NCAA pattern hints at MU’s fate

A hearing is set to take place in August after MU responds to the NCAA
Friday, June 25, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:58 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 11, 2008

MU appears to face charges of major violations in its men’s basketball program, based on how the NCAA has behaved in recent similar cases and on the views of a former longtime investigator for the college athletics authority.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association defines a major violation as one that provides “an extensive recruiting or competitive advantage.”

Neither the NCAA nor MU have commented on whether the allegations against the university are major.

Sanctions can range from probation — in which schools must regularly show they are developing and implementing a comprehensive educational program on NCAA rules — to a ban on post-season play.

Chuck Smrt, a former NCAA investigator of 17 years and founder of the Compliance Group, an independent agency that investigates athletics departments for colleges and universities, said the NCAA enforcement staff members usually send a notice of allegations to universities when “they believe the violations are major.”

MU received such a notice in May alleging that basketball program members, including former associate basketball coach Tony Harvey, had “impermissible contact” with recruits, including buying them meals and providing them transportation. Harvey, who resigned last week, is accused in the notice of buying meals for Amateur Athletic Union coaches and falsifying the expense report for reimbursement.

Harvey is also accused of giving former player Ricky Clemons $250, which, if proven, is likely to be considered a major violation.

MU will respond to the NCAA by Thursday and will have the opportunity to refute some or all of the allegations. A hearing in front of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions is scheduled for three days starting Aug. 13.

“Typically, the (NCAA) enforcement staff doesn’t request a hearing if they believe the (alleged) violations are secondary,” said Kay Hawes, associate director of media relations for the NCAA. She said the Committee on Infractions won’t make a final determination on whether MU committed major or minor violations, or any at all, until after August’s final review.

Hawes said there is no one violation that would always be regarded as major. But, she said, numerous secondary violations can collectively be regarded as major.

If history repeats itself, the NCAA will probably rule some of MU’s alleged violations as major.

The NCAA ruled in October 2003 that Tennessee State University committed major violations when the former head coach “organized or observed numerous pick-up basketball games for prospective student-athletes” in order to evaluate the athletes’ abilities.

The TSU head coach was cited by the NCAA for acting “contrary to the principles of ethical conduct by his involvement in the violations.”

The coach provided “false and misleading information” to TSU and the NCAA enforcement staff, the infractions committee ruled.

Similarly, MU head basketball coach Quin Snyder is alleged to have conducted at least one “impermissible try-out” with a prospective student-athlete at Hearnes Center during the athlete’s unofficial visit to campus, according to the NCAA notice.

MU basketball program members are also alleged to have had several in-person impermissible contacts with prospective student-athletes and their coaches when MU staff members attended athletic events in which the student-athletes participated.

Harvey’s allegedly falsified expense report to MU would also fall under false and misleading information.

In April, the NCAA ruled that Auburn University committed major violations when a “team sponsor” for two prospective student-athletes financed transportation between an airport in Montgomery, Ala., and the campus in Auburn for the athletes. The sponsor also paid for hotel accommodations for the athletes.

MU basketball program members are also alleged to have provided transportation for prospective student-athletes between Columbia Regional Airport and Columbia and between Lambert International Airport in St. Louis and Columbia, according to the NCAA notice.

No accusations have been made against the MU basketball program concerning paying for hotel accommodations for prospective student-athletes, but it is alleged that one MU athlete provided rent-free lodging to a prospective student-athlete for two weeks with the direct knowledge of coaches.

The NCAA placed both TSU and Auburn under probation — TSU for three years and Auburn for two. Both universities lost athletic scholarships and suffered recruiting restrictions, and coaches from both basketball programs saw restrictions in their athletics duties.

The NCAA said in its notice of allegations that MU “demonstrated a failure to adequately monitor for NCAA rules compliance in the men’s basketball program.”

The NCAA has a history of upgrading “failure to monitor” charges to charges of “lack of institutional control,” which are usually held as major violations.

Sam Fleury, assistant director of athletics media relations at MU, declined Wednesday to comment on the allegations against MU.

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