Illinois football put on probation for one year

Updated: October 27, 2005, 6:48 PM ET
Associated Press

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The NCAA placed Illinois on probation for one year Thursday because a booster improperly provided payments and other benefits to a football prospect.

The offenses were a major violation of NCAA rules and occurred between April 2003 and January 2004.

An athletic booster provided lodging, transportation and use of a vehicle and paid the prospect for work he never performed, said Gene Marsh, chairman of the NCAA's infractions committee.

Major violations generally draw a minimum penalty of two years probation, but the committee chose a lesser penalty because the university has a good record of rules compliance, reported the infraction and cooperated throughout the investigation, he said. The probation does not affect Illinois' future football scholarships or bowl eligibility.

"What matters most in this case was the effective steps taken by the university," Marsh said.

However the university still objects to the decision to call the violation major and is considering an appeal to the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee, Chancellor Richard Herman said in a statement. The conclusion of a major violation means the university would face harsher penalties, including a ban on competition, if another major violation occurs within the next five years, according to NCAA bylaws.

"We discovered, we investigated and we acted strongly and decisively with all parties involved," said athletic director Ron Guenther. "This is a perfect example of how a student-athlete in need can form a relationship with an individual outside our control and without our knowledge, and then accept benefits that should not have been accepted."

Marsh said nobody on the university's staff was involved and commended the school for its cooperation, but he said the committee felt it had to classify the infractions as major.

"These inducements and extra benefits began while the student-athlete was a prospect and continued after he began football practice and enrolled at the institution," the committee said. "The committee found that the university gained a substantial advantage as a result of the improper recruitment and extra benefits provided to the student-athlete, which totaled $2,348.98 during a nine-month period."

The booster was a former college football player, but not at Illinois, a university spokesman said. Neither the booster nor the athlete were identified.

The university has excluded the booster and his wife from any involvement with the school until at least June 2007, the NCAA said. The athlete, who no longer attends the university, repaid the value of the benefits, the school said.

"This was one individual, one student-athlete and the school demonstrated very well that they were doing as good a job as you can in trying to educate boosters," Marsh said.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press