NCAA upholds penalties against UMass basketball, tennis

The NCAA announced Wednesday that the Division I Infractions Appeals Committee upheld penalties against Massachusetts’ men’s basketball and women’s tennis programs in a case that garnered national attention as one of the athletes involved took her fight public.

The appeals committee confirmed the school provided impermissible financial aid of about $9,100 to 12 athletes over three years that made them ineligible for competition.

Last year, the Committee on Infractions’ ruling vacated results from 2014-17 that included 59 basketball victories and an Atlantic 10 Conference championship in women’s tennis.

UMass argued the infractions panel overstepped its discretion by vacating the results. The appeals committee said the penalties applied were within the infractions committee’s discretion.

“Today is a pretty sad day,” former UMass tennis player Brittany Collens tweeted. “@NCAA never acknowledged us, our petition, or asked us to participate. I truly can’t believe they denied the appeal standing with the decision to erase our careers. This is who the @NCAA is. They do not care about athletes in the slightest.”

Both school and A-10 officials criticized the infractions committee’s decision at the time, with UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford calling the payments “inadvertent and unintentional.”

The NCAA acknowledged that UMass officials, coaches and athletes were unaware of the overpayments at the time, but they still caused the athletes to compete while ineligible.

Collens is one of two athletes who Bamford has said unknowingly received $252 beyond the allowable cost of attendance stipends.

“I am profoundly disappointed with the outcome of our case and the manner in which we arrived at the final decision handed down by the IAC today,” Bamford said in a statement.

Collens has become a vocal critic of the NCAA over the past year, telling her story in The Players’ Tribune.

“We are in the golden age of student-athlete rights, but throughout this process the mechanics of NCAA enforcement has revealed that this important movement is not fully supported by NCAA staff or members of its own association,” Bamford said. “We say we are here for our students but time and again do things that are incongruent. It’s shameful.”

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