A Cheating Coach

NCAA punishes the University of the Pacific after a former head men's basketball coach gave answers to players he was recruiting.

September 21, 2017
 
Ron Verlin

The former head men’s basketball coach at the University of the Pacific gave athletic prospects the answers to course work and tried to persuade multiple people to lie during a National Collegiate Athletic Association investigation into the alleged violations, the association announced today.

Ron Verlin, the head coach, who has since been fired by the university; a former assistant coach, Dwight Young; and a former special assistant to the team were all punished by the NCAA, likely making them unemployable.

An eight-year “show cause” order for Verlin and Young were among the sanctions the NCAA imposed -- the special assistant’s order extends seven years. This means that any NCAA institution hiring the men must provide the association with a reason why their duties shouldn't be restricted. Additionally, if Verlin is hired, he must be suspended for half of the first season he coaches.

The university has been placed on probation from now until September 2019. It must also pay a $5,000 fine and vacate the games that the players who cheated participated in.

Pacific had already given up the right to play in the postseason in the 2015-16 academic year and reduced its allotment of basketball scholarships.

The NCAA also found that a former men’s baseball coach had inappropriately given a student $16,000 to defray housing costs -- certain baseball games must be vacated, the NCAA demanded, and scholarships in the program were already reduced.

President Pamela A. Eibeck said in a statement to Inside Higher Ed Wednesday that the university does not intend to fight the NCAA verdict.

“We are proud that the NCAA found these corrective actions to be a meaningful and adequate means to address the violations, and that it cited the university’s ‘exemplary cooperation’ in describing our collaboration, which was our goal from the outset. We fully support this decision and have no intention of appealing … We were treated fairly during the process and we look forward to moving on. We remain focused on providing our students with a superior learning experience that prepares them to be successful in their lives and careers.”

In 2011, then assistant coach Verlin gave a prospective athlete enrolled in a distance learning course a 1,400-word paper titled “Taking a Look at Change” that the athlete could pass off as his own work, according to the NCAA’s initial report on allegations against Verlin.

Three years later, Verlin, by then head coach, provided answers to multiple prospects who were taking a mathematics course at Adams State University. He also arranged for the athletes to take exams without a required proctor.

Verlin meddled with the work of five athletes in total, the NCAA said.

In what the NCAA called “perhaps the most egregious violation of ethical conduct rules,” Verlin also encouraged others -- a close friend and an athletic prospect -- to give false or misleading information to the university and to the NCAA.

Verlin filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the university in March.

“We found this conduct falls well below the baseline of honesty and ethical conduct the membership expects of university staff members, particularly those setting the example for the development of student athletes,” Joel Maturi, former Minnesota athletics director and a member of the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions panel, said Wednesday.

In June, experts criticized the NCAA for imposing light sanctions on the University of Louisville after a scandal there involving a former director of operations who arranged sexual encounters between sex workers and prospective athletes. Rick Pitino, the head basketball coach, failed to supervise the director, the NCAA said, suspending Pitino from the first five Atlantic Coast Conference games of the season.

The NCAA also ordered certain games vacated, possibly jeopardizing the national title the university won in 2013.

Despite the punishment, which some experts called a “wrist slap,” Louisville intended to appeal the NCAA decision.

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