The NCAA put the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse on two years of probation on Wednesday for financial aid violations, deciding against a ban on postseason play.
In its announcement, the NCAA said the case involves "violations of basic, longstanding financial aid rules" for Division III schools.
The NCAA Division III infractions committee found that from the 2007-08 through the 2011-12 academic years, UW-La Crosse improperly considered athletics leadership, participation or performance in awarding financial aid. And it said the university improperly allowed several athletics department staffers to serve on scholarship selection committees.
The committee also found evidence that the prohibited practices had gone back 20 years or more, and concluded that the school failed to educate and monitor staff members involved in administering the scholarship process and the athletics program.
But the committee also determined the university did not intend to circumvent NCAA rules and found no evidence to suggest that any student-athletes improperly received financial aid. It said seven out of about 300 scholarship programs the UW-La Crosse Foundation administers were involved in the violations, however.
The sanctions include two years of probation through April 10, 2014, and a public reprimand and censure. However, the NCAA did not impose a ban on post-season play, which is significant for a school whose 19 teams have won 26 national championships over the last decade.
The penalties also include requirements that the university inform prospective student-athletes that it's on probation and the nature of the violations. It must also request a review from the NCAA Committee on Financial Aid and abide by its recommendations, and submit regular compliance reports.
UW-La Crosse officials elected not to contest the findings of fact or the sanctions.
"We agree that we must do a better job of eliminating any possibility that student athletic participation could become associated with any of our scholarships and the processes used for awarding them," Chancellor Joe Gow said in a statement. "Therefore, we have accepted the NCAA's ruling and are quickly taking all the steps needed to remedy the situation."
"All violations were the result of inadvertent actions on the part of university and athletics staff," athletics director Josh Whitman said in the same statement. "Importantly, no student-athletes were directly involved."
The infractions committee said in its report that this case is the latest in a series of financial aid violations in Division III that it has examined over the last three years, and that these violations are typical of some of those cases.
"All member institutions are admonished, that from this point forward, this committee will consider a full range of possible penalties when these cases are brought before us," the committee wrote.