Commentary

NCAA, schools come down hardest on lying about violations

Originally Published: February 13, 2008
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

Paul Ekman, a psychologist and pioneer in the study of emotions and facial expressions, once said, "Most lies succeed because no one goes through the work to figure out how to catch them."

Apparently, Ekman never met an NCAA investigator.

Honesty is one of the sacred qualities the NCAA expects of its athletes, coaches and staff members, and recent history shows the NCAA disciplines those people who don't tell the truth more severely than those who do.

NCAA bylaw 10.1 (d) clearly states the NCAA's expectations and defines unethical conduct as "knowingly furnishing the NCAA or the individual's institution false or misleading information concerning the individual's involvement in or knowledge of matters relevant to a possible violation of an NCAA regulation."

If Indiana basketball coach Kelvin Sampson did indeed lie to university and NCAA officials who were investigating possible violations in the Hoosiers' program, Sampson risks joining this list of fibbers:

Baylor
In perhaps the most notorious case in college sports history, former Bears basketball coach Dave Bliss and three of his assistants violated NCAA rules and then tried to cover up the violations after Baylor player Patrick Dennehy was murdered by a teammate in 2003.

Dave Bliss
Lying to the NCAA for rules violations cost Dave Bliss his job at Baylor.

An internal Baylor investigation found Bliss paid up to $40,000 in tuition for two players and improperly solicited more than $80,000 from boosters. The probe also revealed Bliss and his assistants didn't properly report players' failed drug tests.

Worse, after Baylor player Carlton Dotson shot and killed Dennehy and hid his body, Bliss urged the rest of his players to lie to investigators and tell them Dotson had been selling drugs to pay for school. Bliss' plan was revealed in secret audio tapes made by an assistant coach.

Baylor was given some of the harshest penalties in NCAA history. The Bears were placed on five years' probation and stripped of five scholarships over two seasons. Baylor was forced to play an abbreviated schedule during the 2005-06 season (no nonconference games), and the school banned itself from playing in the 2004 NCAA Tournament.

The NCAA gave Bliss a "show-cause" order for 10 years, which stipulated any school wanting to hire him would have to appear before the NCAA Infractions Committee to discuss whether he would face additional limitations.

Georgia
When former Bulldogs point guard Tony Cole alleged in March 2003 that he was given improper benefits and academic assistance, most of the allegations involved assistant coach Jim Harrick Jr., who was promptly fired.

Jim Harrick Sr., Georgia's head coach and the assistant coach's father, got into hot water for not being honest with school administrators, more than he got into trouble for anything else. Specifically, Harrick lied to then-athletics director Vince Dooley about who gave Harrick Jr. $300 to wire to Cole.

Harrick said the money came from former LSU coach Dale Brown's charitable foundation, which had helped Cole in the past. But media reports revealed the money actually came from two boosters at Rhode Island, where Harrick had previously coached.

Also, Harrick won the 1995 national championship at UCLA, but he was fired in 1996 because he lied to Bruins officials about misuse of his expense account.

Harrick was forced to resign as Georgia's coach in March 2003, and the school banned the Bulldogs from competing in the 2003 SEC and NCAA tournaments. Although the elder Harrick never was specifically named in any of the NCAA's allegations of wrongdoing, his program was found guilty of unethical conduct, academic fraud and improper recruiting benefits.

The Bulldogs were placed on four years' probation and lost one scholarship for three consecutive years.

Minnesota
The day before the 1999 NCAA Tournament started, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported allegations that Jan Gangelhoff, manager of Minnesota's academic counseling office, had written more than 400 pieces of course work for 20 Gophers basketball players from 1993 to 1998.

During Minnesota's internal investigation into the allegations, basketball coach Clem Haskins was accused of paying Gangelhoff $3,000 to complete his players' course work. Haskins initially told NCAA investigators he didn't pay Gangelhoff but a month later admitted to lying about the matter. Haskins also admitted to telling several of his players to lie to attorneys investigating the matter.

In October 2000, the NCAA placed Minnesota on four years' probation and stripped the basketball team of NCAA Tournament victories in 1994, 1995 and 1997. The NCAA slapped Haskins with a seven-year "show-cause" order, which at that time was the harshest penalty ever dealt to a college coach.

Ohio State
Basketball coach Jim O'Brien was fired by then-athletic director Andy Geiger in June 2004 after admitting he sent $6,000 to a foreign-born recruit who never played for the Buckeyes. Ohio State officials said O'Brien lied about the payment and tried to cover it up.

The NCAA initially charged the basketball program with seven violations, including several related to O'Brien's handling of another foreign-born player, Slobodan Savovic, who was living with a woman connected to two Ohio State boosters. The NCAA alleged the woman supplied the player with housing, food and clothing and helped him academically. Savovic played for OSU for four years, including the 1998-99 Final Four team.

The Buckeyes banned their basketball team from competing in the 2005 NCAA Tournament and reduced their scholarships from 13 to 11 during one season. The NCAA placed Ohio State on three years' probation and ordered the school to repay about $800,000 in tournament revenue it earned while using the ineligible player.

O'Brien successfully sued Ohio State for wrongful termination and was awarded $2.4 million by an appeals court in September. In 2006, an NCAA appeals committee also threw out three of the seven violations he was accused of committing and lifted the hiring restrictions placed on him.

Purdue
This past August, the NCAA placed the Purdue women's basketball program on probation for two years after a former basketball assistant coach helped a former player commit academic fraud and then lied about it to NCAA investigators.

Katrina Merriweather, the assistant coach, initially denied any wrongdoing to NCAA investigators. But the NCAA searched the coach's computer and found several deleted e-mails, which proved she had written two papers for the student-athlete.

The NCAA stripped the Boilermakers of two of its 15 scholarships for the 2007-08 season. The NCAA also gave Merriweather a three-year "show-cause" penalty, forcing her to appear before the Infractions Committe if she seeks a coaching position in the next three years.

Washington
Former football coach Rick Neuheisel was fired in June 2003 by then-athletic director Barbara Hedges after he acknowledged taking part in a high-priced NCAA college basketball tournament pool. Neuheisel had told Hedges on two occasions he hadn't participated in the gambling pools, when, in fact, he had won $11,219.

As a result of an investigation, the NCAA extended Washington's probation two years (the Huskies already had been reprimanded for recruiting violations in men's basketball), but Neuheisel wasn't punished by the NCAA.

Thomas E. Yeager, chair of the NCAA Infractions Committee, said at the time that Neuheisel avoided punishment because the school's compliance officer had written e-mails mistakenly telling him that participation in gambling pools was allowed.

In March 2005, Neuheisel won a $4.5 million settlement from the NCAA and Washington for wrongful termination. He was hired as UCLA's football coach in December.

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

Mark Schlabach | email

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