University files lawsuit against ACT regarding NCAA investigation
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette has filed a lawsuit against ACT Inc. for its inability to detect fraudulent testing administration following the NCAA Committee on Infractions’ decision on former assistant football coach David Saunders.
The lawsuit stems from the committee’s findings that Saunders and his accomplice Ginny Crager, a testing administrator, would provide potential football prospects with fraudulent ACT exams. Essentially, the university said ACT should be held responsible for its inability to detect illegal actions.
“Due to the failure to detect improper test administration or exam results at one of its Mississippi testing sites, failure to timely investigate the matter and failure to notify the NCAA or UL-Lafayette of exam score improprieties, the university chose to file a lawsuit against ACT inc,” Louisiana-Lafayette’s Athletic Director Scott Farmer said
The lawsuit was filed under University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors’ supervision and management.
University of Louisiana at Lafayette President Joseph Savoie said that Saunders’ actions have affected the university’s image, contributing to the purpose of the lawsuit.
“This is bigger than the Ragin’ Cajuns,” Savoie said.“This is bigger than college football. The credibility of college readiness test administration significantly affects higher education and needs to be addressed.”
Along with the university’s tarnished image, the NCAA imposed penalties for Saunders’ actions including those self-imposed by the university. However, the Cajuns will not suffer from a postseason ban.
“I think the first thing is that we all took a huge sigh of relief that we didn’t have a postseason bowl ban.” Farmer said. “Let’s be honest, that would’ve been a significant thing. That made us feel good about all the hard work that we had done.”
Additional penalties found in the NCAA’s official report include a recruiting restriction that reduces the number of scholarships by 11 over the next three years, a reduction in total official off-campus recruiting days and official visits and a $5,000 fine.
The university will also vacate any games from the 2012-2014 season in which any of the ineligible student athletes competed in.
“I don’t know exactly how many games that is at this point in time,” Farmer said. “Our compliance staff will go through that with the NCAA. I will tell you this: It’s not the whole season of any of them. It’s parts of the season, but it’s not the whole season.”
The Cajuns’ penalties were the lowest possible for the Level I violations because of the university’s cooperation with the NCAA’s investigation.
“This is exemplary cooperation, and it’s a model for the kind of relationship and cooperation that member institutions should strive for in the infractions process,” Carol Cartwright, chief hearing officer for the case said.
The report also revealed that the NCAA said it believed Saunders acted alone and that the university’s administration and Cajuns football coaching staff was unaware of his doings.
Even though the report said that the NCAA believed the university was unaware of Saunders’ actions, Cartwright said, “Ultimately a university is held responsible for its employees.”
Saunders was found guilty for four level I violations with the two most notable being the fraudulent ACT testing administering and providing cash benefits of up to $6,500 to a former player. Farmer said the university does not believe Saunders is responsible for the latter but will not appeal the committee’s decision at this time.
“Due to lack of credible evidence, the university respectfully disagrees with the NCAA’s findings that coach Saunders made cash payments to a student athlete,” Farmer said. “Under the appeals process, even if the university were to prevail, the result would not likely change the sanctions against the university. Therefore, the university will not appeal this report today.”
The released report ends one chapter, but begins a new one as the university moves to restoring its image and dealing with the imposed penalties by the NCAA. Farmer, who had a major role in the investigation, said he had many emotions regarding the investigation’s end when he addressed the public for the first time since the report was released.
“Personally, ‘it’s over’ is one of my emotions.” Farmer said. “I mean this has been over two years, it’s a long time, so that’s one of them. You still have a lot of anger that one employee had us go through all this.
“One employee tarnished this great institution, this great department. There’s a variety of emotions, but bottom line is that we now can close the book on it, move forward and keep building the program,” he continued.