Another National Collegiate Athletic Association member has run into trouble for its handling of a foreign athlete.
The NCAA's Division I Committee on Infractions on Thursday placed New York's St. John's University on two years' probation for a series of improper payments made to a former basketball player by a former staff member in the athletics department. The infractions panel found that the former staff member had given the athlete -- who had failed to receive an athletic scholarship as a freshman in 1999-2000 because he was academically underqualified -- $2,400 to help him cover his tuition payments, and then in subsequent years gave the player $300 a month to help him cover other expenses.
The committee found the former staff member to have violated the association's ethical conduct rules, and it concluded that the former men's basketball coach, Mike Jarvis, and St. John's as an institution had failed to monitor the player's financial situation closely enough.
The chairman of the Committee on Infractions, Gene Marsh, a law professor at the University of Alabama, said that officials in St. John's bursar's office, who approved a plan that allowed the athlete to pay his tuition on installments (which he failed to follow), had enough red flags about the player's financial condition that they should have more closely examined where he was getting the money from to pay his bills.
"He was an international student-athlete, but on top of that, you had an individual who becomes a nonqualifier [and therefore can't earn a scholarship], and on top of that, there was a former AAU coach who had told people at the institution that he'd be on a thin string financially," Marsh said. If the institution had paid attention to those clues, the panel said in its report, "it would have been able to determine that the young man was unable to meet his financial obligation and was receiving funds from unknown and possibly impermissible sources."
When St. John's discovered the violations two years ago, in the wake of a scandal involving sexual misconduct by this and other players, it had barred its men's basketball team from postseason competition, returned money it earned by competing in postseason play in 2002, and vacated victories earned with the ineligible player. The only lingering penalty will strip it of a basketball scholarship in the 2006-7 season.
Marsh noted that the St. John's case was one of several in recent years involving international athletes, including one last fall at Texas Christian University, and suggested that institutions need to be especially diligent in monitoring on the lookout for financial and academic improprieties when players come from foreign lands.