Eligibility issues hound ENMU

Eastern New Mexico University's president said Tuesday he expects the college's eligibility issues to be cleared up by mid-November.

He also expects some form of punishment from the NCAA because athletes were missing paperwork required to be kept by the college's compliance office.

Steven Gamble has noted that the eligibility questions have been self-reported, and were not the errors of student-athletes.

"There's been nothing discovered by anybody except us," Gamble said. "We've discovered no financial improprieties. We've found no intentional cheating by student-athletes or by coaches. It transcends virtually all the sports we have."

The compliance officer during the time of the violations is no longer with the university.

Gamble declined comment on administrative errors.

The university has 11 sports affected by the eligibility issues. The only teams not affected are the rodeo teams, which do not fall under the umbrella of the NCAA.

"We're doing the fall sports now, because those are the ones in session," Gamble said. "We're going to get to baseball and softball and the others, and I don't know what we're going to find there. But we're trying to get the people in the fall sports eligible right away."

In many cases, Gamble said, the item was cleared up with a signature, "but ineligible is ineligible." The ineligibilities stem from four categories, Gamble said:

  • Certificate of amateurism: The certificate, signed by student-athletes, is an individual assertion the student-athlete in question is an amateur and is not accepting any money or benefits beyond official incentives from the university (i.e. tuition, living stipends).
  • Lack of degree plans: By the end of a student-athlete's fourth semester in college, Gamble said, a degree plan must be on file with their respective college. The plan lists classes completed toward a degree, and what classes remain to be completed. Any class a student-athlete takes to stay eligible must be on that degree plan.

"We had a number of students that did not have their degree plan by the end of the fourth semester and continued to play," Gamble said.

  • The 75 percent rule. The rule says 75 percent of credit hours earned to establish eligibility must be completed in the fall and spring semesters.

"We had a certification officer (for that purpose)," said Gamble. "That was the job of that individual, and not the coaches. It would have been nice if the coaches were tracking that as well, but we got over-dependent on one individual."

  • "Common, everyday ineligible," Gamble said. The athletes just didn't pass enough credit hours to qualify, and were cleared anyway.

"I don't think we had very many of those," Gamble said.

The university has limited its search to current student-athletes, for a total of 408. The files of the approximate 100 freshman student-athletes on file are easier to work through because degree plans and the 75 percent rule aren't concerns yet. Other students have files going back numerous years, and one appeal for a student takes around four hours to complete and submit to the NCAA, Gamble said.

"The reason they haven't (acted on the university) is they don't know what is the scope of this," Gamble said. "We're still telling them. We're literally sending something to them every day. To their credit, they're responding very quickly. There will be a penalty to pay. We don't know what it's going to be."

In many cases, Gamble said, the NCAA reviews the report and grants or denies eligibility within hours. There have been around 10 instances where eligibility was not granted, but the NCAA has often given ENMU additional steps to clear up any issue.

"I don't want to speculate (on punishments), but we'll do whatever the NCAA tells us to do," Gamble said. "The bottom line is, we did play ineligible players."

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