Central Florida received a one-year bowl ban and a one-year men's basketball tournament ban from the NCAA because of recruiting violations in the two programs, the NCAA's committee on infractions announced Tuesday.
The COI said this case showed the involvement of outside third-parties with prospects and student-athletes in football and men's basketball. The third-parties, termed runners, have been infiltrating the process and this was an attempt by the NCAA to levy penalties dealing with such a case.
"What was troubling is that the Central Florida staff members knew and encouraged it during the recruiting process," said Greg Sankey, a member of the committee and the COO of the SEC.
Central Florida received a charge of lack of institutional control, as well as five years' probation (Feb. 10, 2012 to Feb. 9, 2017) as it prepares to join the Big East in 2013-14 with fellow C-USA members Memphis, Houston and SMU. Temple also is joining from the Atlantic 10 in all sports, football this season.
UCF said it accepted the findings but will appeal the one-year postseason ban for the football program, which went 5-7 (3-5 C-USA) last season. The Knights' season will end Nov. 24 against UAB. The Knights were a projected favorite to win the C-USA East Division but now aren't eligible for the C-USA championship game.
UCF has 15 days to notify the NCAA of the appeal and 45 to file the written appeal.
"We understand and generally accept the findings and sanctions imposed by the committee, and we are in the process of thoughtfully considering the various elements of the report," school president John C. Hitt said in a statement. "We have decided, however, to appeal the decision by the Committee on Infractions to impose a postseason ban for the 2012 football season. We don't believe the 'aggravating factors' cited from the NCAA bylaws justify this sanction."
Hitt didn't consider replacing either football coach George O'Leary or basketball coach Donnie Jones.
"George O'Leary was cited as having no personal involvement in any of the infractions," Hitt said. "The committee looked very thoroughly through the alleged infractions, and found no personal involvement whatsoever. We analyzed the total lack of involvement of coach O'Leary and the rather modest involvement of coach Jones, having to do mostly with the supervision of his assistants. We just didn't think it merited firing him."
Seniors on the football team would also be able to leave immediately and transfer without having to sit out a year because of a longstanding NCAA rule.
The reason the school received a postseason ban was the COI decided UCF met four of the five factors under bylaw 19.5.2-(g): individual remains employed at institution, competitive advantage arose from violations, violations were a lack of institutional control and institution was a repeat violator.
UCF just ended two years of NCAA probation in February after football staff members were cited for placing impermissible calls to perspective recruits over an 18-month period from 2007 to 2009. Because of that previous major violation, the school is considered a repeat offender, the reason it faced stiffer penalties for these latest infractions.
A C-USA official told ESPN.com on Monday the Knights would be prohibited from playing in the C-USA men's basketball tournament in Tulsa if they had received a postseason ban. The NCAA report confirmed that fact. That means the Knights have played their last postseason tournament as members of C-USA since they are leaving for the Big East.
C-USA, which will have 11 teams eligible instead of 12 for the conference tournament, likely will eliminate the first-round game of the tournament and give the top five teams a bye instead of the top four. The league needs to vote on before it becomes official.
Central Florida (22-11, 10-6 C-USA) lost to Drexel in the first round of the NIT. The one-year ban could allow leading scorer Keith Clanton to leave immediately under NCAA rules. Clanton, who averaged 14.5 points per game, could transfer and play immediately if the postseason ban is equal to his remaining eligibility. This also would mean the team's second leading scorer, senior Marcus Jordan (13.7 ppg), could leave and play somewhere else immediately, too. Clanton would become a highly sought after "free agent" if he chooses to leave.
A C-USA official said Tuesday players can transfer within the conference as long as they notify the school of the recruitment.
" Limit football to 20 scholarships a season and 80 total over the next three academic years. UCF had proposed a reduction of four from 85 to 81 or 25 to 21 in new scholarships.
" Reduce men's basketball scholarships from 13 to 11 for the next three years. UCF had proposed reducing it to 12.
" Accept men's head coach Donnie Jones' three-game penalty and assistant Darren Tillis that was imposed by UCF for the first three games of the C-USA season in 2011-12.
" A fine of $50,000 payable to the NCAA when the compliance report is due on Sept. 15, 2012.
" Vacate all men's basketball wins in which A.J. Rompza competed from 2008-09 to 2011-12. The penaltry was self-imposed, and the NCAA only listed Rompza as "Student A."
" Reduce from seven to five the maximum number of football coaches allowed to be off campus recruiting at any one time for 2012-13 and 2013-14. UCF offered up one year.
" Limit the men's basketball program to two coaches off campus at any one time in 2012-13 and 2013-14.
" Jones and Tillis are prohibited from any off-campus recruiting during two of the three July recruiting periods in 2012 and all three in 2013. But eyewitnesses told ESPN.com they saw both coaches out on the road in Las Vegas and at the Peach Jam in North Augusta, S.C., this past month. So there may be an issue. UCF said it will seek clarification in regards to these restrictions.
" Reduce the number of recruiting days by 25 (130 to 105) in men's basketball for each of the next two years.
" Drop down the same days in football from 42 to 33 in the fall and reduce it from 168 to 134 in the spring for the next two years.
" Limit the number of paid visits in football to 30 (officially allowed 56) for next two years.
" Men's basketball drops down from 12 to seven during the same time frame.
" One finding of failure to monitor compliance for Jones.
" Three-year show cause for Jones but with specifics that he has to attend regional rules seminars in 2013 and '14. Any school that hires Jones in the next three years has to find out if he has done these things before hiring him, although there is no indication that Jones' job is in jeopardy.
" Former athletic director Keith Tribble received a three-year show cause penalty and cannot contact by phone or in person any prospective recruit. Tribble resigned in November.
" One-year show cause for David Kelly, who is not employed by a school at this time.
No sanctions were levied against football coach George O'Leary.
The initial report from the NCAA alleged that runners Ken Caldwell and Brandon Bender tried to help get players to UCF, including six men's basketball and five football prospects. Rompza was the only athlete to play a game at UCF. The allegations included Tribble's involvement of trying to land jobs for recruits.
"There needs to be constant vigilance in this area when caution flag arises," Sankey said.
Sankey added that Kelly and Tribble gave "false and misleading information."
C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky, who is a member of the COI, was not involved in this case because of a conflict of interest. UCF went in front of the COI in April in Indianapolis.
"Our sanctions serve as a reminder of why we must remain vigilant about playing by the rules," athletic director Todd Stansbury said. "All of us -- administrators, coaches, staff members, student-athletes and fans -- have a responsibility to work together to set the standard for winning with integrity."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.