NCAA comes down on Cal Poly for books violation

The NCAA has placed Cal Poly on two years of probation and will force the school to vacate regular season and conference tournament records in "most of its sports programs" after an investigation concluded the school did not properly monitor its book scholarship program.

In a 21-page report released Thursday, the NCAA said Cal Poly provided cash stipends of $800, intended for books and academic supplies, to 265 student-athletes between 2012 and 2015 that did not equal the cost of the items. The investigation determined these cash stipends resulted in 30 student-athletes exceeding their financial aid limits by an average of $174.57.

"Several student-athletes used the book stipend to pay for items that were not related to required books or supplies such as food, rent, utilities and car repairs," the report said. "On an individual basis, for those student-athletes who received cash that exceeded the cost of books and supplies, the value of the overages ranged from $5 to $734 and totaled $16,180."

Cal Poly became aware its process for distributing the book stipends did not follow NCAA rules at a Big West Conference financial aid summit in October 2015, which led the school to hire an outside agency to review its financial aid practices and eventually self-report the error to NCAA enforcement staff.

"Cal Poly promotes an atmosphere of compliance, and has in place strong monitoring and educational practices," Don Oberhelman, the school's athletic director, said in a statement. "This high level of commitment is what led to the discovery of the error. It was an inadvertent error that was isolated in the area of textbooks and, in every case of any actual overaward, there was no advantage gained."

In a news release, the NCAA said Cal Poly mistakenly treated the book stipends "in the same manner as room and board stipends," and that the organization will require the school to vacate all regular season and conference tournament records and participation in which ineligible student-athletes competed. If any student-athletes deemed ineligible competed in the postseason, Cal Poly's participation in the postseason will also be vacated.

It's unclear how many wins and postseason appearances will be wiped from the record books.

"We don't believe the university broke this longstanding rule intentionally but we do recognize there is no ambiguity in the wording of the rule and there is no room for misinterpretation," said Big East deputy commissioner Vince Nicastro, who served as the chief hearing officer for the panel that issued the punishment. "Cal Poly simply failed to follow the rule."

Additionally, any school that hires any of the coaches whose teams were affected will be barred from making references to those coaches' vacated accomplishments in official publications.

"Head coaches with vacated wins on their records may not count the vacated wins toward specific honors or victory 'milestones' such as 100th, 200th or 500th career victories," the report said. "Any public reference to the vacated contests shall be removed from the athletics department stationary, banners displayed in public areas and any other forum in which they may appear."

The school will be required to inform potential student-athletes prior to official recruiting visits about the infractions outlined in the report. Additional penalties include a "public reprimand and censure" and a self-imposed fine of $5,000.

As part of its justification for the imposed penalties, the NCAA report cited Cal Poly infractions cases from 1987 and 1995.

Cal Poly fields 20 NCAA-affiliated teams and primarily competes in the Big West and Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. Its football program plays in the Big Sky Conference, as part of the Football Championship Subdivision.