Loyal Cougars

NCAA Penalty Matrix: What kind of penalties could BYU face?

Greg Welch analyzes the NCAA’s penalty matrix in the wake of reports of BYU’s investigation.

In early 2012, the NCAA adopted a more structured enforcement model. The idea was to give enforcement officials a more consistent list of rules and what the punishments should be, rather than making up punishments for every case that came across their desks.

This kind of information is useful if, for instance, you’d like to speculate what kind of punishment BYU could be looking at depending on which of the current rumors about improper benefits turn out to be true.

The NCAA has four levels of violations as well as a matrix advising punishments. This article reviews the definitions and then the guidelines for possible punishments.

A Level I violation is the most severe. They list things like lack of institutional control, academic fraud, failure to cooperate with the NCAA, violations by the head coach directly, cash payment to a recruit that lead to that recruit enrolling in the school, etc.

Level II violations are called significant breach of conduct. These cover things like failure to monitor, systemic violations, or multiple recruiting, financial aid, or eligibility violations.

Level III violations are referred to a breach of conduct. These are either inadvertent violations that are isolated or limited in nature or violations that do not create more than minimal advantages.

Level IV are all the other small things you can do wrong, like sending postcards to a recruit at the wrong time, etc.

So, given the current rumors, where does BYU fit? I have a hard time seeing this deemed as a Level I violation. The reports say this was a situation where current players were involved, not cash being given to prospective students. BYU is also highly unlikely to be found to be uncooperative with the NCAA. As much as Utah talk radio would love to have them, I just don’t see Level I violations.

So, it seems the violations are either Level II or Level III, depending on the length and severity found in BYU’s investigation. The big word that stands out to me in the Level II definition is multiple. The big words that stand out to me in Level III definition are minimal advantages. It would depend on what facts the investigation uncovers. How long do these infractions go back and how many players are discovered in the investigation? How much did what they were improperly given really impact BYU’s competitive advantage?

Looking at the penalty guidelines, they list no major punishments for Level III violations. If BYU is found to have committed Level III violations, that will likely be the end of it.

For Level II violations, the punishment appears to depend on the school’s reaction. Did the school lie or cover it up (aggravation)? Did they take an average resolution to the problem (standard)? Or has the school taken their own steps to solve the problem already (mitigation)?

It would seem to me that even if the more severe Level II infractions are found, because the allegations are all dealing with staff members who are no longer employed at the school, Level II Mitigation would likely be considered. Still, here are the punishments depending what the final investigation finds.

Post-season ban
Level II Standard: 0-1 year post-season ban.
Level II Mitigation: 0
Level III: Nothing

Financial Penalties
Level II Standard: $5,000 plus 0 to 1% of the school’s athletic budget ($0-$400,000).
Level II Mitigation: $5,000
Level III: Nothing

Scholarship Reductions
Level II Standard: 0-12.5% (up to 10 scholarships lost)
Level II Mitigation: 0-5% (4 scholarships lost)
Level III: Nothing

Head Coach Restrictions
Level II Standard: 0-30% of the season (4 games)
Level II Mitigation: 0-10% of the season (1-2 games)
Level III: Nothing

Recruiting Visit Restrictions
Level II Standard: 0 to 6-week ban on unofficial visits
Level II Mitigation: 0 to 3-week ban on unofficial visits
Level III: Nothing

Level II Standard: 0 to 2 years
Level II Mitigation: 0 years
Level III: Nothing

So, it’s possible BYU will face no punishment. Most likely, BYU faces a small fine and and a handful of reduced scholarships. If things get really bad, it faces some recruiting restrictions — and in a worst-case scenario, they would not play in a bowl game or have a multiple game suspension for head coach Bronco Mendenhall.

We will all have to wait and see what the final findings and punishments are, but for now, even the worst case scenario, at least given the reported details so far, seems quite survivable for any football program.