NCAA alleges violations at UCF

Updated: November 10, 2011, 11:47 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Central Florida athletic director Keith Tribble resigned Wednesday after the NCAA alleged that a recruiter for a sports agency and an associate committed recruiting violations in the football and men's basketball programs, including paying tuition and travel expenses for players and recruits.

Assistant football coach David Kelly also resigned and men's basketball coach Donnie Jones was suspended for three conference games without pay and issued an official letter of reprimand, the school said in a prepared statement.

Tribble and Kelly were cited by the NCAA for unethical conduct when meeting with NCAA investigators. They will have the opportunity to challenge those allegations with the NCAA, the school said.

The strengthening of UCF's commitment to compliance with the NCAA starts today. ... These are serious charges that are as unacceptable to me as I am sure they are to all of our fans. I expect our athletics leadership to set the standard for compliance, and that is not what took place.

-- UCF president John C. Hitt

The NCAA alleged that Ken Caldwell, identified by the body as "a recruiter for a professional sports agency," and Brandon Bender, named as an associate of Caldwell, helped UCF recruit six men's basketball players and five football prospects by promoting the school's athletic programs.

Caldwell and Bender had contact with recruits and Tribble, Kelly and Jones were aware of that contact, according to the NCAA notice of allegations.

The NCAA further alleged Caldwell and Bender paid the tuition and fees for UCF men's basketball players, including $11,190 in tuition and fees for a men's basketball player; gave a laptop computer to a football recruit; and covered transportation expenses for men's basketball recruits.

In previous ESPN.com reports on the UCF investigation, both Caldwell and Bender, a former Louisville basketball player, denied wrongdoing.

The identities of the players and recruits involved were redacted in the NCAA notice of allegations made available by UCF. The school received an official notice of inquiry from the NCAA in August.

"The strengthening of UCF's commitment to compliance with the NCAA starts today," university president John C. Hitt said. "These are serious charges that are as unacceptable to me as I am sure they are to all of our fans. I expect our athletics leadership to set the standard for compliance, and that is not what took place. "

UCF said it cooperated fully with the investigation, adding that it did not involve football coach George O'Leary or extend beyond men's basketball and football.

"As the program's head coach, I accept responsibility for mistakes when they occur," Jones said in UCF's statement, adding that he felt the decision in the case was fair.

According to UCF, Conference USA and the Big East, which is expected to invite UCF to join for all sports, are aware of the investigation. Hitt said he spoke with Big East commissioner John Marinatto on Wednesday about the allegations and understood that the matter won't affect the move.

Al Harms, the school's vice president for strategy, marketing, communications and admissions, was named interim athletic director.

Caldwell, a Chicago native and former AAU basketball coach, has previously been connected in media reports to Central Florida's recruitment of several basketball players and at least one football player.

"I don't work for any agent," Caldwell told ESPN.com in May. "I don't make any money off basketball."

"I don't work for UCF," he added at the time. "(Bender) doesn't work for them."

"I haven't done anything wrong," Bender told ESPN.com in April.

Tribble was hired as UCF athletic director in 2006 after serving as the director of the Orange Bowl Committee. He oversaw the construction and opening of UCF's on-campus football stadium in 2007.

The school has 90 days from Nov. 7 to respond to the report. University general counsel Scott Cole said the school will work with the NCAA to "get a consensus on appropriate penalties."

"But for the most part, we think most of the investigation is done," he said.

Cole said that because of the nature of the infractions and because UCF is a repeat offender, it can't undergo summary disposition and will have an infractions hearing with the NCAA in April.

UCF is on probation until February of 2012 because football staff members placed impermissible calls to perspective recruits between 2007 and 2009.

Information from ESPN.com investigative reporter Mike Fish and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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