There is plenty of trouble in River Falls and it has nothing to do with their place in the standings. After winning just four football games in the past four years, one might conclude that the University of Wisconsin at River Falls did indeed grant athletic scholarships to the wrong people. That, however, is not the case. Instead, UW River Falls is on probation for granting wrongful scholarships based on athletic ability and not financial need.
The NCAA placed the Division III school on a one-year probation for not properly monitoring the scholarship process and allowing former football coach John O’Grady to distribute scholarships based on athletic ability. Both practices violate NCAA rules. The probation began immediately and will continue through April 22, 2015.
A statement issued by River Falls said the college had reported the violations itself upon learning that they had occurred. They were noted, the university said, during an internal financial aid review. River Falls school officials went before the NCAA Committee on Infractions in March of this year. The school said further that none of the currently active coaches had taken part in the practice and that corrective measures had been put into place. The violations occurred between the 2007-08 and 2011-12 academic years, and granted a total of $4,090 in aid to five current and former athletes.
The university is a public liberal arts institution located in River Falls, Wisconsin, on the banks of the Kinnickinnic River in the St. Croix River valley. Nearly 6,500 students attend classes on the 226-acre campus and in the school’s study abroad programs in Europe and Asia. The students were no doubt disappointed to learn that UW River Falls was placed on probation for granting wrongful scholarships.
The Falcons were 0-10 this past season and had won only four games in the last four years.
While the NCAA report failed to name the coach involved, John O’Grady had served as the school’s head football coach during the violations period. He had been head coach for 21 seasons starting in 1989, and left River Falls in 2010. After his departure from UW River Falls, he became an assistant coach at Wisconsin University campuses at Oshkosh and Stout. Most recently, he took the job of coaching tight ends at Wisconsin-Whitewater, the defending Division III national champion. O’Grady was replaced in 2011 by Matt Walker, who has completed his third season with the university and according to a statement released by the school, was not involved in the scholarship violations in any way.
In addition to the one-year probation period, the NCAA said the River Falls athletic director Roger Ternes, the school’s director of financial aid, and coach Walker and any staff members involved in awarding scholarships are required to attend a regional rules seminar sponsored by the NCAA. It was not clear whether O’Grady would have to attend the seminar.
There is, indeed, trouble in River Falls. It does not start with a “T” or rhyme with “P” this time, however. It starts with an “S” for the granting of wrongful scholarships that has put UW River Falls on probation for a year.
Commentary by B. David Warner