INDIANAPOLIS---The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions has placed Auburn University on probation for two years for multiple violations of NCAA recruiting legislation in the sport of men's basketball.
This case revolved around activities conducted by the university's men's basketball staff with basketball club teams and individuals associated with these amateur teams, which are composed of high-school-aged prospective student-athletes.
The committee found that the evidence in this case demonstrated that the university's men's basketball staff became involved with two amateur teams operating out of Huntsville, Alabama, and with two individuals associated with the teams - a Huntsville businessman who provided financial support for these teams (the "team sponsor") and a self-described "sports agent" who had befriended a member of one of the teams.
The committee found that, from January 2000 through August 2001, in an effort to recruit prospect 1, members of the Auburn men's basketball staff made a deliberate effort to develop a close relationship with the team sponsor of the prospect's amateur team and the sports agent who had befriended prospect 1. The committee found that, in the course of these relationships and attempts to recruit prospects, the team sponsor became a representative of the university's athletics interests. Specifically:
Former assistant coach A and the sports agent traveled to the institution's campus to attend a home basketball game March 3, 2001, at the team sponsor's expense. The tickets were booked for the sports agent and prospect 1 by the wife of former assistant coach A, an employee of a local travel agency, and then charged to the team sponsor's credit card. In conjunction with the visit, former assistant coach A provided round-trip automobile transportation between the Montgomery, Alabama, airport and the institution's campus. Also, the reservations for the rooms at the University Hotel were initially made in the name of Athletics-Men's Basketball, and the instructions on the hotel registration cards specifically stated that the credit card on file should be used. The team sponsor's credit card was the one on file in this case. The committee noted that the evidence reflected that the hotel reservation was made by someone associated with the men's basketball program who had direct knowledge that the team sponsor would pay for the room.
Between March 5, 2001, and July 18, 2001, the team sponsor wired money or arranged for money to be wired to the sports agent on six occasions with the intention that the money be delivered to prospect 1 or used on his behalf. The wire transfers ranged in amounts from $200 to $2,000 and totaled $3,125.
On July 2, 2001, the team sponsor purchased electronics equipment valued at $643.97 for prospect 1. The team sponsor also paid to have the equipment installed in prospect 1's vehicle at an additional cost of $50.
During the spring and summer of 2001, the team sponsor provided air travel, meals and lodging expenses for the sportsagent so he could accompany prospect 1 to tournaments in Nevada and North Carolina while prospect 1 was competing as a member of amateur team No. 1.
The committee noted that telephone records reflected frequent contact by the university's men's basketball staff with the team sponsor. The records also showed patterns of contact by former assistant coach A with both the team sponsor and the sports agent in the weeks leading up to the weekend trip. In the committee's view, "these records were evidence that the team sponsor was operating as a representative of the university's athletics interests."
The committee also found that, beginning in the summer of 1999 through August 2001, in an effort to recruit prospect 2, the team sponsor made improper recruiting contacts, offers and inducements to prospect 2 and his mother. Also, the team sponsor's inducements resulted in the young man receiving three expenses-paid visits to the institution's campus. Specifically:
Beginning in the summer of 1999 and continuing through the summer of 2001 and while prospect 2 played for the team sponsor's two amateur teams from Huntsville, the team sponsor encouraged prospect 2 to attend the university to play basketball. The team sponsor also indicated to the prospect that the institution wanted him and needed him.
In the summer of 1999, the team sponsor drove prospect 2 to the university, where he met the men's basketball coaching staff for the first time. Subsequently, men's basketball assistant coach B attended amateur team No. 2's practices in Huntsville and, on at least one occasion, told prospect 2 that the institution was interested in him.
In September 1999, the team sponsor provided round-trip automobile transportation between Huntsville and the university's campus (240 miles one way) and one night's lodging at the University Hotel in order for prospect 2 and his mother to attend a university football contest.
In the fall of 1999 and after prospect 2 had turned 16, prospect 2's mother asked the team sponsor to help her find an inexpensive car she could buy for her son. The team sponsor referred her to a friend of his at a local car dealership. The mother selected a 1996 Dodge Stratus that cost $6,324.65. Sometime later the team sponsor told her he had taken car of everything and she should pick up the vehicle. In December 1999, the mother returned to the dealership, signed some papers and took possession of the car at no cost to her. The team sponsor later told her he had paid for the vehicle.
