UVM seemed to be in violation of NCAA bylaw 126.96.36.199 which limits the number of non-Division I contests to 4 (including exhibitions). The Catamounts have already played 5 with a 6th scheduled in February against UMass-Lowell.
The league's rationale explains the confusion. "It was the result of some confusion between two separate NCAA processes regarding scheduling rules and RPI waivers for reclassifying members in their first year of the transition process."
"UMass Lowell has received waivers to be counted in every sport's RPI calculation, including basketball, but we learned it did not extend to scheduling requirements which caused the overscheduling."Maine was also in danger of violating the bylaw but had the option of forfeiting a game to stay in compliance, a route chosen by three schools in the Southland Conference.
"Once we discovered two of our teams were potentially impacted by this issue," Huchthausen's statement read. "We took immediate steps to explore options of relief so they would not be subject to any penalty."
The league submitted a blanket waiver request on behalf of all NCAA teams impacted. If the waiver is granted, the teams that had forfeited games will be allowed to play them.
The Southland Conference seems confident the NCAA will grant the waiver. The SLC announced on their website that all games scheduled for Thursday, including the potential rule violating Oral Roberts-Abilene Christian game, will be played as scheduled.
Below America East Commissioner Amy Huchthausen's statement:
"Once we discovered two of our teams were potentially impacted by this issue, we took immediate steps to explore options for relief so they would not be subject to any penalty. That led us to submitting a waiver to the NCAA over the weekend on their behalf. This was submitted as a blanket waiver on behalf of all Division I teams as we were not the only conference with teams impacted. The NCAA has agreed to expedite its review of this case and we hope to hear a decision later this week. We are hopeful and confident that the NCAA will agree our rationale."
America East director of communications Sean Tainsh provided the league's rationale:
"Once the Southland's decision to originally forfeit games was raised, we did an immediate and complete review of our men's and women's basketball schedules and discovered Maine and Vermont men both had more than four non-Division I opponents on their schedules this year because the rules includes both scrimmages, exhibition and regular games.
"Once we discovered two of our teams were impacted, we took it upon ourselves to review the issue on behalf of our schools to minimize the distraction to our coaches."
"It was the result of some confusion between two separate NCAA processes regarding scheduling rules and RPI waivers for reclassifying members in their first year of the transition process."
"UMass Lowell has received waivers to be counted in every sport's RPI calculation, including basketball, but we learned it did not extend to scheduling requirements which caused the overscheduling."
"Over the past few days, we've learned of several other teams in other conferences that have inadvertently made the same mistake this year. We also learned this is a rule that has been routinely missed over the past several years by a number of teams across the country. In those cases from previous years, the issue wasn't raised until after the seasons were complete and those teams ended up receiving waivers of the penalty, which is restricted membership, from the NCAA Administration Cabinet."
"Since Vermont and Maine's scheduling issues were raised during the middle of the season, as opposed to after, we immediately contacted the NCAA staff to assess our options because we strongly believed there was sufficient rationale to get relief for our two teams and not have to wait until the end of the season for a ruling on the penalty. This would be hugely unfair to our student-athletes who had no participation in this administrative issue."
"We then discovered a waiver opportunity we could pursue. We also learned we could submit this waiver on behalf of every Division I institution impacted by this rule and we submitted that blanket waiver request Sunday evening."
"The waiver is called a Subcommittee for Legislative Relief (SLR) waiver. SLR is the appellate body that reviews situations involving unique circumstances and looks at a variety of waivers in all areas of the legislation."
"Fortunately, the NCAA staff has been very cooperative and agreed to expedite its review for the benefit of all impacted teams so that coaches and student-athletes don't have this lingering over them for the rest of the season."
"We anticipate a decision of the subcommittee by the end of the week."
"If the waiver is approved no team will face any penalty from the NCAA or conference for going over the DI schedule limit and both Maine and Vermont will play the rest of their schedule, including against UMass Lowell, as planned."
"We have also asked the NCAA Administration Cabinet review the rules in this area for reclassifying members."
"The reclassification process has changed in the past few years to require a conference invitation to help ensure the reclassifying institution is properly invested and committed to Division I."
"In our attempts to facilitate the transition for UMass Lowell, we incorporated them fully into our schedules this year, even though we weren't required to do so. We believe a conference and its members should not be penalized for trying to do the right thing according to the intent of the new process."
"Further, we don't think it's fair for an institution like UMass Lowell to somehow negatively impact any opponent, conference or nonconference, for actually going above and beyond what is required in their Year One transition requirements. That seems counterintuitive to the new process."
"Finally, we believe the penalty for this type of violation is overly excessive. Restricted membership is a very serious penalty and should only be associated with egregious activity. This rule does not rise to that level. Therefore, we hope the Administration Cabinet will take a broad look at these issues in the future."