D-II West Chester Swim Program Penalized for Mismanaging Club on Campus

by Riley Overend 19

December 12th, 2022 College, NCAA Division II, News

The NCAA sanctioned Division II swimming program West Chester University on Friday for violations stemming from mismanagement of a private club that had been operating on campus for decades.

The investigation began this spring when a new assistant athletic director discovered the infractions and self-reported them to the NCAA. A review found that Golden Rams Aquatics (GRA) had been annually funneling $25,000 of their year-end proceeds to help fund the budget of West Chester’s athletic department. The source of the money was traditionally labeled as camps or clinics on university financial audits as opposed to a local sports club. The former athletic director and head swim coach also hired a head coach for GRA who also served as an assistant coach at West Chester.

NCAA legislation permits schools to sponsor local sports clubs that include prospective student-athletes if there is no athletic department or booster involvement. College coaches may work for an affiliated local sports club if bylaws are followed in the process. The Division II Committee on Infractions ruled that West Chester committed multiple violations by maintaining “financial and managerial control over the club” and allowing a college coach to work at a sponsored club.

Consequently, the NCAA fined West Chester $25,000 and imposed recruiting penalties that last until the end of the school’s two-year probationary period.

The penalties include delaying the recruiting of prospective athletes by one year to June 15 preceding their senior year of high school. Prospective recruits will no longer be able to practice with the team during visits to campus, nor will they receive free admission to football or basketball games. There’s more: National Letter of Intent signing will be pushed back by eight weeks, and the recruiting budget will be reduced by 25%.

“We would expect it’s going to be tougher for us,” West Chester president Christopher Fiorentino said.

Additionally, West Chester won’t be allowed to rent out its swimming and diving facilities to local sports clubs for two years as part of the sanctions.

University officials told The Philadelphia Inquirer that when they took control of GRA in the late 1980s, the practice was not a violation, but regulations changed in 1994. Fiorentino said an outside firm’s audit of the athletic department should be completed soon to hopefully determine why the infractions were not reported sooner.

While many NCAA Division I schools own local club teams, like the University of Texas (Longhorn Aquatics) and University of Denver (Hilltoppers), NCAA Division II rules explicitly forbid it.

13.11.2.4.1 Institutional Sponsorship of Local Sports Club. Neither an institution’s athletics department nor an institution’s athletics booster group may sponsor a local sports club that includes prospective student-athletes. It is permissible for a department of the institution that operates independent of the athletics department (e.g., physical education department, recreation department) to sponsor a local sports club that includes prospective student-athletes, provided no athletics department staff member is involved with the club team. [D] (Adopted: 1/16/93, Revised: 1/11/94)

“We wanted to ensure there are no other problems,” Fiorentino said. “We have additional work to do to understand exactly what happened, when and why. We need to understand why it was not detected, and we need to be sure something like this would never happen again.”

The athletics department stopped running GRA back in May. No individuals have been disciplined yet in connection with West Chester’s investigation.

You can view the full text of the NCAA’s ruling here.

West Chester enjoyed tremendous success in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference while operating GRA. The Golden Rams’ men have captured 23 conference titles since 1994, and the women have won 19.

“This is a swimming and diving team matter and comes at no fault of any individual swimming and diving athletes, past or present. No other sports teams were involved in this NCAA bylaw violation,” senior vice president and provost Jeffery L. Osgood, Jr. said. “Committed to the same principles of academic integrity and ethical decision-making that it expects of all those within its community of educators, West Chester University accepts the findings of the NCAA’s investigation and takes full responsibility. President Fiorentino has taken decisive steps to correct these practices and to create a culture of compliance by voluntarily hiring outside experts to perform a comprehensive NCAA compliance assessment. The university is confident that a violation of this nature will not be repeated at West Chester University.”

“Integrity, ethical standards and a commitment to doing what is right are uncompromising principles for West Chester University,” Osgood added. “I am proud of the way we acknowledged the matter by self-reporting the actions detailed and working collaboratively with the NCAA to come to a final resolution. We will use this critical lesson to instill an environment of full compliance throughout our athletic department. Our students deserve nothing less and we will work hard to make them proud through our united actions now and in the days that will follow.”

19
Leave a Reply

Subscribe
Notify of

19 Comments
newest
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
SWIMDOG
1 month ago

Yikes. Wonder if the coaching staff will be kept

Spaghettio024
1 month ago

To everybody going off in the comments about how this is so unfair of the NCAA. This is what they do. The NCAA is greedy, which is why it took them so long to allow athletes to make any sort of money. Though they make their money mostly from football and basketball it still pains me to be an NCAA swimmer for this reason.

Admin
Reply to  Spaghettio024
1 month ago

The NCAA is a collection of universities. Saying that the collection of universities taking a fine from one of its own is greedy doesn’t really make sense to me.

The NCAA is a lot of things (short-sighted, dogmatic, sexist), but this doesn’t feel like “greed” to me.

GoBulldogs
1 month ago

So this is okay at the D1 and D3 level but not D2?
Also can a head or assistant coach own a LLC or club team and rent the space from the department? Why does this rule exist just for D2?

GoBulldogs
Reply to  GoBulldogs
1 month ago

might be time to re visit this 1994 ruling…

Xman
1 month ago

Any word if Clarion had anything similar?

James Beam
1 month ago

Serious questions here..how was GRA (golden rams aquatics) any different than any other club team that is based at a University and has a coach that also coaches the club team and the college team? So the pool rental fee for the club team couldn’t go back to the school’s operating budget? I’m trying to see the logic here.

Admin
Reply to  James Beam
1 month ago

Most of us are familiar with this practice from Division I teams. D2 has a different rule:

13.11.2.4.1 Institutional Sponsorship of Local Sports Club. Neither an institution’s athletics department nor
an institution’s athletics booster group may sponsor a local sports club that includes prospective student-athletes. It is
permissible for a department of the institution that operates independent of the athletics department (e.g., physical
education department, recreation department) to sponsor a local sports club that includes prospective student-athletes,
provided no athletics department staff member is involved with the club team. [D] (Adopted: 1/16/93, Revised: 1/11/94)

Sam
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 month ago

Any idea how this differs from SPA in Springfield, MO?

Admin
Reply to  Sam
1 month ago

Without digging into it, the website shows a board of directors, which implies that maybe Drury doesn’t own the team. That’s just my best guess, though. Most university-owned teams don’t have a Board of Directors.

James Beam
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 month ago

thanks Braden. Begs the question…why does D2 have this kind of rule and D1 does not? I would love to know the explanation. As GoBulldogs said, might be time to update this…there could be a logical explanation.

Admin
Reply to  James Beam
1 month ago

I’ll dig around and see if I can figure it out. Given when it changed (1994), it will be hard to find primary contemporary sourcing, but should still be enough people around who remember the conversation.

I have some hypothesis, but so far have no evidence for them.

B1G Daddy
Reply to  Braden Keith
30 days ago

Just call Pete Hovland. I guarantee he knows exactly why the rule was enacted.

chazoozle
1 month ago

I thought this was pretty standard and this punishment is ridiculous.

Sid Frisco
1 month ago

Seriously? This is ridiculous.

swimlikeafish
1 month ago

Additionally, West Chester won’t be allowed to rent out its swimming and diving facilities to local sports clubs for two years as part of the sanctions.

Does this mean they can’t use the facilities what so ever?

Xman
Reply to  swimlikeafish
1 month ago

Sounds that way – that’s really going to hurt the community. I’m sure other swim or dive programs rented lane time.

Jimbo
Reply to  Xman
1 month ago

Plus many, many families did swim lessons there.

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

Read More »