NCAA reprimands and censures Princeton for major violation in women's tennis program

The NCAA has reprimanded and censured Princeton University for a major violation in its women's tennis program.

The Division I committee on infractions says the case centered on a Princeton alumnus who paid $33,000 in impermissible educational expenses for a student-athlete to attend the school.

Because of the limited nature of the case and the university's efforts to uncover and report the violation, the NCAA imposed only minimal penalties on the school, among them vacating the student-athlete's athletic records.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Princeton University said it appreciated the NCAA's recognition of the limited nature of the case and the minimal penalties, but it believes the isolated and inadvertent nature of the infraction should have made it a secondary one.

The incident covered the 2007-08 academic year and 2008 fall semester.

The relationship between the student-athlete and alumnus originated at a local tennis club near their respective homes, where a local club's tennis professional introduced them prior to the student-athlete's ninth-grade year. The relationship developed based on a mutual interest in the sport of tennis and the student-athlete's athletic abilities.

The NCAA said the money the student-athlete received provided the school with a competitive advantage because it allowed the tennis player to attend and participate on the team.

Princeton said the alumnus self-reported the contributions to Princeton's athletic department in September 2008 after an e-mail notification sent to all alumni supporters of athletics as part of a proactive rules-compliance initiative.

The university then notified the Ivy League and conducted an internal investigation.

Although the alumnus' contributions in support of the student's educational expenses violated NCAA rules, Princeton and the Ivy League office concluded the violation was isolated and inadvertent and did not provide the tennis team with a recruiting or competitive advantage.

The school said that the alumnus had a family like relationship with the student for several years. The tennis player applied and was accepted to Princeton before she was aware that the alumnus was willing to assist with her educational expenses.

"We looked closely at the circumstances surrounding this isolated and inadvertent infraction and at the relationship between the alumnus and the student's family, and we are convinced that even though the alumnus is a longtime supporter of tennis at Princeton, he was acting only with the interest of helping a family friend pursue an educational opportunity for which her parents were not willing to provide financial support," Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman said.

"We do not believe that this should have been characterized as a major violation, but we certainly regret the infraction and remain firmly committed to complying with all NCAA rules."