A compliance error caused the Nanooks to play with ineligible players.
The University of Alaska has self-reported violations of NCAA rules involving 17 athletes from various teams in their athletic department from 2007-2011 regarding eligibility issues. As part of the self-reporting, Alaska has also docked themselves nine scholarships over the next three years, including two scholarships from the hockey program. The Nanooks will also be on self-imposed probation for the next two years, although that probation doesn't have any real consequences like a loss of postseason play. Those are just the self-imposed penalties, and the technically the NCAA could levy more, but that seems incredibly unlikely given the severity of Alaska's self-imposed sanctions compared with what they did.
So what exactly is the issue at hand? From the article:
According to UAF, the infractions occurred when the institution’s advising and sports eligibility systems failed to alert students who hadn’t earned enough credits or who had switched majors without doing the official paperwork. To compete in athletics, students must progress toward a declared degree and earn 12 or more credits per semester with a minimum 2.0 GPA.
As a result, those 17 athletes competed for Alaska while technically ineligible.
John Infante of the Bylaw Blog, the internet's foremost resource for sorting through the NCAA's pedantry, weighed in briefly today on the news. He basically says this type of violation has worked its way through Division II and the lower end of Division I as those smaller athletic departments don't have the army of bureaucrats necessary to make sure there is the correct cover on every athlete's TPS report. He also says it's pretty harsh to call this a major violation when only 17 athletes were involved in a case like this.
The scholarship reductions seem pretty harsh for what amounts to a clerical error, and I'm willing to guess that if Alaska had thrown themselves at the NCAA's mercy, they would have come away with much less in the way of punishment. But at the same time, Alaska is going to have to add some staff to their compliance department, and not paying out those scholarships for a couple years likely helps offset those costs.