The situation playing out at the University of New England is all too familiar to Jerry Boyes, the athletic director at State University College at Buffalo, a Division III school near the Canadian border in upstate New York.
In January 2010, the NCAA levied sanctions on the men’s and women’s hockey programs at the school because of discrepencies between the amount of financial aid hockey players were getting compared with what was being given to the student body as a whole.
The sanctions included two years’ probation, financial aid restrictions and a ban on postseason play.
“It was hard to accept. For us, it was ‘Jeez, we didn’t do anything wrong.’ But to our dismay it was deemed a major violation,” said Boyes. “It’s not like we knowingly went out and violated rules.”
Boyes said his school’s admissions department — independent of athletics — came up with a Canadian incentive program to help stem declining enrollment at the school.
The program offered free housing, worth about $5,000, to any Canadian who enrolled on campus.
The hockey coaches, he said, were ecstatic and “jumped in their cars right away and went across the border.”
“After a while we were getting more student-athletes than non-student-athletes. It caught up,” said Boyes. “There was no intent to violate the rule, and the NCAA recognizes that in their report. But unfortunately, we had to stop the program and tell anyone currently on it ‘If you stay on the program, you can’t play.’“
Boyes, who has been athletic director at the school for 11 years and a football coach there for 17 years, said he felt terrible when his department had to explain the situation to the student-athletes involved.
“We had to say to Mom and Dad: ‘Here’s your options. Stay and get the incentives and not play. Or stay and play without the incentive. It’s up to you,’” he said. “We had to sit there and take some grief. There was nobody who intentionally went out to (break the rules). Everything was in good faith.”
In its report on the Buffalo school, the NCAA wrote: “During the 2006-07, 2007-08, and 2008-09 academic years, the percentage of the total dollar value of institutionally administered grants awarded to student-athletes was not closely equivalent to the percentage of student-athletes within the student body. Specifically, the institution awarded Canadian Incentive Grants almost exclusively to student-athletes and particularly those participating in men’s and women’s hockey.”
Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at: