INDIANAPOLIS---The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, football program is prohibited from participating in a bowl game for the next two years, primarily as the result of recruiting inducements by three representatives of the university's athletics interests that included payments of large sums of cash to a prospective student-athlete and his family and to another prospect's high school football coach.
Among other penalties, the university is required to show-cause to the Division I Committee on Infractions why further penalties are not warranted if the three representatives are not disassociated from Alabama permanently. The institution also was placed on probation for five years and will be subject to initial and overall grant-in-aid reductions in the football program beyond those proposed by the university.
The committee said it considered prohibiting outside competition in football at Alabama for a period of time because the university is a two-time repeat offender (1995, 1999) and because of the severe recruiting violations, but ultimately decided it was not an appropriate penalty. The committee said that in the one previous case in which the "death penalty" was imposed, there was a blatant disregard for NCAA rules throughout the university. That was not the case at Alabama, where university officials cooperated fully in the investigation of allegations.
"Although the committee ultimately declined to impose a prohibition on outside competition, the committee emphasizes that this was a very close question greatly influenced by the particular circumstances of this case and of the university's infractions history," the committee said in its public report released today.
The Committee on Infractions said that "all three athletics representatives at the heart of this case displayed contempt for ethical standards and behavior and for the positive values of fair dealing and good sportsmanship that underlie collegiate athletics competition."
The committee also stated that "While rogue athletics representatives are new neither to infractions cases generally nor to the infractions history of the university, their level of involvement and spending is an increasingly visible and major problem in intercollegiate athletics. Such rogue athletics representatives demonstrate a profound and worrisome immaturity in the satisfaction they derive from close and continued intermingling with college and even high-school age student-athletes. Even if sincere, their claimed motivation for cheating - helping a university to recruit blue-chip athletes - betrays a lack of integrity and a 'win-at-all-costs' attitude that undermines and cheapens athletics competition and corrupts the ethics and maturation process of the young people they claim to be 'helping.'"
At least two former Alabama assistant football coaches had frequent contacts with one of the athletics representatives. One of those coaches received two loans totaling $56,600 from one representative, in violation of legislation related to employment and salary controls. The loans, both extended in 1998, were not repaid until 2001, after alleged violations in the case became known. At least two of the three representatives were known to university staff, coaches and fans and were frequently seen at team hotels on road games.
The violations in the case involved recruiting bylaws and provision of extra benefits to enrolled student-athletes. One of the primary incidents was the provision of $20,000 in cash, lodging and entertainment to a prospective student-athlete and his parents by two representatives. The first installment of $10,000 was provided to the prospect at his home in the fall of 1995. It came in the form of $100 bills inside a grocery bag. The second installment was provided to the prospect's father in January 1996 when he received a brown envelope containing $10,000 in cash, also in $100 bills. One of the athletics representatives delivered the cash on both occasions. The prospect later signed a National Letter of Intent to attend Alabama but failed to meet academic standards required to be eligible to compete in his freshman season.
A second finding involved the offer and provision of a substantial amount of cash to a high school coach to assure that a high school prospect from Memphis, Tennessee, signed a National Letter of Intent in February 2000 and enrolled at the university. The high school coach and one of his assistants had developed a scheme to market the prospective student-athlete to university football programs for $100,000 cash and a sport utility vehicle for each.
The high school coach subsequently solicited payments from NCAA member institutions interested in recruiting the young man. Coaches from five institutions confirmed the solicitations by the high school coach.
Included in information cited by the committee in its finding of recruiting inducements to a high school coach was information reported by a witness, who, when interviewed by the NCAA said that the athletics representative said he "bought" the prospect.
The scheme unraveled, however, because the assistant coach said he did not receive any of the benefits promised to him or to the prospect's mother, and he came forward with information. He provided the NCAA with information about the sequence of events that resulted with the head coach receiving cash from the Alabama representative, including numerous telephone conversations between an assistant coach at Alabama and the athletics representative during the time the young man was recruited. This information is outlined in the committee's full public report.
Another violation occurred during the summer of 1999, when an athletics representative provided a student-athlete with the use of an automobile. The student-athlete used the vehicle cost-free from June until August when it was repossessed after he had announced he would transfer from Alabama to another university.
The committee also outlined other findings that involved one assistant coach who accepted loans from one of the athletics representatives. Those included violation of honesty standards, violation of employment and salary controls, and failure to cooperate. The NCAA's enforcement staff had alleged the coach was in violation of ethical conduct legislation because he provided misleading information about the loans.
During a November 2000 interview, the assistant coach was questioned about an allegation in which he was said to have received $200,000 from an athletics representative as incentive to join the Alabama football staff. At that time, the coach denied having received any money from the athletics representative. He contended his denial was a direct response to the allegation about the $200,000, and that he had not been asked a specific question about loans.
The Committee on Infractions said there was not sufficient evidence to support a finding of unethical conduct.
Several other findings of violations, including several secondary violations, are discussed in the public report.
In determining its penalties in the case, the committee considered these self-imposed corrections and penalties by the university:
Disassociated one athletics representative for 10 years, a second for five years, and a third for seven years.
Reduced initial grants-in-aid in football by eight, to 17, in 2002-03; by four, to 21, in 2003-04; and by three, to 22, in 2004-05.
Reduced the number of official paid visits in football by 22 in 2001-02, by 12 in 2002-03, and by 10 in 2003-04.
Reduce the number of football coaches who can recruit off-campus at any one time from seven to six from December 1, 2001, through December 1, 2002.
Modified its outside income reporting procedures for coaches and staff.
Revised the letter sent to each prospective student-athlete who has signed a National Letter of Intent in football to include information regarding the rules associated with residing in Tuscaloosa during the summer before full-time enrollment.
Modified its compliance systems in the areas of unofficial and official visits, specifically regarding meals on unofficial and official visits and mileage reimbursement on official visits.
Ceased to recruit prospects from eight Memphis high schools from December 1, 2000, through December 1, 2001.
Modified the process for receiving all academic transcripts for incoming scholarship student-athletes during the recruiting process.
Developed a presentation regarding NCAA rules that the faculty athletics representative and associate athletics director of compliance provide to all new university board of trustees members.
Brought the management of football camps and coaches' clinics under the auspices of the athletics department.
Updated the "Guide to NCAA Rules for Alumni, Faculty and Friends" brochure and mailed a copy to all season ticket holders in all sports. The associate director for compliance will speak regularly at various alumni and booster group gatherings to reiterate the importance of rules compliance by all individuals associated with the athletics department.
The committee accepted the university's actions and penalties but imposed additional penalties that are directly related to the violations in the case as well as other penalties tailored to the nature and scope of the violations that were committed. As previously noted, the committee considered prohibition of outside competition in football, but determined that university officials fully cooperated with the enforcement staff to develop complete information about the case.
"University officials cooperated fully with the enforcement staff, often at great personal criticism, in a diligent effort to develop complete information regarding the findings. Had this candor and cooperation been lacking, the death penalty (as well as substantial penalties in addition to those imposed in this case) would have been imposed," the committee stated in its report.
The additional penalties are:
Public reprimand and censure.
Five years of probation from February 1, 2002. This period coincides with the length of time in which the university is subject to the repeat violator rule.
The institution's football team will end its 2002 and 2003 seasons when it plays its last regularly scheduled, in-season contest and will not be eligible to participate in any bowl game or take advantage of the exemption provided in Bylaw 126.96.36.199 for preseason competition.
The university will reduce the permissible limit of 25 initial grants in the sport of football to 17 in 2002-03; to 18 in 2003-04; and to 19 in 2004-05. The university had proposed a limit of 17 initial grants in football in 2002-03, 21 in 2003-04, and 22 in 2004-05. Further, the university will reduce the total number of football counters available from 85 to 80 during each of those years.
For the period of the probation, the university will prohibit all noninstitutional athletics representatives from the following: traveling on football team charters; attending football team practices normally closed to the public; and participating in any fashion with the university's football camps to include the donation of funds to the camps.
The university will show cause why it should not be penalized further if it fails to permanently disassociate from its athletics programs, the three athletics representatives, based upon their involvement in NCAA legislation. Further, the institution will disassociate a fourth athletics representative for at least a three-year period based upon his involvement in violations of NCAA legislation. All disassociations include the following provisions: refrain from accepting any assistance from the individuals that would aid in recruiting prospective student-athletes or support enrolled student-athletes; refuse financial contributions to the athletics program from the individuals; ensure that no athletics benefit or privilege is provided to the individuals that is not available to the public; and implement other necessary actions to eliminate the involvement of the individuals in the athletics program.
The committee considered imposing a show-cause order against one of the former Alabama assistant coaches but decided not to do so because he was terminated by the university at the conclusion of the 2000 season and since that time has been out of college coaching, under what the committee considered to be a de facto show-cause order.
During the probationary period, the university will continue to develop and implement a comprehensive education program on NCAA legislation and submit periodic reports to the NCAA. At the end of the probationary period, the university's president will provide a letter to the committee affirming that the university's current athletics policies and practices conform to all requirements of NCAA regulations.
As required by NCAA legislation for any institution involved in a major infractions case, Alabama is subject to the NCAA's repeat-violator provisions for a five-year period beginning on the effective date of the penalties in this case, February 1, 2002.
The committee also noted that it has the prerogative to reexamine the case if new information becomes available as the result of judicial proceedings that occur within a reasonable timeframe following the conclusion of the case.
The members of the Division I Committee on Infractions who heard this case are: Thomas Yeager, committee chair and commissioner, Colonial Athletic Association; Paul Dee, athletics director, University of Miami (Florida); Andrea Myers, athletics director, Indiana State University; James Park Jr., attorney and retired judge, Frost Brown Todd, Lexington, Kentucky; and Josephine Potuto, professor of law, University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
A copy of the complete report from the Division I Committee on Infractions will be available at 2 p.m. Eastern time on NCAA Online at www.ncaa.org.