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NCAA Throws Book at Cheating Coaches

July 17, 2008

The National Collegiate Athletic Association does not like it when coaches fail to tell the truth, as two former coaches at Texas Southern University and the institution itself learned the hard way Wednesday.

The NCAA's Division I Committee on Infractions imposed a serious set of penalties on the university's softball and men's and women's tennis programs after concluding that their former coaches had misled athletes and institutional officials alike, breaking numerous association rules along the way. For their wrongdoing, they and the university (and its current athletes) will pay: The coaches face restrictions on their ability to coach at NCAA member colleges in the future, the university must forfeit victories in which the teams' ineligible athletes competed, and the softball team must forgo postseason competition next year, a punishment the NCAA imposes relatively rarely these days.

The NCAA panel's report on the Texas Southern case states that the former tennis coach lured international athletes to the university with the pledge of full scholarships that he was unable to deliver. Ultimately, the coach provided $19,000 in improper funds to 22 students, including personal funds and illegitimately diverted scholarships meant for other athletes. After the funds fell short, the NCAA found, “three of the international student-athletes faced eviction from their apartment and were reduced to subsisting on bread and water because they had no money for rent or food.”

The former tennis coach, according to the release, “was charged with unethical conduct for also luring student-athletes to campus.” The NCAA will require him to appear before the infractions panel if he seeks employment at an NCAA institution within the next four years. As part of self-imposed penalties in response to the violations, which were reported to the university by an anonymous source, Texas Southern suspended the tennis program in spring 2007 and for the entirety of the 2007-8 academic year. In addition, according to the report, the university has reduced the number of tennis program scholarships for the next two academic years. The NCAA required the men's and women's teams to vacate all wins in which the ineligible students participated.

The former softball coach at the university allowed an ineligible athlete to participate in 47 practice sessions and nine games in spring 2004. Not only did the former coach knowingly allow the student to participate in these events, but he allowed the ineligible student to play on the team under the name of an injured teammate, who was eligible for action but left the team, during five of those games. In addition to those on-the-field infractions, the NCAA panel found that the ineligible student in question was also improperly compensated more than $1,500 by traveling with the rest of the softball team and receiving her academic textbooks without cost.

The NCAA found the former softball coach for engaging in "unethical conduct for providing false and misleading information regarding the violations.” The coach must appear before the NCAA panel if he seeks employment at an NCAA institution within three years. The coach, however, is not to only one to suffer the consequences of the coach's actions. The softball team must vacate all of the wins in which the ineligible athlete competed, including championships. And the team is barred from competing in league or other championships after the conclusion of the 2009 regular season.

During a news conference Wednesday, Josephine Potuto, chair of the Division I Committee on Infractions said of these incidents: “The failure to report a violation to NCAA enforcement staff and to report to the student-athlete reinstatement staff when the violation has affected a student-athlete’s eligibility is really a failure to understand the basic N.C.A.A. rules 101.”

As these athletic programs relied on coach-supplied information for accuracy, which was subsequently not confirmed by the university, Potuto said the information the two coaches provided amounted to lies.

Officials from Texas Southern’s athletics department did not return calls Wednesday afternoon about the penalties.

 

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