Morrisville, Neumann given postseason bans for financial aid violations

UPDATE, Jan. 25: Neumann said because it is no longer offering the grant in question, it is eligible for this postseason. An NCAA spokesperson confirmed on Wednesday that, after hearing from school officials, the national organization indeed considers Neumann to be eligible for the 2012 tournament. The original story follows.

Morrisville and Neumann committed major violations involving financial aid to student-athletes, and the NCAA has handed both a postseason ban and a probation term.

The NCAA announced the punishments, levied by the Division III Committee on Infractions, on Thursday.

Neumann’s violations include awarding the majority of international student scholarships to student-athletes during the 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11 academic years, according to the NCAA. The Knights were sentenced to two years of probation, a $10,000 fine and a postseason ban.

The Knights are 12-4 and ranked seventh in the Division III Men’s Poll.

Morrisville’s violations involved inconsistent financial aid packaging during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 academic years, the NCAA announced. Penalties to the Mustangs included two years of probation and a postseason ban.

Both cases involve financial aid given to Canadian players. At Neumann, a school financial aid program called the Canadian International Student Initiative Grant was used almost exclusively by men’s and women’s hockey players. In the four-year span, those grants went to student-athletes in all but one case.

The committee on infractions said that grant became de facto athletics scholarships awarded in a pattern not consistent with other aid packages at the school.

“The NCAA indicated that our International Initiative Grant violation was unintentional,” Dennis Murphy, Neumann’s vice president for enrollment and student affairs, said in a statement. “They also point out that the institution, the student-athletes and our employees did not purposely seek to gain an unfair advantage for the athletics program through this initiative.”

Morrisville’s case involves International Incentive Grants and Canadian Student Initiative Grants, school programs designed to boost international enrollment. But the committee found that the grants were disproportionately being given to student-athletes in violation of Division III rules.

In 2009-10, nearly 29 percent of the grant aid was given to student-athletes even though they represented only about 12 percent of the student body. A year later, about 37 percent of the aid was awarded to student-athletes, who made up 13 percent of the general student body.

Probation for both Morrisville and Neumann runs through Jan. 18, 2014.

The committee noted that the violations by both schools were unintentional and the result of the hockey programs recruiting in Canada more than the school admissions offices.