U of U Officials Respond to NCAA Public Infractions Report

University announces corrective measures

July 30, 2003 — Officials at the University of Utah publicly responded today to an NCAA public infractions report released earlier in the day involving violations within the University’s men’s basketball, football, and women’s track and field programs. On hand to discuss the NCAA’s report, as well as the U’s own corrective measures, and to answer questions from reporters were President Bernie Machen, Athletic Director Chris Hill, men’s basketball coach Rick Majerus, and Vice President for University Relations Fred Esplin.


“The University of Utah is proud of its athletics programs, is committed to ensuring full compliance with all NCAA rules, and accepts their findings and penalties,” Machen said. “When allegations were received about possible NCAA violations within our athletics programs over two years ago, we immediately began a self-investigation that revealed areas that needed to be changed. The vast majority of the violations cited in the NCAA report were discovered through our own internal investigation. We have imposed appropriate sanctions and have taken appropriate corrective measures, including the appointment last August of a new director of compliance with extensive background in NCAA administration and compliance.”


The university first became aware of potential NCAA violations in the spring of 2001. At that time, Dr. Chris Hill brought them to the attention of President Machen and recommended an independent internal review. Machen asked the Office of General Counsel, along with a committee of university representatives, to conduct a thorough internal investigation and to prepare a self-report for submission to the NCAA. During the course of this investigation, over 100 individuals were interviewed, including current and former employees and student-athletes.


At the conclusion of the investigation, the U’s self-report was submitted to Machen, who concurred with its findings and recommendations and submitted the report to the NCAA. The self-report concluded that: 1) the athletics compliance office had not always adequately identified, reported, and resolved NCAA rules issues; 2) the men’s basketball program was not sufficiently committed to understanding and complying with all NCAA rules; and 3) the U’s compliance monitoring of the men’s basketball on-campus recruiting and extra food benefits was inadequate.


Hill said, “I realize that mistakes have been made and, as the person in charge, I take responsibility. Part of that responsibility was to implement corrective measures. With that in mind, over the past year, we have revamped our compliance efforts in terms of staffing, education, and chain of command. Although I am disappointed that we had any violations, I am pleased that our staff members conducted themselves with great integrity during this process and that we uncovered the vast majority of the issues in our self-report. This has been a very painful process for all of us. If I can find any consolation, it is the absence of violations in the critical areas of booster involvement and academics.”


After reviewing the findings of the self-report, Machen and Hill took immediate steps to correct the deficiencies found and to enhance rules-compliance monitoring. Among the corrective actions the university has taken to address the problems in the men’s basketball program are:


1. The university has limited the length of each official visit to no more than 36 hours.


2. The university has eliminated pick-up basketball games during official visits.


3. The university has prohibited any post-camp basketball scrimmage sessions at university facilities.


4. The university now requires the men’s basketball coaching staff to meet with the director of compliance both before and after each on-campus recruiting visit (whether official or unofficial) of each prospect.


5. The university required that each member of the men’s basketball coaching staff attend one of the NCAA’s Spring 2002 Regional Compliance Seminars. The head coach was required to do so at his own expense. In 2003, the staff will assist the director of compliance in conducting an athletics department-wide staff meeting to report on information learned at the seminar.


6. The university has developed specific written procedures for responding to information indicating a possible violation of NCAA rules and enlisted the help of an outside compliance consultant for the development of these procedures.


7. The university now requires that the annual evaluation process for each athletics department administrative and coaching staff member includes a specific component related to NCAA rules compliance.


8. The university revised its in-season and out-of-season practice time monitoring form in order to gather sufficient information concerning practice times and to require students and staff to acknowledge the accuracy of the information.


9. The university has updated its tutoring program for student-athletes by developing a new Tutor and Mentor Manual and a student-athlete tutor orientation/compliance-awareness program implemented in the fall 2001 semester.


10. The university hired a new director of compliance in August 2002.


The football and women’s track programs were also found in violation of NCAA rules in two instances. In the spring of 1999, a tutor, who was a friend of two football student-athletes, provided them with a paper for a writing class. The paper was discovered, the tutor was fired, and the student-athletes received failing grades in the courses. However, the athletics department failed to report the violation to the NCAA. In May 1997, a women’s track and field student-athlete competed in one contest even though she dropped below 12 credit hours the day before the contest.


In September of 2002, the university received notification from the NCAA of its official inquiry into the university’s self-reported violations. This past February the university submitted its response to the letter of inquiry, and in April a hearing was held at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis. The university received the NCAA’s final report on July 29, 2003. Among the report’s findings was its recognition of “the University’s commendable cooperation in the investigation, as well as their own self-investigation into the matters.” The Committee on Infractions “chose not to impose all the presumptive penalties because of the actions taken by the university to institute appropriate corrective measures and self-impose meaningful penalties upon its basketball program.”


Majerus stated, “As always, in everything that I have done, I have had the best interest of my players in mind. I felt compassion for their particular situations or dilemmas and subsequently offered advice and direction over a pizza, hamburger, bagel or ice cream. I have come to find out that at the time this was a violation of an NCAA rule, although that rule has since changed to make those meals perfectly proper. Let me be emphatic that these meetings in no way constituted a competitive advantage, the standard by which major violations are defined. The resolution of this is, I must now think with my head rather than my heart.”


Machen added, “This has been a painful but ultimately constructive process for the university. As a result, we have improved our compliance procedures, while maintaining a quality program that emphasizes academic success and athletic excellence.”


# # #


The NCAA release is available online at:
http://www.ncaa.org/releases/infractions/2003073002in.htm


The NCAA report is available at:
http://www.ncaa.org/releases/infractions/2003073001in.htm

Media Contacts For This Story

Sports Information, Athletics
Office Phone: 801-581-3511
 
U of U VP for University Relations, University Relations
Office Phone: 801-581-4088
Email address: fred.esplin@utah.edu