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NCAA gives UWRF one-year probation

April 24, 2014

NCAA report
The NCAA has placed UW-River Falls on probation for one year following its investigation of scholarship irregularities. (Student Voice graphic)

UW-River Falls has been placed on probation for one year by the NCAA after findings that the school did not monitor its scholarship process and allowed a former head football coach to be involved in arranging financial aid packages.

A Division III infractions committee found that athletic ability was improperly used as criteria for financial aid between the academic years 2007-08 through 2011-12.

The head football coach at the time, John O’Grady, was allowed to choose scholarship recipients for four years. In that time period five former or current athletes received a total of $4,090 in aid.

O’Grady coached at UWRF for 22 seasons. He has since been an assistant coach at UW-Oshkosh and UW-Stout. Recently he was just hired at UW-Whitewater to be an assistant. His contact information was not listed on Whitewater’s athletic website and he could not be reached by phone.

“This incident occurred before myself, any of our current staff or current players ever came to River Falls. This incident by former staff will have no impact on our current program or future recruiting,” Current Head Football Coach Matt Walker said.

Penalties in this case include one year of probation, a review from the NCAA Committee on Financial Aid and an outside audit of athletic employment and scholarship awarding practices.

Probation does not mean the team cannot participate in post-season competition and it does not require UWRF to give up any past victories. One thing it will require is that all prospective football student-athletes be informed that UWRF is on probation for one year and detail all the violations committed.

The one-year probation is the minimum penalty the NCAA can give out.

“Most people are not going to even notice any changes,” UWRF Public Information Officer Blake Fry said. “The reason we have the minimum probation is we have already taken all the correct steps. We have already created internal education programs.”

Also during the period of probation the athletic director, current head football coach and the director of financial aid must attended an NCAA Regional Rules seminar. The three personnel that currently hold these positions were not part of the violations.

UWRF went through a number of personnel changes including a new head football coach in Walker starting in 2012, a new athletic director in Roger Ternes also starting in 2012 and a new director of financial aid in Barbara Stinson who started in 2008. Fry said it was Stinson who found that UWRF had been violating some polices and uncovered it.

In a statement Chancellor Dean Van Galen said, “One of UW-River Falls’ six core values is integrity. In that spirit, we self-reported the NCAA violations as soon as we became aware that they had occurred and current university leaders have taken proactive and corrective actions to ensure that the previous errors will not be repeated.”

Fry said while he does not have an exact date when the investigation started he knows UWRF has been working with the NCAA for about 18 months.

With this story getting a lot of attention Student Senate President Anthony Sumnicht wants to make sure that if there are any questions or concerns from the student body that Senate will help get that out.

“It is important that students have the opportunity to share thoughts,” Sumnicht said. “Student Senate will work to properly convey the views of students to the appropriate members of the university community.”

UWRF has created a website to serve as reference for members of the campus community, media and prospective student athletes at uwrfsports.com.

“We will keep on the path of what we have already started,” Fry said. “NCAA regulations are complicated but we have taken steps to ensure this type of violation of NCAA regulations is not going to happen again.”

The full report is available for download from the NCAA (PDF, 177 K).