Overbearing NCAA rules? Cal Poly must vacate wins in 18 sports for $800 book stipends

Yahoo Sports
Hopefully the person wearing the mascot costume did not receive an improper book stipend. (Getty Images)
Hopefully the person wearing the mascot costume did not receive an improper book stipend. (Getty Images)

Cal Poly is having to vacate wins because it distributed $800 book stipends to its athletes incorrectly.

Yes, there are stringent — or even overbearing, if you prefer that term — NCAA rules regarding how schools are supposed to pay for athletes’ books. The governing body said Thursday that Cal Poly would have to vacate wins over multiple sports because the $800 book stipends the school gave to 265 athletes from 2012-15 that did not match up with the exact costs of the athletes’ books.

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Per the NCAA’s infractions report, the $800 stipends were more than the total cost of books for some of the athletes. On the whole, the average overage for the 72 athletes who received stipends was approximately $225. At least one of the overages was for as little as $5, yet because it was for more than the cost of books, the NCAA deems that $5 overage as impermissible financial aid.

Welcome to the bureaucracy of the NCAA. From the infractions report:

From the 2012-13 academic year through the 2015 fall quarter, Cal Poly provided 265 student-athletes in 18 sports programs an $800 cash stipend that was not equal to the actual cost of required course-related books purchased. Of those student-athletes, 72 received funds that exceeded the actual book costs and the receipt of $800 caused 30 student-athletes to exceed their individual financial aid limits. Further, several student-athletes used the book stipend to pay for items that were not related to required books or supplies such as food, rent, utilities and car repairs. On an individual basis, for those student-athletes who received cash that exceeded the cost of books and supplies, the value of the overages ranged from $5 to $734 and totaled $16,180. Collectively, the 30 student-athletes who exceeded their individual financial aid limits received a total of $5,237 in excess of their financial aid limits.

Per NCAA rules, the extra money that some athletes used to pay other expenses is ruled an impermissible benefit.

You can view the full infractions report here.

Cal Poly agreed it screwed up

Cal Poly agreed with the NCAA’s assessment that it had improperly given its athletes the book stipends and argued for a lesser, Level III, penalty. The NCAA elevated the penalty to a Level II punishment because the improper stipends were paid out over more than three years and ruled that Cal Poly improperly failed to monitor its financial aid distributions.

The NCAA also said an “aggravating factor” in its punishment of the school were two previous infractions by the school. Those infractions were also not very recent at all. They happened in 1987 and 1995.

It feels worth noting that none of the athletes who received the $800 book stipends would have been alive in 1987. But aside from the fact that a case from the 1980s was taken into account in this instance, this is another heavy-handed example of the ridiculousness of NCAA rules and rulings. If the NCAA allowed its athletes to be fairly financially compensated, then maybe slightly overpaid book stipends wouldn’t be an issue.

In addition to vacating wins across the 18 sports, Cal Poly is on probation through April 17, 2021 and has a self-imposed fine of $5,000. The vacating of wins also includes individual records, so any athlete who set a record at Cal Poly while receiving an improper book stipend is now no longer officially a record holder.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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