The NCAA has determined that Winona State men’s basketball student-athlete Grant Johnson will be ineligible for the remainder of the 2011-12 season. Winona State is still evaluating the implications of the NCAA decision for Johnson and determining the impact on his future eligibility.
As a result of the ineligibility decision, the ranking of the Winona State men’s basketball team in the conference and region will change. The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) will recalculate the team’s ranking using a process called nullification. The process takes into account season statistics and adjusts the team’s winning percentage based on a standardized formula. Winona State currently holds a 22-2 overall record and will still be eligible to participate in NSIC postseason competition should it qualify.
Winona State athletic department officials were contacted on Jan. 23, 2012, by another university questioning Johnson’s eligibility. WSU head coach Mike Leaf promptly withheld Johnson from competition after questions were raised about the student-athlete’s eligibility. Winona State immediately informed the NCAA of a potential rules violation and has worked closely with both the NSIC and NCAA in an attempt to resolve the situation.
Winona State athletic department officials failed to clarify some of the responses on the transfer release form. The Winona State coaching staff was unaware of any questions regarding the student-athlete’s eligibility. Johnson joined the team for the 2011-12 season and played in the Warriors’ first 19 games.
“I deeply regret that we did not exercise due diligence in clarifying Johnson’s eligibility,” Winona State Athletic Director Larry Holstad said. “Neither the student-athlete nor the Winona State coaching staff knowingly broke any NCAA rules. They proceeded based on incorrect information provided to them by WSU athletic officials and are affected through no fault of their own. I am personally devastated and truly sorry for the impact this situation has on our student-athletes, coaching staff, Winona State University, the Winona community and the members of the NSIC.”
The team will play its final home games of the regular season against MSU Moorhead on Friday, Feb. 17, and Minnesota, Crookston on Saturday, Feb. 18. The Warriors will travel to Minnesota Duluth and Bemidji State Feb. 24-25. The NSIC Postseason Tournament will begin on Feb. 29, 2012.
“This is one of the deepest and strongest teams I have coached, and their strength will be put to the test in the coming weeks,” Leaf said. “We are trying to focus on what it will take to win our final four games to put ourselves in the best possible position entering postseason play. Winona State has some of the best fans in the nation, and I know they will support this team with the passion we have grown accustomed to.”
WSU President Judith Ramaley said, “At Winona State University we always seek to act with integrity. We do our best to set a good example. When we discovered our processes failed, we responded immediately. We will rise above this unexpected and unintended violation of NCAA policy. This is a story about teamwork and courage in the face of adversity. I know the Winona State coaches and team will compete with heart and soul, and we look forward to supporting them all the way.”