Mary Hardin-Baylor Wisconsin-Oshkosh Football

Mary Hardin-Baylor running back Duane Thompson, defensive back Jaedon Johnson  and safety Hunter Schmidt lift the trophy following their victory against Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 2016 in the Division III national championship game at Salem Stadium in Salem, Va.

BELTON — The NCAA notified the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor that the Infraction Appeals Committee denied the university’s appeal, vacating the school’s 2016 Division III national championship.

The NCAA upheld its Committee on Infraction’s vacation of records penalty for the 2016 and 2017 football seasons.

“This process has taken more than two years to complete, and we are deeply disappointed by this final decision,” Dr. Randy O’Rear, UMHB president, said in a news release. “We believe it is a harsh penalty, especially for all the student-athletes who had no part in the infractions. Today’s decision could cause serious concern about whether the current NCAA enforcement system will encourage or discourage cultures of integrity and self-reporting for those facing similar situations in the future.

“As soon as we became aware of rules violations, we took immediate and decisive action and we self-reported to the NCAA. But in the end, student-athletes who had nothing to do with the violations have been stripped of their team accomplishments by the NCAA.”

On April 9, 2018, UMHB self-reported rules violations to the NCAA’s enforcement office regarding impermissible transportation to two football student-athletes. The rules violations resulted in one player being ineligible to participate in the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

The case was reviewed through the NCAA Summary Disposition process, a collaborative effort in which the UMHB, head coach Pete Fredenburg and NCAA enforcement staff agreed upon the facts of the violations. The lack of dispute allowed the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions to proceed without a formal hearing.

The infractions committee released its report on Oct. 10, 2019. The committee accepted all of UMHB’s corrective actions and self-imposed penalties, which included a two-year probation period for the football program, enhanced compliance training and a $2,500 fine. Additionally, UMHB suspended Fredenburg for three months without pay and for the first three games of the 2018 football season.

However, the infractions committee added a penalty of vacating wins and records during the 2016 and 2017 football seasons, including the 2016 Division III national championship, which UMHB promptly appealed. The infractions committee declined to remove the added penalty, and UMHB filed a final appeal to the NCAA’s Infractions Appeal Committee in December 2019. The NCAA informed the University of the denial of that final appeal on Friday.

“This decision will hurt for a long time,” Fredenburg said, “but I have learned from this experience, and our program will continue to move forward and build on our legacy going into the 2020 season.”

O’Rear said, “Although this was not the outcome we had hoped for, this decision does not detract in any way from the stellar performance of our 2016 and 2017 football teams. It does not take away the dedication and determination our student-athletes exhibited both on and off the field to achieve their goals. Their accomplishments are an extreme source of pride to UMHB and to our community as a whole.”

“The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor remains fully committed to compliance with NCAA rules,” O’Rear said. “Our university and our football program have much to be proud of, despite this disappointing decision. We deeply appreciate the outpouring of support from Cru alumni and fans around the country who firmly united behind UMHB and our student-athletes.”

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