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Questions also raised over gymnastics practices

4/3/2005 - Oklahoma Sooners

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.