Hamilton did not immediately say how many student-athletes were involved or on what teams. “We are working diligently to fully resolve this matter as quickly as possible,” she said. “In order to protect the integrity of this review, we are unable to share additional details at this time.”
According to a Howard softball player, the school is investigating the practice by which some of its student-athletes acquire their textbooks. The student said some athletes apparently were pocketing the difference between the cost of their textbooks and their textbook allowance.
The softball player and a former Howard football player, who both requested anonymity so they could speak freely without fear of repercussion, said this was a common practice for all of the school’s athletic teams.
“It’s been going on for a long time,” the softball player said. “A good majority of the athletes were taking advantage of this. There were some people who were saving the money. They didn’t spend it. Or some would go buy frivolous things, nothing that relates to school. Some people bought books and other school supplies.”
An Atlantic Coast Conference compliance officer contacted for this story said student-athletes are never supposed to handle funds used to purchase textbooks, and that athletic department officials usually pay for a student-athlete’s books. The compliance officer, who asked not to be identified because he did not know the facts of Howard’s situation, said the NCAA could view these violations as a lack of institutional control on Howard’s part. Howard plays in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
Wednesday afternoon, the Washington City Paper reported on its Web site that the school had issued a statement saying its had “temporarily suspended athletic competition.” But the Howard football and softball teams team were practicing at Greene Stadium later in the afternoon.
A person familiar with the situation said the football program is not currently affected by the investigation.
At Howard, student-athletes whose scholarships provide for textbooks are alerted by athletic department officials when to pick up their books for a given semester at the university bookstore. An athletics department compliance officer oversees the process at the bookstore and makes sure the student-athletes get the books they need. At a later date, the student-athletes are allowed to pick up a check at a university administration building for the remaining textbook allowance that was written into their scholarship.
The NCAA allows its member schools to pay for any required books a student-athlete needs for their classes. Schools can provide student-athletes with cash to pay for those books, so long as the amount is equal to the actual cost of the books. Student-athletes who are found to be profiting from textbook purchases would be deemed ineligible by the NCAA until they pay back the benefit they received.