The NCAA has placed Cal Poly's athletics program on probation and will force the school to vacate wins after determining the university committed financial aid infractions.

A committee formed by the college athletics governing body found Cal Poly failed to monitor funds dispersed through its book scholarship program, the NCAA announced Thursday.

An NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions panel found the university failed to ensure funds were properly allocated as part of the scholarship program that provided a stipend for student-athletes to purchase necessary college textbooks. The violations began in the 2012-13 school year and ran through the 2015 fall quarter.

The Cal Poly athletic department will face two years of probation, beginning Thursday, and be forced to vacate wins recorded while ineligible athletes were competing.

The school also self-imposed a $5,000 fine.

"Cal Poly has cooperated in every way with the NCAA throughout this process that began in 2015," Cal Poly athletic director Don Oberhelman said in a statement released by the school. "There was never an intent to violate NCAA rules, and when we discovered there was an issue we self reported to the NCAA."

Oberhelman took over Cal Poly's athletics programs in 2011.

Cal Poly may have to vacate its most noteworthy athletic accomplishment in recent history. The violations were occurring while the Mustangs men's basketball team won the Big West Conference Tournament and an NCAA Tournament game in 2014. 

Cal Poly has yet to report which student-athletes were ineligible while competing, though they are required to identify those student-athletes within 45 days of Thursday's decision.

"Cal Poly acknowledged that student-athletes in most of its sports programs competed while ineligible as a result of the financial aid violations," the committee's report read. 

The report says the violations first came to light after an October 2015 financial aid summit hosted by the Big West Conference attended by a representative from the NCAA's Academic and Membership Affairs staff.

Shortly after the summit, the Big West office informed Cal Poly that the AMA indicated that the cash stipend for books was a possible financial aid violation.

Cal Poly then began to review its financial aid procedures and found that it had incorrectly awarded the $800 cash stipends for books to hundreds of student-athletes over a number of years.

In all, the NCAA found that Cal Poly provided 265 student-athletes in 18 sports an $800 stipend that was not equal to the actual cost of course-related books purchased, according to a summary of the report listed on the NCAA website.

The committee found that the stipend exceeded the cost of books for 72 student-athletes by a total of $16,180. The violations also caused 30 student-athletes to exceed their individual financial aid limits. The committee found that, collectively, the 30 student-athletes exceeded their individual financial aid limits by $5,237.

A trio of Mustangs — Jalen Hamler, Kyle Reid and Jake Jeffrey — will battle for the vacant quarterback position and there will be some shifting along the offensive line when the 2019 Spring Camp kicks off Wednesday at Doerr Family Field. Practice sessions will be held each Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from April 3-27, culminating with the annual Spring Game on Saturday, April 27, at 1 p.m., likely also at Doerr Family Field.

In its summary, the NCAA committee stated Cal Poly "lacked a fundamental understanding of NCAA rules for book stipends," the report read.

"There is no ambiguity in the wording of the legislation and thus no room for misinterpretation. Cal Poly simply failed to abide by this rule," the committee stated. 

Cal Poly has had previous infractions cases in 1987 and 1995.

In this case, the committee on infractions found that Cal Poly had attempted to diminish the seriousness of the violation, arguing that it was insignificant.

"Beyond simply misapplying the legislation relating to cash stipends for books, Cal Poly overlooked this legislation -- legislation that had been 'on the books' for over 25 years," the committee's report read.

Joe Bailey is the sports editor at Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Contact him with tips and story ideas at jbailey@leecentralcoastnews.com or (805) 739-2239. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jbaileysmsports

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