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Thursday, May 11, 2006
Updated: May 12, 7:46 AM ET
St. John's gets two years of probation

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- St. John's was placed on two years' probation and will lose one scholarship next season for making improper payments to a former men's basketball player.

The NCAA's committee on infractions on Thursday accepted all of the school's self-imposed penalties, which included a postseason tournament ban in 2004-05, a reduction of one scholarship in 2005-06 and 2006-07, vacating all wins in which former player Abe Keita participated and returning 90 percent of the money it received from the Big East for participating in the 2002 NCAA Tournament.

St. John's athletic director Chris Monasch was satisfied with the decision.

"We're very pleased," Monasch said. "We feel we have a stronger program in place and there is now a point of emphasis with compliance by the athletic department and the university."

Keita alleged he was given $300 each month by a member of the basketball staff, and an investigation by the school found evidence to support the claim, violating the NCAA's "extra-benefit" rules.

The school said the violations involved only one player and that the inquiry involved no current players, coaches or other athletic staff. The school said it believes the funds were provided with a humanitarian intent, but the payments still were judged to be inappropriate and unacceptable.

Committee chairman Gene Marsh credited the cooperation of former director of basketball operations Alex Evans and the quick response by St. John's officials as reasons more severe sanctions were not issued. Evans admitted wrongdoing during the investigation and testified before the committee in February.

"We considered the self-imposed penalties and the corrective actions, and once the allegations came to light, they were immediately investigated," Marsh said during a 40-minute conference call. "The director of basketball operations was genuinely sorrowful he'd done this."

The infractions occurred when Mike Jarvis was coaching St. John's. Jarvis was fired in December 2003. Committee officials ruled the payments were made by a former director of basketball operations from September 2000 to February 2004.

Keita also was given $2,400 to help pay tuition in 1999-2000 when he was enrolled at St. John's but did not academically qualify for a scholarship. The committee ruled St. John's provided extra benefits to Keita by making special arrangements for him to rent an apartment at a reduced rate.

The committee criticized the university and Jarvis for failing to monitor the financial situation.

"I guess you'd say it was special treatment," Marsh said. "But we received a thorough explanation from the university president that they do deal in deferred payments with other students, so this was not unusual."

St. John's could be sanctioned as a repeat violator if there is another major infraction in the program during the next five years.

During the probationary period, St. John's must file financial details of international student-athletes and track housing expenses for all athletes annually. School officials must also file a report by June 30 that outlines a comprehensive compliance educational program for athletic department employees.

Marsh said Keita did not cooperate in the investigation and that Jarvis submitted written answers to questions although he did not appear during the committee hearing in February.

Marsh called it an isolated case and said the committee also considered St. John's history of not having a major infraction since 1972.

"Whenever anything like this happens we have to recognize there are no excuses," St. John's President Rev. Donald J. Harrington said. "The NCAA never charged us with institutional control problems. A small piece went wrong and that can happen in a university or corporation. We'll do all we can to ensure that doesn't happen again."