Friday, December 13, 2002
Team used ineligible players, professors changed grades
PHOENIX -- Northern Arizona's football program was put on
probation for three years by the NCAA on Wednesday for using an
The university was censured for a lack of institutional control
because professors changed the player's grades.
"They didn't report the matter to us in a timely fashion,"
Division I Infractions Committee chairman Jack Friedenthal said
Wednesday. "They didn't go through the procedure of declaring the
player ineligible and seeking reinstatement, which is the way it's
"Instead, they waited until after football season and didn't
report it until the student was trying out for track."
School president Clara Lovett denied that the administration
dragged its feet.
"We investigated and took action," she said. "That action
included redesigning our eligibility-monitoring systems to include
a daily computer report of student-athlete and academic status."
The committee took away five football equivalencies for the
2002-03 academic year, leaving the program with 58. An equivalency
is a scholarship that can be divided up among several players.
The panel also vacated the results of six 1999 games in which
wide receiver Francis St. Paul played while ineligible. The
Lumberjacks won four of the six, so their 1999 record dropped from
8-4 to 4-8.
The school must redo its media guides and publications, a subtle
punishment which Friedenthal said could have an impact on
"That has turned out to be more of a penalty than some people
might think," Friedenthal said. "They were playing in a I-AA
championship game, and that has to be wiped out and can't be
advertised as a recruiting device."
Northern Arizona's final 1999 game was a 72-29 playoff loss to
The committee found that the university failed to report the
violations and ignored inquiries from the Big Sky Conference, which
ordered the team to forfeit the games last year.
But Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton saw nothing wrong with
the way Northern Arizona went about it.
"I don't think it's terribly unusual for a school to have its
own interpretation of what the NCAA is saying," he said. "I think
they honestly were interpreting the rule and tried as best they
could to follow it."
The committee found that two university professors either
improved St. Paul's grades posted the previous semester or
submitted early grades.
Postings that made St. Paul eligible were official within a day,
while postings that worsened his grade-point average went
unreported for as long as 14 days.
The registrar's office, coaches and other athletic department
officials also were implicated because they are involved in
ensuring student-athlete compliance, Friedenthal said.
The NCAA did not find grades changed for any other Northern
"We remain committed to compliance with all NCAA and Big Sky
Conference rules and regulations," athletic director Steve Holton
said. "We have instituted a stronger set of policies and
St. Paul, the Big Sky's second-leading receiver in 1999 with 67
catches for 987 yards and 13 touchdowns, was suspended for the
first six games of the 2000 season.
He finished with 29 catches for 230 yards and two TDs, and the
Lumberjacks were 3-8.