Boise State scored a rare victory in the NCAA appeals court Friday.
The Division I Committee on Infractions stunned the Broncos in September by requiring them to forfeit three football scholarships in 2011, 2012 and 2013 triple the penalty that the school had self-imposed for providing impermissible housing and other benefits to incoming recruits during summer workouts.
The Infractions Appeals Committee on Friday called that penalty excessive and an abuse of discretion. It sent the case back to the COI for reconsideration.
In the meantime, the penalty is stayed meaning Boise State could open fall camp Aug. 4 with a full complement of 85 scholarship players while it waits for a final decision. There is no timeline for the COI to revise its decision.
Here are some questions and answers about the decision and process:
What did Boise State appeal?
The COI found 18 major violations across five years and involving more than 75 student-athletes in five sports football, mens and womens tennis and mens and womens track and field/cross country. All of the sports were penalized in some way.
The school targeted two football penalties for appeal the nine-scholarship hit and the reduction of practices at which full contact was allowed in spring ball from 12 to nine for the 2012, 2013 and 2014 seasons.
The school argued that the scholarship penalty was not warranted and is inconsistent with precedent and the circumstances of this case. The school also argued that the penalty involving spring practice showed an error of judgment because the violations did not concern practice.
What did the Infractions Appeals Committee say?
The IAC came out strongly on Boise States side on the scholarship penalty. Precedent should have been more fully weighed and considered, the committee wrote.
The IAC looked at the past 10 cases that involved Football Bowl Subdivision schools and the loss of scholarships. Two schools received stiffer penalties than Boise State, but their violations were considered more severe. Of the other eight, only three had reductions of more than three scholarships and the IAC considered all of those cases more serious than Boise States. They involved academic fraud (Florida State, six scholarships), payment of a student-athlete for work not performed (Oklahoma, four) and inappropriate academic support (Kansas, six).
There appears to be no qualitative distinction in the record that would warrant the extent of the departure from prior precedent that was undertaken by the Committee on Infractions in this case. Therefore, the reduction by nine of football grants-in-aid is excessive, the IAC wrote in its Boise State report.
On the other hand, the IAC shrugged off Boise States complaint about the spring practice penalty. The Broncos already had self-imposed a reduction by three of preseason practices (beginning of fall camp until the first game) in 2011 and 2012.
We find this argument to be unpersuasive, especially in light of the institutions self-imposed penalty, the committee wrote.
What happens now?
Thats unclear. There is no timetable yet, and this situation is unusual. The last two times that appeals were won, the IAC changed the penalties immediately rather than sending the case back to the COI. Boise State has some flexibility in terms of how many scholarships it awards this season. The team has recruits willing to grayshirt and join the team in January to make 82 scholarships work, but likely would bring at least a couple of those players in this fall if the final number is 85. A walk-on or two also could benefit from the additional scholarships.
John Infante, who writes the Bylaw Blog, expects the NCAA to ask Boise State to recommend a penalty and for the COI to settle for a scholarship reduction of four to six. Boise State took three last year as a self-imposed penalty and could absorb the rest in 2013 if a decision isnt made before this season.
How rare was this victory?
The Committee on Infractions had been upheld on appeal in 11 straight cases before Boise States. The last winners on appeal were Eastern Washington (Oct. 27, 2009), which had its postseason ban for football overturned; and Alabama State (June 30, 2009), which had its probation reduced from five to three years.
Infante called an appeals victory one of the more impossible feats in college athletics.
What does Boise State say?
The school didnt make anyone available for comment, but President Bob Kustra released a statement.
We thought it important to appeal these football penalties due to the circumstances of this case and the ruling precedent, and we are pleased that the appeals committee agreed in the case of the scholarships, Kustra said. We will await a decision from the infractions committee on the final scholarship penalty.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat