Wulff suspended for 'major' violations

Updated: February 12, 2009, 1:47 AM ET
By Ted Miller | ESPN.com

Washington State coach Paul Wulff has been suspended from the first three days of the Cougars' 2009 fall football practices because of rules violations -- termed "major" by the NCAA -- that occurred when he was Eastern Washington's coach.

Eastern Washington, a FCS program where Wulff was the head coach from 2000-07, was put on three years' probation and has been banned from postseason play next season.

The NCAA found that from 2003-07 Eastern Washington exceeded the NCAA-mandated 11 coaches on its football staff. It also found the program allowed ineligible players to practice with the team.

Eastern Washington self-reported these violations while Wulff was still the school's head coach, according to a release from Washington State.

Late Wednesday night, Wulff told reporters that those kinds of violations occur when a program is too cash-strapped to afford full-time compliance officers.

"There are so many rules, things slip through the cracks," Wulff said in a conference call.

The NCAA also mandated that Wulff must attend, at his own cost, an NCAA Regional Rules Seminar during each of the three years of probation.

"During Paul's hiring process, he was straightforward about these allegations," Washington State athletic director Jim Sterk said in a statement. "We take these issues very seriously and believe Paul is a man of tremendous integrity and the situation derived more from a lack of institutional control at Eastern Washington, where limited compliance and academic staff were in place at that time. Paul was not found by the NCAA to have purposely violated NCAA rules in order to gain a recruiting advantage."

Eastern Washington will also reduce its scholarship players from 63 to 61 over the next two academic years and will reduce its full-time coaches from 11 to 10 during that same span.

"We accept the NCAA's findings and want to show, through our actions, that we embrace a culture of compliance," acting president John Mason said, adding the school has implemented new monitoring systems since the violations occurred.

"We are, however, disappointed with the decision to levy a postseason ban and will be assessing our appeal options."

Paul Dee, chair of the NCAA committee on infractions, said it's unavoidable that current players suffer when a program is punished for past violations.

"The people who live with the penalties on institutions are those who are present when the penalties are applied," Dee said.

Washington State hired Wulff, a former Cougar player, in December 2007. Washington State finished 2-11 in Wulff's first season and went 1-8 in the Pac-10, the lone victory coming over state rival Washington.

"I understand the severity of the situation and at no time did I ever intentionally violate NCAA rules," Wulff said in the WSU release. "As head coach I take responsibility for the mistakes that occurred and accept the NCAA's penalties."

Ted Miller covers the Pac-10 for ESPN.com and can be reached at tedmillerespn@gmail.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Ted Miller | email

College Football