Questions also raised over gymnastics practices

Updated: April 3, 2005, 3:19 AM ET
Associated Press

NORMAN, Okla. -- The NCAA is investigating whether Oklahoma's men's basketball program made too many telephone calls to potential recruits in the past, athletic director Joe Castiglione said Saturday.

Questions also have been raised about practice and playing seasons for gymnastics and whether those were voluntary as required by NCAA rules, Castiglione said in a statement.

"The University of Oklahoma is strongly committed to the highest standards in its athletic program and to full compliance with the rules of the NCAA," Castiglione said.

"We are cooperating fully with the NCAA and are conducting our own review as well. In recent years we have brought personnel of national stature into our compliance program and we have studied and adopted best practices of other universities. If problems have occurred we will move aggressively to correct them."

Castiglione said because the inquiry is pending, it would be improper for him to comment further. A source close to the university's president said the investigation would not impact basketball coach Kelvin Sampson's future at Oklahoma.

Erik Christianson, director of the NCAA's public relations office, said the agency does not comment about its investigations -- even to confirm or deny whether one is taking place.

According to NCAA bylaws, schools may make one phone call to a prospective recruit in March of the student's junior year of high school. Schools may then make "one telephone call to a prospect or the prospect's parents or legal guardian(s) on or after June 21 of the prospect's junior year in high school.

"Further, only three telephone calls to a prospect or the prospect's parents or legal guardian(s) may be made during the month of July following the prospect's junior year in high school, with not more than one telephone call per week."

Ray Lopes, who was an assistant under Sampson from 1995 to 2002, resigned from his head coaching position at Fresno State on March 17 after a school investigation determined he had broken the NCAA rule about telephone calls to recruits while with the Bulldogs.

According to phone records obtained by The Oklahoman, Sooners coaches made 18 phone calls in August to recruit Austin Johnson from Palo Duro High School in Amarillo, Texas, and more than half lasted longer than one minute. Johnson signed with the Sooners in November.

The newspaper also reported that Oklahoma coaches called the Seattle home where recruit Martell Webster lives and the cellular phones of Leslie and Tony Contis -- who Webster lives with -- a total of 13 times in September, including eight times that lasted longer than one minute. Webster signed with Washington.

The Oklahoman reported in its Sunday editions that the calls to Johnson and Webster were not part of the NCAA's investigation.

"There was a rule broken in the case of a couple of kids," Sampson told the newspaper. "We're working with [the NCAA], and we're doing whatever it takes to take care of it."

Oklahoma returns all five starters next season from a team that went 25-8 and lost to Utah in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press