On the weekend of January 5-6, 2001, the team sponsor provided round-trip automobile transportation between Huntsville and the university's campus, one night's lodging and meal expenses to prospect 2 and his mother. The group traveled to the university to attend a men's basketball contest.
During part of the summer of 2001, the team sponsor supplied $65 in cash per week to prospect 2 for spending money.
On one occasion, the team sponsor gave $300 to prospect 2's mother to purchase school clothes for prospect 2.
The committee noted that, on the trips set up by the team sponsor, prospect 2 met the men's basketball coaches and was shown around the coaches' offices. Also, each time the group stayed in the University Hotel on campus, where reservations were initially made in the name of the men's basketball department. Prospect 2's mother stated that on every trip to campus (paid for by the team sponsor) she and her son interacted with the men's basketball coaches and they told her they were interested in prospect 2.
The committee noted that the close relationship between the university's men's basketball coaches and the team sponsor was reflected on the University Hotel registration cards as well as, in at least one instance, by the institutional phone records of the men's basketball staff.
The committee found that, because the team sponsor was a representative of the university's athletics interests, his involvement in facilitating and financing trips to the university for prospect 2 and his mother violated NCAA recruiting legislation. The committee also concluded from the evidence that the men's basketball staff facilitated and coordinated these trips with the team sponsor.
The committee also found that, since the team sponsor's actions in the provision of cash for prospect 2 and his mother could not be exclusively linked to his recruitment by the institution, the university's culpability was reduced.
In determining appropriate penalties, the committee considered the institution's self-imposed penalties and corrective actions.
The following penalties were imposed by the committee or were self-imposed by the university and adopted by the committee. Those penalties that were self-imposed by the university are so noted.
Public reprimand and censure.
A two-year period of probation commencing on April 27, 2004, and concluding on April 26, 2006.
A reduction of total grants-in-aid in men's basketball by one (from 13 to 12) for both the 2004-05 and 2005-06 academic years. (The university had proposed a reduction of one initial grant-in-aid and one total grant-in-aid for only the 2004-5 academic year.)
A reduction in the number of official paid visits in men's basketball from 12 to nine for the 2003-04 academic year and from 12 to nine in the 2004-05 academic year. (Self-imposed by the university.)
A reduction in the number of off-campus evaluations from 40 to 35 for both the 2003-04 and 2004-05 academic years. The number of coaches allowed to recruit off-campus was reduced from three to two for the July 2004 evaluation period. (Self-imposed by the university.)
During the probation period (April 27, 2004, to April 26, 2006), the men's basketball staff shall cease recruiting prospective student-athletes (through the amateur team program) who play for the team sponsor named in this report. This penalty permits the recruitment of prospects directly and through their families and high-school coaches. But, it prohibits any contact or involvement by the men's basketball coaching staff with the team sponsor as it relates to recruitment of players on his teams. During this period, any contact with the team sponsor regarding prospective student-athletes other than incidental and/or unavoidable contact is prohibited. (The university had proposed that this prohibition conclude on December 15, 2005.)
The committee required that, during the probationary period, the university shall continue to develop and implement a comprehensive educational program on NCAA legislation and submit periodic reports to the NCAA. The university also is required to submit, to the director of the NCAA Committees on Infractions, a preliminary report that sets forth a schedule for establishing this compliance and educational program. The institution also must file annual compliance reports indicating progress made with the program and placing particular emphasis on adhering to NCAA recruiting legislation, particularly the recruitment of prospects competing on amateur teams. The report also must include documentation of the university's compliance with the penalties imposed and adopted by the committee. 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, Auburn University is subject to the provisions of NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199, concerning repeat violators for a five-year period beginning on the effective date of the penalties in this case, April 27, 2004.
The members of the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions who heard this case are as follows: Thomas Yeager, committee chair and commissioner, Colonial Athletic Association; Paul T. Dee, athletics director at University of Miami (Florida); Alfred J. Lechner Jr., attorney, Princeton, New Jersey; Andrea L. Myers, athletics director at Indiana State University; Josephine R. Potuto, professor of law, University of Nebraska, Lincoln; and Eugene D. Smith, athletics director at Arizona State University.