Prairie View A&M's scholarships cut from 15 to 12 for next three years

Updated: January 8, 2008, 9:57 PM ET
Associated Press

PRAIRIE VIEW, Texas -- The NCAA on Tuesday penalized Prairie View A&M's women's basketball team for violations attributed to unfamiliarity with rules by coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, a former Houston Comets star.

The NCAA reduced Prairie View's scholarships in women's basketball from 15 to 12 for the next three years, and the program also was placed on four years' probation for "major violations" in 2005-06 that ranged from Cooper-Dyke giving players small amounts of cash to various forms of unauthorized practices.

The university imposed two penalties itself: reducing practice hours allowed each week from 20 to 10 for the first three weeks of this season and reducing the number of official paid visits from four to two for 2007-08.

"The violations here were really the direct result of the failure to educate the coach on [NCAA] rules," said Josephine Potuto, the chair of the NCAA Committee on Infractions. "It was also a failure of the university to have a culture of compliance."

In addition to giving players small amounts of cash ranging from $10 to $30, Cooper-Dyke allowed a freshman to practice when she wasn't supposed to, and her coaching staff watched recruits practice against members of the team in violation of NCAA rules.

"I am relieved that it's all over, first off and then I'm relieved that the NCAA saw the violations for what they were," Cooper-Dyke told Houston television station KRIV. "They were mistakes that were made by a rookie coach with no previous NCAA experience and not very familiar with the NCAA rules and that was my mistake."

In a statement, Prairie View said it agreed with the findings and didn't plan to appeal the sanctions.

"Our athletics department views this report and its findings as an opportunity for the university to improve and address its NCAA compliance requirements," Prairie View President George C. Wright said. "We are currently working to implement corrective actions to meet and exceed the NCAA recommendations and requirements."

Cooper-Dyke, a two-time WNBA MVP, helped lead the Comets to the first four WNBA titles, winning the finals MVP each time. She's in the third year of her first college coaching job.

The Panthers went 7-21 her first season, then 19-14 last year, the school's first winning record. The team won the Southwestern Athletic Conference title and went to the NCAA Tournament.

The team is 7-7 this season.

Prairie View, a predominantly black university, is located about 50 miles northwest of Houston.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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