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February 7, 2013

Occidental placed on two years NCAA probation

Occidental College has been placed on two years probation for major violations of recruiting, benefits, and out-of-season practice rules in its volleyball and football programs, the NCAA announced Feb. 7.

In each program, Occidental took immediate steps to investigate, mitigate, and self-report to the NCAA after the violations were discovered. Current head volleyball coach Heather Collins and current head football coach Doug Semones were not involved in the infractions. Both of the head coaches involved no longer work at Oxy.

“We have acknowledged every competitive advantage gained, and in fairness to our competition, addressed each one,” said Athletic Director Jaime Hoffman. “We ended the employment of those directly responsible; declared student-athletes ineligible; and will vacate wins and opportunities. It hurts, but it is the fair and right thing to do. Looking ahead, we have made several staffing changes and will continue to invest time and resources into compliance education to ensure this does not happen again.”

As a result of the violations, Oxy volleyball will be ineligible for postseason play in 2013; will vacate team and individual records of the 2009, 2010, and 2011 volleyball seasons; and restrictions on off-campus recruiting for volleyball will remain in place until Dec. 31, 2013. While the two programs are on probation, all recruits must be informed of that fact. Probation is scheduled to end on Feb. 6, 2015.

Occidental’s investigation found that the then-head women's volleyball coach failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance, and that the College failed to adequately monitor the program.

The coach arranged for impermissible benefits to 10 players including more than $1,900 in travel, lodging, meals and entertainment expenses from 2009 to 2011.  The coach also violated recruiting rules by providing free t-shirts and DVDs to three prospective recruits in 2010, and approximately $400 in bus transportation to a total of 11 prospective recruits in 2009 and 2010. In addition, he improperly encouraged nine players to participate in out-of-season practices.

On the heels of serving a four-game suspension in 2010 for secondary violations related to extra benefits and out-of-season practice, the then-head football coach also violated recruiting rules in April 2012 by using email to improperly contact 467 football student-athletes attending other four-year institutions, including 36 active athletes at SCIAC schools.

The case was resolved through the summary disposition process, a cooperative effort where the College and the NCAA jointly submit the case to the Committee on Infractions. “At no point during the processing of the case did any party refuse to engage in the uncomfortable task of discussing involvement in NCAA violations, nor was there resistance to the process of coming to agreement about what had occurred and the significance of the violations,” says the NCAA’s official report.

“We approached this process in an open and straightforward way because we know these incidents aren’t typical of Oxy athletics,” Hoffman said. “We intend to benefit from the lessons learned. In fact, it was our increased vigilance that led to the quick discovery of the recruiting violations in our football program.”

Occidental College NCAA Public Infractions Report