With the submission of a final probation report this month, Nicholls State University has fulfilled the penalties as assessed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association in Indianapolis, Indiana. None of us who learned of the facts surrounding the academic fraud incident of 2004 could bring ourselves to believe that coaching and academic advising staff could act so dishonestly and with so little personal integrity.
While the violations that occurred at Nicholls were quite serious and most embarrassing, the efforts made on this campus to address the causes of those violations and to take the strongest measures possible to prevent them from ever reoccurring have been just as serious in nature. Not only did Nicholls accept the resignation of the involved coaching and advising staff, the university has also replaced them with coaches and academic advisors who are truly committed to the academic well being of our student athletes. Additionally, the director of Athletics has made it a policy to stress compliance at all staff meetings and has worked with the university’s compliance officer to issue a compliance newsletter on a monthly basis throughout the academic year. The issue of compliance should never be far from the minds of any of our coaching and athletic administrative staff.
With the retirement of our compliance officer shortly after the NCAA imposed its penalties on Nicholls State University, a new compliance officer was charged with changing the compliance model at the university. Specifically, that individual was directed to be more active in preventing violations on the front end rather than policing the Athletics Department for violations after the fact. The new compliance officer was urged to become a compliance partner with all the coaches, assisting them to do the right thing and answering their questions. As a result, the coaches have confidence that they can go to the compliance officer and find help in addressing their compliance issues.
Most importantly, Nicholls State University has taken academic advising of student athletes out of the arena of the Athletics Department and moved it entirely under the academic side of the university. The academic advisors to our student athletes are now housed in University College, serving under an academic dean who answers to the vice president for Academic Affairs. This model has already attracted the interest of our sister institutions in the state of Louisiana and of some of our Southland Conference schools as well. I am confident that this action will go a long way in helping avoid the type of violation that occurred while also addressing the Academic Progress Rate (APR) issues that institutions like Nicholls State are confronted with on a continuous basis.
In conclusion, while the violations and the resulting penalties were painful and embarrassing, Nicholls State University has handled them with maturity and determination. Our student athletes and our coaching staff are better than ever, and we continue to move forward determined to grow as an athletic program and as an academic community.
My thanks go to the faculty, staff, and coaching personnel who have worked so hard over the past four years to address the needs of the athletic program and the student athletes it serves.
A copy of the final probation report is available for review through the Office of the Director of Athletics (985-448-4795).