Utica College has become the latest institution with a Division III hockey program to be sanctioned by the NCAA, it was announced Thursday. In a situation similar to numerous findings affecting other programs over the previous few seasons, the NCAA Division III Committee on Infractions found that the college failed to monitor aspects of its financial aid programs which resulted in student-athletes receiving aid at a rate incongruent with that received by the general student body.
According to the NCAA, the disproportionate awardance of aid stemmed from Utica failing to monitor its Canadian International Student Award (CISA) program. The CISA program, initiated in 2010, was aimed at making the college more attractive to Canadians so as to help the school expand its geographic footprint. The NCAA acknowledged that Utica consulted it to ensure that the program was in compliance with its financial aid rules and regulations, and stated it "advised the college to make the funds available to all prospective students using the same standard, to carefully monitor the impact of the financial aid and to act proactively if any problems arise."
According to the NCAA, during the 2010-11 academic year Utica awarded the aid to five students, all of whom were member's of the men's ice hockey team; while in the 2011-12 academic year 11 students received the award, including six men's ice hockey players, one women's ice hockey player and one baseball player.
Unlike in other recent cases of similar nature, the NCAA noted that Utica's lack of monitoring of the aid program was intentional "because the college did not want athletics participation to be a consideration in the financial aid process." In a release of its own (full text follows), Utica specifies that the school ceased the CISA initiative in 2011.
According to the official announcement from the NCAA, Utica's full list of sanctions is as follows:
- Public reprimand and censure.
- Two years of probation, from August 29, 2013 through August 28, 2015.
- A postseason ban for any of the college’s teams whose rosters include one or more student-athletes receiving CISA awards.
- Request of a Level Two review from the NCAA Committee on Financial Aid. During this review, the committee looks closely at an institution’s policies and procedures for awarding aid, as well as the impact of those factors on aid received by student-athletes.
Utica College has also issued a statment concerning the matter. Full text follows:
During the 2009-2010 academic year, Utica College undertook an initiative to increase its enrollment of Canadian students, as part of a larger effort to further expand the College's growing geographic footprint. The College was strongly positioned in regards to its academic and extracurricular programs to meet particular needs and interests of Canadian students, and allocated additional financial aid specifically targeting Canadian students in select degree programs.
The College recognized at that time that this initiative, if not implemented and administered properly, placed the institution at possible risk of falling out of compliance with NCAA regulations concerning financial aid for student-athletes. For this reason, the College sought advice from NCAA compliance officials and other sources when structuring this initiative so to address this risk and provide safeguards we believed then were sufficient. Regretfully, these safeguards were not sufficient.
From 2009 to 2011, the College awarded a small number of institutional grants to Canadian students, a disproportionate number of which were awarded to students participating in intercollegiate athletics. While this activity was non-deliberate, we nevertheless take full responsibility, and do not take our shortcoming lightly.
The College proactively ceased this initiative in 2011, including grants previously awarded. For the past two years we have been working closely with the NCAA to re-examine our financial aid award activity during the period in which the initiative was in effect. Utica College remains committed to expanding access to Canadian students, a population the College remains uniquely positioned to serve. However, we will consider resuming this initiative only at such time that we are confident that our processes have been unequivocally corrected. The sanctions imposed today by the NCAA and the measures the College has previously adopted to ensure a more efficient monitoring system are components of that corrective process.
As an institution that has taken extraordinary pride in fostering and promoting the values of Division III athletics, we remain unswerving in our dedication to the highest principles of fair play. As such, we do not challenge these corrective sanctions; rather, we view them as an opportunity for improvement.
View full NCAA release here.