ENMU hopes self-imposed penalties enough

By Kevin Wilson

CMI staff writer

kwilson@cnjonline.com

Eastern New Mexico University has asked for, and expects, severe punishments for more than 100 self-reported eligibility violations that span nearly every sport the Division-II school offers.

The university’s athletic department is working on a supplemental report about 113 violations discovered with 386 student-athlete files reviewed. Athletic Director Jeff Geiser said staff is working under a soft deadline of Nov. 15 for that report, but noted that he spoke Tuesday with the NCAA and was told the report could be submitted following the Thanksgiving break.

A voluntary punishment recommendation made by the college includes:

  • Vacating all wins in football, baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball and softball for the 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons. The action would vacate the university’s regular season Lone Star Conference championship in men’s soccer in 2011.
  • Vacating all wins for the football, baseball and men’s and women’s soccer teams for 2012-13.
  • Vacating the 2011 and 2012 men’s cross country LSC championships, and the 2011 South Central region championship.
  • Various place changes in LSC track meets, because the school would only lose points from the ineligible athletes’ specific events.

“Hopefully they accept our self-imposed penalties,” Geiser said. “We don’t want to accept any postseason bans or scholarship losses. We’re not a rich school as it is.”

The NCAA has not responded to ENMU’s suggested actions, and will not do so until after the supplemental report is released.

The first report, sent out July 24, was a preliminary infractions report that included reports on all eligibility issues beginning with the 2008-09 season.

“We basically negotiated with the NCAA to go back to last year’s squad list and go back to when (last season’s seniors) would have been freshmen,” Geiser said. “It was somewhat of a plea bargain. We probably would have had violations going back beyond them.”

The matter does not include any current ENMU athletes, Geiser said. The school found no evidence of student-athletes intentionally manipulating the system.

“We’re conducting our own investigation,” Geiser said. “We’ve self-reported. The NCAA has not appeared on our campus. Nobody turned us in. We didn’t have a disgruntled coach or a disgruntled athlete. We’ve been totally upfront. The lesson we are teaching our student-athletes is when you make a mistake, you don’t hide from the truth. We’re going to run a clean program at Eastern. We’re not going to hide anything.”

The Lone Star Conference does not have any role in the back-and-forth between ENMU and the NCAA, but Geiser said the conference did help ENMU figure out the ramifications on track and field results based on specific ineligible athletes.

When the NCAA does weigh in, the matter can be resolved through a summary disposition process — a cooperative process where all parties agree to the punishments. If ENMU officials do not agree with the summary disposition, ENMU President Steven Gamble and Geiser would go to a hearing at the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis.

What the university does, Geiser said, will be Gamble’s decision. Gamble was out of the office Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.

The preliminary report included a review of current and future corrective actions. The actions included:

  • Creation of an assistant registrar and eligibility coordinator, a role now filled by DeLynn Vargas.

“Under the old system, we were a two-pronged system of checks and balances with the registrar and the compliance coordinator,” Geiser said. “One of the recommendations was we needed a three-prong process.”

The role was first filled by Rachel Johnson, who moved from the Sports Communication office. She has since been moved to compliance coordinator, as predecessor Kristen Soukop was named softball coach. Soukop remains onboard as the assistant compliance coordinator instead of carrying teacher requirements, Geiser said, because her knowledge is better used there.

  • Appointment of an advisor specifically for student-athletes. In some cases, Geiser said, a student-athlete would switch a class, unknowingly jeopardizing eligibility because the new class doesn’t belong on their individual degree plan. That role is filled by assistant volleyball coach DeWayne Roberts.

Geiser said the long process has been a dark cloud over the college, and although other departments contributed to the problems, the blame lies with his department.

“You want to point the finger at somebody, point it at Jeff Geiser,” he said. “The buck stops at my desk. I can take the heat.”

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