Alaska-Fairbanks sanctioned for violations during Karr’s tenure
MARQUETTE – The NCAA announced that it has issued sanctions against the University of Alaska-Fairbanks for violations relating to its athletes’ eligibility during the 2007-08 through 2011-12 school years.
The Nanooks hockey team, like Northern Michigan University a member of the WCHA, was hit hard by the sanctions that were announced Wednesday.
NMU athletic director Forrest Karr, who was named to the post in Marquette on June 11, 2012, was the AD at Alaska-Fairbanks from August 2004 to June 2012, which includes the time of the violations.
A statement issued by Alaska-Fairbanks said that the infractions were discovered in 2011 and 2012 and reported to the NCAA at that time, with some self-imposed penalties.
The NCAA has ruled that the Nanooks must miss this season’s playoffs, both the WCHA league playoffs and any possible NCAA national bid, and will have to vacate all wins, points and individual statistics for games where ineligible players were used.
This means that the Nanooks’ 2010 appearance in the NCAA tournament will be wiped from the books as well as two Governor’s Cup victories over Alaska-Anchorage.
When the WCHA postseason begins in March, if UAF is in the top eight, the ninth-place team will instead move into the tournament field.
UAF head coach Dallas Ferguson will have 63 victories taken away from his total of 103 at the school, according to the website USCHO.com. The 103-win total was only two wins away from the Nanooks’ all-time record.
In addition, the school will lose one scholarship each season for three years, while the university was fined $30,000, put on three years probation and was publicly reprimanded and censured, according to a statement from the NCAA.
UAF was given credit for its own sanctions, taking the hit for a loss of a scholarship for two years already, and has just one more season where it will lose a scholarship.
It wasn’t just the hockey team that got hit. The NCAA has also banned the men’s and women’s basketball teams, as well as the women’s swimming team, from postseason play. Scholarships will also be reduced in a way similar to how the hockey team was docked.
The Alaska school indicated that it thinks these are the extent of sanctions, with no other moves against personnel, including a former employee like Karr.
But the postseason ban didn’t sit well with Karr, nor the Nanooks’ athletic department.
“The decision to ban the current student-athletes, who had nothing to do with these unintentional violations, from postseason competition is very disheartening,” Karr said. “I know how much our student-athletes put in to their sports and how hard they work for these potential opportunities.”
UAF assistant athletic director for athletic communications Drew Desrosiers echoed Karr.
“I think that in terms of what the university is looking at, there is a sense that it was our mistake and we’ll have to take that punishment,” he said.
The specific infractions, which were released by the university, are wide-ranging and affected nine of the Nanooks’ 10 varsity sports.
The university said the reason for the violations were because of “the university’s failure to establish and maintain adequate systems to ensure that NCAA eligibility was being performed correctly.”
Karr was open in discussing what occurred.
“On June 16, 2011, our associate athletic director for compliance let me know of several secondary violations that occurred over a multiyear period,” Karr said. “I edited the university self-report and we sent it in to the NCAA staff on June 23.
“From that point, we continued our efforts to strengthen the various departments across campus that directly impact potential eligibility verification. There were mistakes made, but nobody intentionally did anything wrong.
“Once the violations were discovered, everybody all the way up to the chancellor acted with character and integrity immediately to not only report the violations, but worked to strengthen the departments across campus that impact continuing eligibility certification.”
Karr declined to elaborate further because he had not received a response from UAF on how to speak about the situation since he is no longer employed there.
Desrosiers however, was able to fill in some of the blanks.
“There was a failure of communications from athletics to the registrar’s office to the academic advising office,” Desrosiers said. “There was no communication on what needed to be done. The requirements for our degrees were higher than the NCAA, and what some people didn’t understand was that the NCAA requires a student to take the higher of the two standards of eligibility.
“What we reported was purely mistakes. It’s not like somebody said, ‘Okay, here’s how we can get around it.’ In 2011, we realized that we were making this mistake. We’ve recognized what we’ve done wrong and we’ve made progress to change that.”
Karr also said that NMU has a program already in place to keep this sort of problem from occurring there.
“We’ve put significant resources into our eligibility certification process across multiple departments on campus,” he said. “Our associate AD for compliance (Bridget Berube Carter) is very experienced and respected. She regularly meets with staff about financial aid, financial services, advising, admissions and the registrar’s office to review NCAA rules, and go through rules of education.
“In addition, the director of financial aid (Michael Rotundo) and the registrar (Kim Rotundo) attend regional rules compliance seminars and NCAA webinars to stay up to date on rule changes and clarifications.”