GSC statement on Valdosta State University's use of ineligible student-athlete

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. –– In early October, Valdosta State University became aware of the use of a potentially ineligible student-athlete in five football games this season and self-reported this information to both the NCAA and the Gulf South Conference.

The student-athlete had previously played at a Division I institution and sought to utilize the Division I only rule that allows student-athletes to retain a season of competition if they participate in four or fewer contests during a season. This information was omitted from the documentation provided by the previous institution and the NCAA Transfer Portal. Further, Valdosta State did not discover the information during their recruitment and certification process. It is noted that NCAA Division II will consider legislation in January 2020 that would allow these type of transfers.

Over the next few weeks, the NCAA enforcement staff issued its decision and determined that the student-athlete was indeed ineligible while competing. The NCAA penalties for this secondary violation typically include application of nullification principles in the football team’s final numbers for NCAA postseason consideration by the Division II Football Committee. However, in this instance, the institution worked through the NCAA appeals and waiver process and has been granted relief from the penalty based on the totality of the circumstances.

The Gulf South Conference interprets that the existing GSC policy (12.6-B) regarding ineligible players does not apply fully due to the NCAA nullification waiver. As a result, the Commissioner, in consultation with the GSC Executive Committee, will apply alternative penalties and sanctions per his powers in GSC Policies 2.6-A, 2.6-F(1), 2.6-F(4) and 2.6-G.

Valdosta State University shall be fined for the three GSC contests in which VSU played an ineligible student-athlete and the fine shall be directed to the GSC Degree Completion Grant Fund;

The Athletic Department shall be required to conduct a compliance rules review with all head coaches, assistant coaches and graduate assistant coaches with specific review of processes for insuring eligibility of all transfer student-athletes;

The Athletic Department shall review eligibility for all four-year transfer student-athletes competing in the 2019-20 season;

The GSC may impose additional penalties should more details arise that warrant reconsideration or if other instances of ineligible student-athletes participating in conference games are discovered.

“We are reviewing our policies and procedures in regards to the certification of transferring Division I student-athlete so as to ensure that this situation will not happen again in the future. Hopefully, proposed legislation that will be voted on at the 2020 NCAA Convention in January will eliminate the inconsistency in the red-shirt and season of competition rules between Division I and Division II. We want to thank the Gulf South Conference, Commissioner Matt Wilson and the NCAA for their assistance and guidance in this matter,” said Herb Reinhard, VSU Director of Athletics.

A secondary violation is a violation that is isolated or inadvertent in nature; provides or is intended to provide only a minimal recruiting, competitive or other advantage; and does not include any significant impermissible benefit (including, but not limited to, an extra benefit, recruiting inducement, preferential treatment, financial aid). Multiple secondary violations by a member institution may be collectively considered as a major violation.

The GSC membership will also conduct a review of GSC ineligibility policy and application in instances where the NCAA does not apply nullifications penalties over the course of the 2019-20 academic year.

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