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North Idaho College will face sanctions after NWAC denies appeal

UPDATED: Mon., Aug. 12, 2019, 11:53 a.m.

North Idaho College lost its appeal to avoid Northwest Athletic Conference-issued sanctions for undisclosed violations, according to an email sent by NIC president Rick MacLennan late Friday and obtained by The Spokesman-Review on Saturday.

Details of the violations, NWAC investigation and NIC’s punishment will be released Tuesday, according to MacLennan and conference president Marco Azurdia.

“I accept responsibility for the practices and behaviors that have led us to this place with the league,” MacLennan wrote in a memo sent to NIC staff just before midnight Friday. “The college will agree to the sanctions NWAC has placed on NIC, and I am committed, as is VP Graydon Stanley, to working with the league and its member institutions to foster a positive and collegial future for us all.”

Sources close to the situation who wished to remain anonymous told The Spokesman-Review that NIC’s highly successful men’s basketball program faced severe sanctions – potentially forfeits of past wins and a future postseason ban – for using booster club funds to pay for its players’ housing, a violation of NWAC bylaws.

NWAC student-athletes can receive no more than 65% in tuition scholarship, according to the NWAC codebook, and cannot receive outside aid for housing.

In a staff memo sent to NIC faculty in June, MacLennan called the NWAC’s sanctions “excessive” and said they “will have a negative impact on former, current and future NIC student-athletes.”

Before NIC made the move from the National Junior College Athletic Association to the NWAC in 2016 to cut costs, it was allowed to issue full-ride scholarships with funds accumulated by the booster club.

NIC (31-2), led by fifth-year head coach Corey Symons, cruised to a NWAC Tournament championship last season, winning by an average of 32 points. The Cardinals boast a record of 81-15 in their three seasons of NWAC membership, with five of those losses coming to non-NWAC members.

The NWAC began its investigation of NIC in April after fielding an anonymous complaint. It handed the NIC its undisclosed punishment in June, which NIC immediately appealed.

Per the NWAC codebook, the conference, which has yet to officially disclose the NIC team and/or members of the athletic department facing the sanctions, is not permitted to make details of the case public until the absolute conclusion of the case.

Attached to MacLennan’s email Friday was a message from the NWAC Executive Board, which didn’t disclose its full list of sanctions but mentioned some punishments that were recently modified, including:

  • During the summer of 2021, the NWAC will work with NIC to conduct a comprehensive review of the institution’s progress toward achieving substantial compliance with NWAC rules, policies and procedures, with the results of that being presented to the Executive Board.
  • Of the $30,000 fine, $10,000 is suspended pending the summer of 2021 compliance review and the Executive Board’s determination of satisfactory progress. Such determination may at the Executive Board’s discretion result in the waiver of the rest of the fine and the reduction by one year of the penalties imposed with respect to postseason play, athletic grants-in-aid and probation of the athletic department.
  • The current NIC athletic director may not serve on the NWAC Executive Board while the NIC athletic department remains on probation.

“The next step for the NWAC will be to send out a communication to all the league commissioners outlining the timeline of what has occurred through the investigation, sanction and appeal process,” MacLennan wrote. “That communication will bring clarity to the final decision of the Executive Board concerning NIC’s probationary status with the league and the sanctions put into place.”

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