Oklahoma president claims 50-50 shot of reversing NCAA sanctions
NORMAN, Okla. -- University of Oklahoma President David Boren said it was a "matter of principle" that led him to file an appeal of recent sanctions levied by the NCAA against the Sooners' football program.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Boren gave the school a "50-50" chance of winning that appeal, which Oklahoma filed earlier this month. He said he'd like to see Oklahoma become a model for rules compliance within the NCAA.
"I truly think that overall, the relationship between OU and the NCAA right now is very good," Boren said. "...OU and the NCAA are not at war, at all. In fact, the goal, the hope of OU, is for us to become the poster child of the NCAA."
Oklahoma is asking the NCAA to overturn a ruling made in July by the Division I Infractions Committee that would strip the Sooners of eight wins in the 2005 season because of rules violations involving former starting quarterback Rhett Bomar and offensive lineman J.D. Quinn, who were paid for work they did not perform at a Norman car dealership.
Oklahoma also is appealing the NCAA's ruling that Oklahoma was guilty of a "failure to monitor" the employment of the players. The appeal is expected to be made public this week.
Boren said the NCAA offered the university a fair hearing but acknowledged frustration with the infraction committee's ruling in one area.
"The part of the appeal I felt obligated to make was the part that erased the records, because I felt that our coaches were not to blame and I felt that all those other players that were out there and played by the rules, it's kind of like group punishment," Boren said. "You don't punish a whole group for what one or two people do."
Boren said that after university officials learned early last year of allegations about possible rule-breaking involving players working at the car dealership, an investigation immediately was launched.
On Aug. 3, 2006 -- the day before the Sooners began preseason practice -- Stoops dismissed Bomar and Quinn from the team after the university determined they had been paid for work they didn't perform at Big Red Sports and Imports.
Boren said Oklahoma's aggressiveness in its own investigation and in dismissing the players likely kept the NCAA sanctions from being harsher, and he favorably compared Oklahoma's handling of its case to that of other schools.
"We could have extended our investigation," Boren said. "We could have tried to suspend students for a few games, then have them come back. We could have done a lot of things.
"I look at, frankly, what's happened to USC? There was hundreds of thousands of dollars at stake there. They haven't said, they haven't been able to find out what happened and get the evidence. Well, we vigorously pursued and got the evidence ourselves."
The NCAA is investigating the possibility of improper benefits given to Reggie Bush while the running back played at Southern California but has been hampered because of the threat of lawsuits.
Boren said he vividly recalls the day he learned of the NCAA rules violations within the Sooners' football program. Sitting in his office, Boren said he knew what he thought needed to be done, but he first asked coach Bob Stoops his opinion.
"He said, 'I want them out, permanently, not ever back in my locker room. I don't want this kind of thing to have an impact on the players. We're setting a higher standard.' ... How many coaches would have been as decisive? Here we were, ranked No. 1 in the nation, and we didn't know for sure how the backup quarterback would be," Boren said. "But Bob Stoops, he didn't put winning first. It was very clear he put integrity first."
Stoops has said he "strongly supported" Boren's decision to appeal.
Boren said he holds no ill will toward Bomar, who now plays at Sam Houston State, or Quinn, who now plays at Montana.
"I feel sorry. I always feel sorry. I realize young people can make a mistake," Boren said. "There's no reason to feel bitter or harshness toward two young players. They made a mistake and I'm sure they've learned some very tough lessons from it."
The NCAA also slapped Oklahoma with sanctions last year after an investigation into hundreds of improper recruiting phone calls by former basketball coach Kelvin Sampson's staff. As a result of the basketball and football sanctions, Oklahoma is under NCAA probation until May 23, 2010.
Still, Boren lauds the university's compliance office, which he said has a $1.3 million annual budget and employs three people with law degrees and three others with master's degrees.
In recent months, Boren moved the final responsibility for compliance with NCAA rules from the athletic department to the office of the university's general counsel, "just to show its absolute independence from athletics." Boren said OU athletic director Joe Castiglione agreed with that move.
Boren said he speaks each year to every athletic department employee and that the university offers courses and gives tests in NCAA rules compliance.
"We looked at every best practice we could find anywhere," Boren said.
"We're trying to do everything possible not only to be correct, but to set a really high standard."
Oklahoma is not appealing other sanctions imposed by the NCAA, many of which were already self-imposed. The university has banned athletes from working at the car dealership until at least the 2008-09 academic year and moved to prevent the athletes' supervisor at the dealership, Brad McRae, from being involved with the program until at least August 2011.
Oklahoma also will reduce the number of football coaches who are allowed to recruit off campus this fall.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press