An unusual week for Howard University athletics concluded Friday when the school reinstated all of the student-athletes it had ruled ineligible a week earlier. The school said in a news release that all of its five spring sports teams would “compete as scheduled for the remainder of the season.”
Despite the reinstatements, Howard’s internal investigation, which is a review of the entire athletic department, remains ongoing, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity. On Thursday, a school spokesman said Howard recently self-reported violations to the NCAA.
Students at Howard University are concerned about damage to their school's reputation, after officials announced the removal of some athletes from competition while they investigate possible violations of NCAA rules related to textbook vouchers.
Howard had suspended intercollegiate activity for its spring sports March 30, when a number of student-athletes competing in those sports were ruled ineligible as a result of the school’s internal investigation. Howard canceled several sporting contests in the following days as it worked to reinstate those student-athletes.
On Wednesday — the day the school’s decision to suspend its spring sports became public — a Howard softball player said the school was investigating the practice by which some of its student-athletes acquired 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 the school’s athletic teams.
The NCAA allows its member schools to pay for books required by scholarship athletes for their classes. Schools can provide student-athletes with cash to pay for those books, so long as the amount is equal to the cost of the books. 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.
Howard, which competes at the Division I level in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, allowed its softball and football teams to practice Wednesday. The softball team played a doubleheader Friday at Coppin State. The Bison lost, 2-1, in both games.