INDIANAPOLIS – A two-year NCAA investigation into the Abilene Christian University athletics program came to an end Tuesday when the NCAA Division II Management Council Subcommittee on Infractions and Membership Committee Appeals upheld the finding of impermissible inducement violations and the vacation penalty against ACU.
Tuesday’s ruling from the Infractions Appeals Subcommittee means that ACU must immediately vacate all 10 wins from the 2007 football season, as well as statistics for two student-athletes who were referred to in the original report.
The vacation of those wins includes the program’s first NCAA Division II playoff victory, a 56-12 win over Mesa State (Colo.) at Shotwell Stadium. That means that ACU’s first NCAA Division II playoff victory was the 93-68 win over West Texas A&M on Nov. 22, 2008.
ACU’s record in 2007 now stands at 0-3 and head coach Chris Thomsen’s career record is now 24-13. None of the records, championships or wins from the 11-1 season in 2008 are affected.
That was little consolation, however, for those in charge of ACU athletics.
“The appeals process with NCAA is now over, and we have exhausted all possible avenues in order to get a more fair decision,” ACU president Dr. Royce Money said. “Our intention is to comply fully with all the NCAA rules and the judgments of our peers and the NCAA staff.
“Having said that, we take strong exception to the conclusions the NCAA reached,” he said. “We still contend that the unintentional infractions of our football coaches were secondary in nature and not a primary infraction worthy of a complete season being obliterated from the record books. It was needless overkill, in our opinion.”
ACU director of athletics Jared Mosley was also disappointed in the outcome of the appeals process, and was left to wonder why none of the coaches involved in the sanctions were given the chance to appear before the various NCAA committees that heard the case.
“We are extremely disappointed with the most recent decision from the appeals committee in upholding the penalty of vacating the wins and records from the 2007 football season,” he said. “It’s very frustrating that the coaches in the football program were not given the opportunity to share their side of the story with either of the committees. One of the coaches involved was not even interviewed regarding the allegations. We felt strongly that if the committee really viewed these as major infractions in nature that they would have given those involved the opportunity to speak and be given due process.”
ACU head coach Chris Thomsen said, if given the chance, he would have told the NCAA that there was no intent by anyone on his staff to gain a competitive advantage.
“We realize and acknowledge that we made some procedural errors,” he said, “but none of the things that happened were done out of a disregard for the rules, and none were done to help us gain a competitive advantage.”
Mosley said another point that he believed was in ACU’s favor was that the NCAA had overturned findings against other universities with cases similar to ACU’s.
“We presented instances of case precedent that closely mirrored the types of issues present in our case, yet were determined to be secondary in nature, not major infractions,” he said. “Our coaches did not intentionally violate rules, nor did their actions create a competitive advantage. We simply disagree with the committees belief that these instances were major in nature when you consider how other cases have been weighted in the past.”
Money said in February when the initial report was released that he had full confidence in coaching staff, and he reiterated that on Tuesday.
“We have full confidence in our football coaches, and we will get this matter behind us and move on toward a successful football season in 2009,” he said. “We have learned some lessons in this process that will help us improve our athletics program in the future, but that is all I had better say at this point.”
Mosley said that none of Tuesday’s actions will change what ACU will strive to become.
“We have taken these issues seriously and have implemented change in a number of areas in our compliance program that have us ready to continue the great athletic success here at ACU,” he said. “These penalties will not deter us from our history and goal of continuing to be a premier destination for student-athletes at the NCAA Division II level.”