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Tuesday, July 31, 2012
UCF's penalties include postseason bans

By Eamonn Brennan

ESPN's Andy Katz broke the story bright and early this morning. A few hours later, the NCAA released its version of the story: "The University of Central Florida exhibited a lack of institutional control and was responsible for impermissible recruiting activities and extra benefits, according to a decision announced today by the Division I Committee on Infractions." The full COI report is available here.

The penalties handed down by the COI are wide-ranging and severe. They include one-year postseason bans for both the men's basketball and football programs; three-year show-cause orders for basketball coach Donnie Jones and former athletic director Keith Tribble; various suspensions and show-cause orders for assistants in both programs; a $50,000 fine; five years probation; and reductions in scholarships, recruiting days, permissible recruiting personnel and official visits.

The NCAA's release was quick to point out that this case "centered on what the committee noted was an ever-increasing problem in college athletics today, namely the involvement of outside third parties with prospects and student-athletes." It also cited the behavior of two "athletics representatives, one of whom was a nonscholastic coach" who had "significant" recruiting contact with six basketball prospects and five football prospects. From the release:
It was evident that this athletics representative “was making an effort to develop a network of relationships with prospective student-athletes and, in turn, expand his sphere of influence within the collegiate coaching community,” according to the committee’s report.

Additionally, the representatives provided more than $16,000 to three prospects and two UCF student-athletes. Specifically, the representatives provided travel expenses, cash payments, tuition and a laptop computer.

Making matters worse is what the NCAA describes as the "knowingly false and misleading information" Tribble and a former assistant football coach gave to UCF's compliance and NCAA enforcement staff. This paragraph is a whopper:
The former director of athletics and the former assistant football coach engaged in unethical activity, according to the committee’s findings. Both individuals knowingly provided false and misleading information during interviews with UCF compliance and NCAA enforcement staff. Further, the former director of athletics failed to take steps to prevent the involvement of boosters in recruiting activities, and on at least one occasion, he became involved in a violation as a result of the representatives’ activity. The former director of athletics claimed that he was not aware of recruiting rules and thus did not know he was engaging in impermissible activity. The committee noted, “As the leader of the athletics department, it is incumbent upon the director of athletics to know basic rules governing the Association.”

Among the many newsworthy reforms and emphases of his tenure, NCAA President Mark Emmert has led a renewed focus on more punitive measures against the influence of agents and third-parties. Emmert has frequently argued that the NCAA not only needs to make its punishment structure more prohibitive to prevent these kinds of "cost-benefit analyses" from taking place. In this era of NCAA compliance, these sorts of base violations (ties to agents, cash gifts to prospects) are practically guaranteed to end with severe penalties. When you add in that last paragraph -- the finding that Tribble lied to the enforcement staff while claiming he didn't know his own programs' recruiting rules -- it should come as no surprise UCF was smacked so strongly by the Committee on Infractions Tuesday morning.

The NCAA had an 11 a.m. ET news conference to discuss its findings in the case. Stay tuned for more reaction to that call and this story as it develops throughout the day.