through 2013. In a practical sense, probation doesn't involve any additional penalties. It doesn't put any restrictions on the operation of the program. In terms of day-to-day operations, it's not an issue. If WVU completes the educational processes outlined and follows the reporting guidelines set out, it will come off probation without issue. However, since the NCAA classified these violations as major infractions, West Virginia is in a much longer shadow – one that stretches for the next five years. If any new major violations are committed during that time frame, the school would be subject to more severe disciplinary actions as a result of the "Repeat Violator" section of the NCAA manual.

    In its report, the NCAA said, "As required by NCAA legislation for any institution involved in a major infractions case, West Virginia University shall be subject to the provisions of NCAA Bylaw, concerning repeat violators, for a five-year period beginning on the effective date of the penalties in this case, July 8, 2011." So for, the next five years, any other major infractions case would put WVU at risk of some severe penalties, including the "death penalty" – the shuttering of a sport involved for one or two seasons.

    Given the penalties imposed in this case, it's not likely that would occur, of course. It has only been levied five times in NCAA history, and the circumstances involved in each of those cases are far more severe than some GAs watching drills or sitting in on meetings. Other schools, such as Ohio State, which committed major violations in basketball in 2006 and is now facing major violations charges in football, probably won't get the death penalty, so it's hard to imagine circumstances where West Virginia would do so, barring a scandal of historic proportions. Still, the repeat violator status does open up the specter of more severe penalties if any WVU program, not just football, has major issues in the future.

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