Aid violations hit women’s programs too

Over the past two years, the ECAC Women’s West has been hit hard by NCAA sanctions pertaining to International Student Initiative Grants.

Four member schools, including Chatham, Buffalo State, Potsdam, and most recently Neumann, have been found to be in violation of too many athletes receiving these grants in proportion to the rest of the student population.

In each of the four cases, the NCAA deemed the infractions “unintentional,” and were the result of the hockey programs recruiting in Canada more than the school admissions’ offices.

USCHO Men’s ECAC West Correspondent Scott Biggar wrote about Neumann’s situation last week in his column, and reported the following quote:

“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.”

Neumann is still eligible for the ECAC West postseason tournament this year because it stopped giving the grant in 2010 and none of the players currently on the 2011-12 roster are receiving it.

The ECAC league office released the following statement by e-mail for the purposes of this column on Wednesday night.

“At this time, no ECAC West Ice Hockey programs (Men’s or Women’s) have one or more student athletes receiving the Canadian International Student Initiative Grant. All such grants for student athletes were discontinued prior to start of the 2011-2012 academic year. As a result, all men’s and women’s programs within the ECAC West Hockey leagues are eligible for postseason play.”

Currently, Neumann sits in fifth place in the ECAC West with a 5-7-2 record in league play and a 6-9-2 record overall. As of today, the Knights would qualify for the postseason tournament and travel to Oswego State for a play-in round game. However, Potsdam sits just one point behind and Utica is still within striking distance with two games in hand and four points behind the Knights.

Neumann has 18 players on its roster this year, which is by far the lowest it has been since the Knights’ inaugural season in 2001-02, when they had 14. Last season Neumann had 22 players on its roster, and it hovered between the 22-to-26 range ever since its first season at the varsity level.

There are four Canadian players that were not seniors according to last year’s roster and are not listed Neumann’s 2011-12 roster. Two of them were juniors last year, as well as one sophomore and one freshman.

This year’s roster consists of 12 players from Canada. Of those, 10 are returners who are no longer receiving the CISIG, and two are new to the team this year as freshmen.

Neumann had its best season in program history last year, as the Knights finished the season with a 16-7-4 record before bowing out in the ECAC West semifinals with a tough 2-1 loss to Plattsburgh. Six of Neumann’s seven losses last year came to the ECAC West powerhouse trip of Elmira, Plattsburgh and RIT.

SUNY Morrisville was also sanctioned last week by the NCAA in the same report as Neumann. They become the fifth and sixth Division III hockey-playing schools to be hit with a financial aid violation in the last two years. Morrisville only fields a men’s ice hockey team, and it is ineligible for the 2012 SUNYAC tournament.

Buffalo State and Geneseo (men’s hockey only) were the first two schools hit with the NCAA sanction pertaining to the CISIG in late January 2010. The Buffalo State men’s and women’s ice hockey teams were ineligible for the 2010 postseason, as were the Geneseo men. As of January 27, 2012, both schools have officially come off their two-year probation period without any further instances.

Potsdam State became the next school to fall victim to the sanction in April 2011 when the NCAA released its findings that “during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 academic years, the school was awarding financial aid packages to student athletes in a pattern clearly distinguishable from the general pattern of all financial aid for the general student body.”

The committee once again noted that the violations were unintentional, but represented a significant competitive advantage.

Chatham became the next ECAC West school to be found in violation over the summer of 2010, with the NCAA releasing a public infractions report on July 30, 2010. The report cited the following:

“During the 2007- 08 and 2008-09 academic years, the institution awarded financial aid packages to student-athletes in a pattern clearly distinguishable from the general pattern of all financial aid for all recipients at the institution. Specifically, over 89 percent of Canadian student discounts, which were designed to increase the number of international students on campus by bringing their tuition down to the same level as that paid by American students, were awarded to student-athletes during the two academic years cited. The majority of the discounts were awarded to women’s ice hockey student-athletes.”

Chatham is still on probation until the end of July, according to the NCAA’s public infractions report. However, it did note that Chatham proposed the probation period start on July 1 rather than July 30. At the time of this article being published, it’s not known whether or not Chatham was granted the request.

Hopefully we’ve seen the last of these infractions reports effecting Division III hockey schools. The good news is that all the ECAC West schools are currently eligible for the postseason due to each individual school’s administration and financial aid offices working with the NCAA to correct the violation in a timely manner.


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