137 were ineligible at SE Louisiana

NEW ORLEANS -- An internal investigation at Southeastern Louisiana has revealed that 137 ineligible athletes competed for the Lions in unspecified sports between 2005 and 2010.

In a statement released Thursday, Southeastern, which is located in Hammond, La., said most violations occurred between 2005 and 2007 and involved instances in which the university failed to comply with NCAA academic requirements by mistakenly certifying athletes as eligible.

"In many instances, student-athletes would have been eligible had proper procedure been followed, such as timely declaration or change of a major," Southeastern athletic director Bart Bellairs said.

The report stressed there was no evidence Southeastern recruited athletes who weren't in good academic standing, noting that 86 percent of the athletes in question graduated.

The university says it will impose penalties such as reducing scholarships, vacating victories and imposing a two-year probationary period on itself while awaiting the NCAA's review of the case. However, it remained unclear which specific sports would be affected.

Southeastern spokesman Rene Abadie says the university, which is a public institution, isn't releasing which sports were involved in the violations at this time and said he could not discuss why that information was being withheld from the public. By contrast, when LSU conducted an investigation of improper contact between an assistant football coach and a player in 2009, the university specified the sport involved and the sanctions it was imposing on itself pending the NCAA's review.

Southeastern competes in Division I, and its football team is in the Football Championship Subdivision. The Lions are affiliated with the Southland Conference. Their men's basketball team hasn't competed in the NCAA tournament since the 2004-05 season, the last season before the period covered by the probe.

Southeastern's statement said none of the compliance personnel who committed certification errors remain at Southeastern, and that none of the athletes in question are still enrolled.

"It is regrettable that current student-athletes, coaches and programs will suffer penalties as a result of these infractions," Bellairs said, "but I am completely confident the systems we have in place currently will help avoid these issues from recurring."

Bellairs said Southeastern has made numerous changes to correct problems with its certification process. The university appointed an assistant to the president for athletics compliance and a new compliance coordinator. It is also using new computer software which makes it easier to monitor athletes' courses and credits. The university also strengthened oversight by officials outside of athletics, and added eligibility training for coaches and staff.

"We have completely redesigned the eligibility certification process to include much greater participation and oversight outside of the athletic department," Bellairs said.