NCAA Hands Down its first NIL Infraction

By Tim Mackey | February 28, 2023

Miami women’s basketball players Haley and Hanna Cavinder, transfers from Fresno State, are the subject of NCAA’s first NIL infraction. Although the Cavinder sisters have stated that NIL did not affect their decision to transfer to Miami, the head coach of the Miami women’s basketball team, Katie Meier, arranged a meeting last year between the sisters and one of the University’s most prominent boosters and Miami businessmen, John Ruiz.

NCAA started its investigation in May 2022 after Ruiz posted an image of him with Haley and Hanna in front of his Miami home. As the investigation has closed, the Cavinder sisters and Ruiz were not punished. However, Miami’s women’s basketball team must pay a $5,000 fine and a separate fine equal to one percent of the program’s budget. The Hurricanes’ program will also serve a year of probation, which includes reductions in recruiting and official visits.

As far as Coach Meier is concerned, Meier has been suspended for three games as the team is right on the bubble for making the March Madness tournament. Although Meier has called the violation an “inadvertent mistake,” the NCAA still finds it to be violating the “head-coach responsibility.”

What did we learn from this case?

Regarding the Cavinder sisters’ case, the NCAA could not find any direct evidence of NIL-related severe inducements at the University of Miami. Meier never asked Ruiz to offer the athletes a deal. The NCAA reported that NIL opportunities weren’t discussed between Ruiz and the Cavinder twins at dinner. Yet, Meier was still punished for setting the meeting up.

However, the NCAA has clarified that this punishment isn’t a precedent for future violations. The NCAA has also displayed a want to focus on high-profile deals, punish even the most minor infractions, and use all tactics available to avoid lawsuits. The NCAA is still willing to go to great lengths to prove an infraction, no matter how minuscule.

NCAA’s New NIL Rules

At the start of 2023, the NCAA implemented its new NIL rules that follow a guilty until proven innocent model. This rule change allows the NCAA enforcement staff to make formal allegations of impermissible conduct based on presumptions from any substantial evidence. Universities will then have to clearly demonstrate that these allegations are false with credible and sufficient evidence, or else the hearing panel has the capability to conclude that a violation occurred and hand down punishments accordingly. The allegations against the Cavinder sisters’ were from May 2022, so these rules did not apply to that case.

This new structure for dealing with possible NIL violations opens the door to all types of manipulation between schools. However, Jon Duncan, the NCAA’s vice president of enforcement, stated that they work very hard to test the information that comes their way. This system allows the NCAA to enforce the rules without needing a smoking gun in every violation case.

Sources: Defector, NY Post, Yahoo Sports, Front Office Sports
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