Members of the National Collegiate Athletic Association are expected to police themselves and to publicly report when their officials have violated rules. An NCAA investigation released Thursday showed what happened when an official took advantage of that system -- seeking to profit from not reporting violations.
The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions has penalized Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi for major rules violations in its men’s basketball, men’s tennis and women’s volleyball programs. It reprimanded the institution in its public report, noting that these violations have “contributed to a culture of noncompliance” there.
Among the infractions, the university permitted a women’s volleyball player to compete on the team after her five-year period of eligibility had expired.
The university also awarded a men’s tennis player with $1,500 of illegal athletically related financial aid at a time when he was not eligible to play for the team. In Texas, an athlete who receives institutional financial aid can pay in-state tuition. As the tennis player in question was an international student, these illegal dollars provided him with a significant discount.
In a third violation, an assistant men’s basketball coach at the institution made 92 illegal recruiting telephone calls to four prospective athletes from junior colleges. The university also courted these prospective athletes illegally when they came to visit the institution by providing them with free lodging and transportation.
The Committee on Infractions called out two individuals, in particular, for their absolute disregard for NCAA rules and failure to report these violations. Brian Teter, former athletics director, and John Secord, former compliance officer, are censured in the report for failing “to deport themselves in according with the general recognized high standards of honesty and sportsmanship normally associated with the conduct and administration of intercollegiate athletics.”
Secord, for example, threatened an A&M human resources staff member that he would report these NCAA violations if he was not given a “buy out” of his employment contract. According to a transcript of the investigation in the public report, Secord expressed some remorse for not having reported the violations and called his behavior “cowardly.” He, however, denies having proposed this bribe, which the committee presents as fact.
Teter, according the same transcript, admitted that he suggested to his staff that they ignore these violations in favor of doing nothing and, what he referred to as, “moving forward.” He also expressed regret, acknowledging that this “was the wrong decision” and that he was “sorry.”
Flavius Killebrew, president of A&M at Corpus Christi, said in the hearing that he was made aware of one of the violations and was ensured by Teter that it was “handled.” He admitted that he did not follow up with Teter to find out how, exactly, it had been handled.
“I felt like I had confidence in my new athletic director,” the transcript quotes Killiebrew as saying; he later stated that he was too busy and distracted by other institutional issues to inquire about this infraction. “[Teter] said in the private meeting with me that he was going to do the right thing.”
In punishment for these violations, the institution has been placed on NCAA probation until 2013. For women’s volleyball, the number of scholarships has been reduced, and the team must vacate all wins that involved the athlete in question during 2005-6. For men’s tennis, the team must truncate its regular season by two games and must vacate all wins that involved the athlete in question from 2005-6 to 2006-7. For men’s basketball, the number of off-campus contacts that can be made by coaches has been reduced, as has the number of visits that it can bring in prospective athletes.
No specific punishments were directed specifically at either Teter or Secord. Still, Paul Dee, Committee on Infractions chair and lecturer at the University of Miami, said all details of cases of unethical conduct are housed by the NCAA and can be accessed by institutions that may be considering hiring one of them in the future, or otherwise have an interest in their past. This public reprimand by the NCAA and permanent spot on the committee’s list, he noted, could be considered their punishment.
A&M officials refused to comment about the incidents. The university did, however, release a formal statement regarding the NCAA's decision. In it, Kellebrew notes that the institution has made a number of changes to its compliance structure since it discovered the violations last year. He also stated that the institution will review the decision in the next few days to determine if it will appeal the committee.
Institutions are given 15 days to file an appeal. Those institutions that are found to have committed major violations of probation are subject to further punishment by the NCAA, including the rarely levied “death penalty.”