The NCAA spared the MU men’s basketball program it’s most potent deterrent: the postseason ban.
Instead, the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions decided to issue a punishment that fit the crime, announcing Wednesday that the MU athletic department has been placed on a three-year probation, and the basketball program will face restrictions on recruiting, scholarships and official visits.
The infractions report comes a year and a month after the NCAA started its investigation into possible rules violations.
“Although the case does not involve findings of sensational recruiting violations, it nonetheless is a very serious recruiting case,” committee chair Thomas Yeager said in a teleconference.
MU received the report Monday and held a news conference Wednesday afternoon at Reynolds Alumni Center.
A panel including athletic director Mike Alden reviewed the NCAA’s findings and said there would be no appeal.
“We’ve seen the committee’s report, and there is no intention at all by the institution to appeal those,” Alden said. “With that decision we accept and agree with the findings and we look forward to moving forward.”
The committee cited violations relating to impermissible extra benefits and inadequate examination of compliance rules. It also rejected the university’s claim that the majority of the violations were isolated or inadvertent.
Improper benefits included the provision of apparel, meals, transportation and lodging to former MU guard Ricky Clemons.
The committee also noted violations relating to the payment of Clemons' $1,000 bail bond after he was arrested for assault Jan. 17, 2003. Lee Rashman, the director of basketball operations, facilitated the payment, collecting money from men’s basketball student-athletes.
Rashman could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
One claim that was rejected was the allegation that Tony Harvey, former associate head coach, gave Clemons $250 in the fall of 2002.
“Anytime you bring a young man to a university and you create an environment whereby you think he can have success and it doesn’t evolve that way, that’s a hard thing to deal with,” MU coach Quin Snyder said.
Other violations involved multiple impermissible phone calls by the men’s basketball staff from 1999-2003. Alden said these and other mistakes resulted from a lack of oversight and little attention to detail, especially as coaches failed to communicate on which recruits they notified, thus exceeding allowable contacts within a given period.
“I really don’t think that there was anything done with malicious intent here,” Alden said. “People weren’t intending to break rules and to do things with a lack of integrity.”
The committee disagreed saying the calls “were part of a pattern of recruiting violations.”
Nevertheless, Alden said the basketball program has made institutional reforms to ensure similar mistakes are not made in the future through better communication and recordkeeping.
“The fact is that we made mistakes,” Alden said, “and it’s important that we stepped up and we owned up to them and we faced our penalties in the way they should be faced.”
The major penalty that the basketball program will contend with for the next year relates to recruiting. Until Nov. 2, 2005, Snyder and the Tigers’ coaching staff will not be able to make any off-campus recruiting trips.
Coaches will instead be forced to attract recruits to MU through official visits by students to the university, instead of the traditional interactions with a player and his family at his home.
“We felt that it was very appropriate in this case because this case is almost exclusively about recruiting,” Yeager said. “The NCAA gets criticized a lot for penalizing student-athletes that are not involved in violations.
“So the committee felt that an off-campus recruiting ban would be a significant statement that related to the violations that occurred in this case and at the same time removes any criticisms that it impacts current student-athletes that were not involved.”
Yeager said a similar ban on off-campus recruiting was handed down in 1990 at the University of Illinois.
Sarah Reesman, associate director of athletics, said MU conducted research that found at least 11 instances of similar violations since that time. Five of those had to do with men’s basketball programs and all but one had 12-month recruiting bans.
“Well I think that’s justifiable if you look at other cases, and case precedents,” Snyder said. “I don’t think people have been banned from the postseason for the types of infractions we’ve had.”
Although Snyder will be at a disadvantage in recruiting, he alluded to some incentives to being restricted to Columbia.
“It’s almost like this whole situation you make a negative into a positive,” Snyder said. “All I know is that I’m going to be with my team all spring. When people are out doing things on the road, I’m going to be working with Jason Horton and Kalen Grimes and Jimmy McKinney.”
Like Snyder, Alden hopes MU can use the punishment to its advantage.
“We have to approach it as an opportunity for us, and in particular our basketball program, to grow and strengthen,” Alden said.