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Pacific and former head men’s basketball coach failed to monitor program

Download the Sept. 2017 University of the Pacific Public Infractions Decision

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A former Pacific head men’s basketball coach failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance when he violated academic misconduct and recruiting rules to get prospects eligible, according to a Division I Committee on Infractions panel. He also failed to monitor the activities of his coaching staff and violated NCAA ethical conduct rules when he encouraged others to provide false information during the investigation.

Pacific did not monitor the involvement of the former head coach, a former men’s basketball assistant coach and a former special assistant to the head men’s basketball coach in the oversight of five prospects’ distance learning coursework. Additionally, in the baseball program, the former head coach impermissibly provided an athletic training student with a $16,000 scholarship to help with the housing costs of two baseball student-athletes, including her brother.

Penalties prescribed by the panel, including those self-imposed by the university, include two years of probation for the university; a postseason ban for the men’s basketball 2015-16 season; recruiting restrictions for the men’s basketball program; scholarship reductions for the men’s basketball and baseball programs; a vacation of all games in which men’s basketball or baseball student-athletes participated while ineligible; and a $5,000 fine. The panel also prescribed an eight-year show-cause order for the former head men's basketball coach, which includes a suspension of 50 percent of the first season of his employment should an NCAA school hire him during the period; an eight-year show-cause order for a former assistant men’s basketball coach; and a seven-year show-cause order for a former special assistant to the head men's basketball coach.

The university failed to monitor the men's basketball coaching staff, which resulted in the former head coach, former assistant coach and former special assistant going to great lengths to secure the eligibility of the five academically ineligible prospects, according to the panel’s decision. The university admitted that it made a mistake when it relied only on the assurances of the men’s basketball staff that the prospects were making progress toward meeting admission and eligibility requirements.

During the summer of 2014, the former head coach instructed his staff to work with five prospects as they completed distance learning courses to earn credits they needed to be eligible to play basketball at Pacific. Throughout the rest of the summer, the coaching staff excessively involved themselves in the prospects’ distance learning courses in three ways: The former head coach provided some of the prospects with answers to coursework and exams; the former head coach, former assistant coach and former special assistant arranged for prospects to take exams without the required proctors; and the assistant coach paid for one prospect’s distance learning courses. The panel noted that all the activities gave the university a substantial recruiting and competitive advantage.

The former head coach failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance when he recruited academically ineligible prospects and disregarded NCAA ethical conduct standards to ensure they met transfer and academic eligibility requirements. He also failed to monitor the activities of his coaching staff and admitted during the hearing that he “let a couple assistant coaches get out of control and didn’t stop it.”

The panel also found that the former head coach violated the NCAA’s ethical conduct rules when he refused to provide information requested by the university and the NCAA enforcement staff for nearly a year and when he denied his involvement in the violations. In its decision, the panel noted that perhaps the most egregious violation of ethical conduct rules was encouraging others to provide false or misleading information to the university and enforcement staff during the investigation, including a prospect and a close friend who he asked to state that he proctored exams for recruits. By influencing the prospect to lie, the former head coach put the prospect’s eligibility at risk.

“This conduct falls well below the baseline of honesty and ethical conduct the membership expects of university staff members, particularly those entrusted with setting an example for developing student-athletes,” the panel’s decision said.

The former assistant coach and former special assistant also violated the NCAA’s ethical conduct rules when they refused to participate in interviews during the investigation and did not provide information requested by the university and enforcement staff to assist with the investigation. The former assistant coach also provided false and misleading information during the investigation about his involvement in the violations.

The former head coach also helped three additional prospects obtain their student visas by arranging for a booster and two of his business associates to provide financial sponsorship for the visa applications.

In the baseball program, the former head baseball coach wanted to provide financial aid to two student-athletes but believed doing so would cause the program to exceed its scholarship limits. He instead decided to impermissibly provide an athletic training student, who was the sister of a baseball student-athlete, with the $16,000 in financial aid. The athletic training student lived with her brother and another baseball student-athlete and the money was intended to offset the student-athletes’ housing costs.

Before providing the aid, the former baseball coach discussed the arrangement with the senior associate athletics director for internal affairs, who incorrectly believed the student would work for the program, consistent with the university’s history of awarding unused financial aid to student workers in the athletics department. The senior associate athletics director acknowledged he did not ask the baseball coach enough questions about the arrangement and should have had a better understanding of what the student would do to earn the scholarship money. The baseball coach has a history of compliance at the university and followed protocol by asking for input and approval before providing the scholarship, so the panel concluded that he demonstrated responsibility for his program and did not act unethically.

The panel used the Division I membership-approved infractions penalty guidelines to prescribe the following measures:

  • Public reprimand and censure for the university.
  • Two years of probation from Sept. 20, 2017, through Sept. 19, 2019.
  • An eight-year show-cause period for the former head basketball coach from Sept. 20, 2017, through Sept. 19, 2025. During that period, any NCAA member school employing the former coach must show cause why he should not have restrictions on athletically related activity. Additionally, should an NCAA member school hire him during the show-cause period, he must be suspended from 50 percent of the first season of his employment.
  • An eight-year show-cause period for the former assistant from Sept. 20, 2017, through Sept. 19, 2025. During that period, any NCAA member school employing the former coach must contact the Committee on Infractions to show cause why he should not have restrictions on athletically related activity.
  • A seven-year show-cause period for the former special assistant from Sept. 20, 2017, through Sept. 19, 2024. During that period, any NCAA member school employing the former coach must contact the Committee on Infractions to show cause why he should not have restrictions on athletically related activity.
  • A vacation of records in which men’s basketball and baseball student-athletes competed while ineligible. The university will provide a written report containing the games impacted to the NCAA media coordination and statistics staff within 45 days of the public decision release.
  • A postseason ban for the men’s basketball team for the 2015-16 season (self-imposed by the university).
  • A reduction in the total number of men’s basketball scholarships by six from the allowable total of 13 during the 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 years (self-imposed by the university).
  • A reduction in the number of baseball scholarship equivalencies by .57 from the allowable total of 11.7 for the 2015-16 year. The reduction amounts to a two-for-one reduction for the value of the benefit provided (self-imposed by the university).
  • A reduction of seven men’s basketball official visits to a total of five during the 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18 years (self-imposed by the university).
  • A limit on the number of men’s basketball off-campus recruiting person days to no more than 90 days, averaged over the 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18 years, totaling a reduction of 40 from the total permissible number (self-imposed by the university).
  • A prohibition of the men’s basketball coaching staff from initiating telephone calls, social media contact and written correspondence with prospects for a 10-week period during the 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18 years (self-imposed by the university).
  • A disassociation of both the former special assistant and the booster (self-imposed by the university).
  • A $5,000 fine.

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 Carol Cartwright, president emeritus at Kent State and Bowling Green; Stephen A. Madva, attorney in private practice; Joel Maturi, chief hearing officer for this case and former Minnesota athletics director; Joyce McConnell, provost and vice president of academic affairs at West Virginia; and Vincent Nicastro, deputy commissioner and chief operating officer for the Big East Conference.