Alcorn State University is back in the sports news, and this time it isn’t for the continuing fight over its nickname.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division I Committee on Infractions on Thursday barred the Braves’ women’s basketball team from postseason competition for a year and issued a range of other penalties for several violations in the sport, including competing with an ineligible player.
Alcorn State, a public institution located in Mississippi, is among six universities that cannot play host to or participate in an NCAA championship if they use their Native American mascots or imagery, which the NCAA has deemed “hostile” or “abusive.” The mandate has been controversial, with one institution, the University of North Dakota, suing the NCAA over the right to use its mascot name, “Fighting Sioux.”
In the infractions case, the NCAA panel cited the Braves' head coach, Shirley Walker, for a lack of ethical conduct for exceeding weekly practice limits set by the NCAA, allowing assistant coaches who weren't certified to recruit to do so, and providing falsified information to the NCAA enforcement staff.
Walker allowed three of the players to practice with the team and one to receive financial aid when she was not eligible. Walker's husband, who served as a volunteer assistant coach to the women's team and was Alcorn State's former men's basketball coach, was also found to have violated the association's ethical conduct rules by misleading NCAA investigators. The infractions report includes a dialogue between the asssistant coach and an investigator that adds a dose of humor rarely found in such reports.
“Our report found that there was a lack of institutional control” over the program by university officials, said Josephine Potuto, chair of the Division I Committee on Infractions and a professor of law at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. In its report on the case, the also expressed concern that Alcorn State officials had failed to recognize the seriousness of the violations, characterizing them as "secondary" rather than "major."
The committee placed the program on three years' probation and removed a scholarship from the team for 2006-7 -- on top of a reduction of one scholarship for 2005-6 that Alcorn State officials imposed on the team themselves.
Walker, who has been at Alcorn State for more than 25 years, is also restricted from attending the first week of practice for the next three seasons. If the university chooses not to adhere to this part of the sanction, it must justify its actions in front of an NCAA panel.
This represents the third time Alcorn State has been found to violate major NCAA rules. The other two times were in 1984 and 1994.