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Former Southern Mississippi men’s basketball coach acted unethically

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A former head men’s basketball coach at The University of Southern Mississippi acted unethically and failed to promote an atmosphere for compliance when he directed his staff to engage in academic misconduct, according to a decision issued by a Division I Committee on Infractions panel. During the investigation, the former head coach fabricated a document to justify payments to student-athletes and took other actions to thwart the investigation.

Penalties in the case include three years of probation, a two-year postseason ban for the men’s basketball team, reductions in scholarships and recruiting opportunities, as well as show-cause orders for a number of individuals, including the former head coach. During the show-cause period, if any of the individuals are hired by an NCAA school,that school must follow the terms of each of their respective show-cause orders.

The former head coach directed members of his staff to complete fraudulent coursework for seven prospects so they could be immediately eligible to compete. The activity began within six weeks of the former head coach starting at the university, involved the majority of the former coach’s staff and involved approximately half of the prospects the university recruited during a two-year period. The former head coach directed two graduate assistants and a former assistant coach to travel to two-year colleges to complete coursework for prospects.

The former head coach also facilitated cash and prepaid credit card payments to two prospects from former coaches. One former high school coach mailed the money directly to the former head coach, who would then deliver the money to the student-athlete for university bills. The former head coach stated that he discussed the arrangement with the compliance director; however, the compliance director did not recall this discussion. A year later, the former head coach used a similar arrangement for the second student-athlete and his prep school coach. He did not check with compliance to ask if the arrangement would break NCAA rules. The former prep school coach was employed by an NCAA school at the time of the investigation and did not provide certain information when requested by investigators, contrary to NCAA rules.

In order to disrupt the investigation, the former head coach instructed a staff member to fabricate a document purportedly showing that the university approved the payments from the student-athletes’ former coaches. The former coach used this document to justify his facilitation of the payments, without noting that it had been created more than two years after he stated it was.

The former head coach failed to promote an atmosphere for compliance when he deleted emails relevant to the investigation, provided false or misleading information during interviews, contacted other individuals involved with knowledge of the investigation and directed the academic misconduct.

A former associate coach who directed other men’s basketball staff members to complete the coursework declined to be interviewed for the investigation, did not file a response to the notice of allegations and did not attend the hearing. One of the former graduate assistants who completed fraudulent coursework also declined to be interviewed for the investigation and did not respond to the notice of allegations.

Penalties and corrective actions imposed by the panel include:

  • A three-year probation period to run consecutive to the present probation period. The three-year period will begin on Jan. 30, 2017, and run through Jan. 29, 2020.
  • A two-year postseason ban for the men’s basketball team. The school will be credited for the self-imposed postseason bans during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.
  •  A 10-year show-cause order for the former head coach from April 8, 2016, through April 7, 2026. During that period, if the former head coach is employed by an NCAA school, he must be suspended by the employing school from all coaching duties. Following that period, any NCAA school that hires the former head coach must suspend him for the first 50 percent of the first season he is employed.
  • A six-year show-cause order for the graduate assistant who completed online assignments for prospects and did not appear at the hearing. The period will run from April 8, 2016, through April 7, 2022. Any NCAA school employing the graduate assistant during that time must appear with him before a Committee on Infractions panel.
  • A seven-year show-cause order for the graduate assistant who completed online assignments for prospects and refused to cooperate with the investigation. The period will run from April 8, 2016, through April 7, 2023. Any NCAA school employing the graduate assistant during that time must appear with him before a Committee on Infractions panel.
  • A two-year show-cause order for a prospect’s prep school coach because he was employed at an NCAA school during the investigation. The period will run from April 8, 2016, through April 7, 2018. During this period, if he is employed by an NCAA school, the former prep school coach must attend an NCAA Regional Rules Seminar each year and meet monthly with the compliance officer to review recruiting and coaching activities. Also, the school must file reports with the Office of the Committees on Infractions every six months detailing the coach’s activities.
  • An eight-year show-cause order for the former associate head coach from April 8, 2016, through April 7, 2024. Any NCAA school employing the former associate head coach during that time must appear with him before a Committee on Infractions panel.
  • A vacation of wins in which the men’s basketball student-athletes participated while ineligible. The university will identify the games impacted following the release of the public report. 
  • A reduction of five men’s basketball scholarships over the next three years. The program reduced scholarships by one during the 2014-15 season and must reduce scholarships by a total of four over the next three years (self-imposed by the university).
  • A $5,000 fine plus an amount equal to 1 percent of the average total budget for the men’s basketball team over the previous three years (self-imposed by the university).
  • The university self-imposed the following recruiting restrictions:
    • A reduction in the number of men’s basketball official visits during the 2015-16 season by three.
    • A prohibition from hosting any unofficial visits for a period of 10 weeks before the beginning of the fall 2016 semester.
    • A restriction in recruiting communications with prospects by 10 weeks before the beginning of the fall 2016 semester.
    • A reduction in men’s basketball off-campus recruiting days during the 2015-16 season by 25.

Members of the Committee on Infractions are drawn from NCAA membership and members of the public. The members of the panel who reviewed this case are Michael F. Adams, chancellor, Pepperdine University; Joel Maturi, former University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, athletics director; Gary L. Miller, chancellor at University of Wisconsin-Green Bay; Eleanor W. Myers, panel chair and law professor at Temple University; Joe Novak, former head football coach at Northern Illinois University; Jill Pilgrim, attorney in private practice; and David Roberts, vice president for athletics compliance at the University of Southern California.