Friday, December 17, 2010
Tom Izzo suspended for one game
ESPN.com news services
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan State coach Tom Izzo will serve a one-game suspension for a secondary violation of NCAA rules tied to a summer basketball camp.
Michigan State officials said late Friday afternoon the school employed someone associated with a potential recruit during a basketball camp in June. The person was paid $475 for five days of working with middle schoolers. Izzo says he regrets what happened and called it an unintentional violation of the rules.
Michigan State told ESPN.com the case will be closed when Izzo sits out for one game. Michigan State (No. 15 ESPN/USA Today, No. 14 AP) decided to have Izzo sit for its next game, which happens to be against 2-9 Prairie View A&M on Saturday, "to get it over with and move forward,'' according to an MSU spokesperson. The Spartans play Texas (No. 25 ESPN/USA Today, No. T-22 AP) on Wednesday in East Lansing.
During a news conference Friday, MSU athletic director Mark Hollis said the only way to ensure a violation like this doesn't occur is to "not have summer camps."
Hollis said the NCAA -- which implemented a bylaw in October 2009 to police the "funneling of money to individuals associated with prospective recruits by providing employment in exchange for access" -- viewed the case as a secondary violation, but the school was told to suspend Izzo for a game.
Izzo said he hopes the penalty would educate him and other coaches on the rule. But he added having a focus group for men's basketball may show how out of control the sport is right now.
"As you can imagine, I'm upset about the situation, but it's an isolated, inadvertent situation," Izzo said. "In no way, shape or form did we think in any way we did anything wrong, but by the broad letter of the law here, it could be interpreted in many different ways, and I have to accept the interpretation of the NCAA."
Michigan State said the person employed at the camp was identified by the NCAA as an individual associated with a prospect, but the school says the person wasn't accompanied by the prospect and didn't have any contact with the prospect while coaching at the camp.
Tom Izzo suspended
Tom Izzo's suspension reveals more about how hard it is to avoid recruiting violations than it does the coach's character, writes Eamonn Brennan. Blog
The school says it will accept the penalty, and the NCAA has indicated the case will be closed once the suspension is served. Still, both Izzo and Hollis sounded miffed at the severity of the sanction.
"To our knowledge, the individual in this case is not a handler or an agent, no money was funneled to him for access to the recruit, and the individual's camp employment had no impact on the recruitment of the prospect," Hollis said. "I believe this falls into an unintended 'IAWP' violation when the individual maintained contact with the prospect for personal reasons and then was employed as a camp counselor at our camp. The prospect and the high school coach never viewed the individual as their guy or as MSU's guy."
The school didn't identify the prospect and said the individual in question was paid the same amount as other camp counselors.
"I don't think that's the intent of the rule," Izzo said. "The intent of the rule, from what I understood it, was to make sure we're not paying exorbitant amounts of money to people who are bringing prospective student-athletes here. It's my total fault for not understanding every bit of the rule."
The Spartans (7-3) will be led by associate head coach Mark Montgomery in their game Saturday night. After that, Izzo's suspension will be over, though Hollis said he's worried the penalty will receive more attention than the underlying offense in this case.
"The institutional and NCAA enforcement staff concur that this was a secondary violation. We've had many of those before," Hollis said. "The penalty proscribed by the enforcement staff, however, is not a typical secondary violation penalty. In fact, it's not a typical penalty at all, as we believe it's the first of its kind.
"It creates a significant risk of confusing the public and the coaching community, which may well interpret the application of this new NCAA-proposed coaching suspension as an indication of intentional or meaningful misconduct by the coaching staff. That conclusion should simply not be made in this case."
Izzo is the president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
Information from ESPN.com's Andy Katz and The Associated Press was used in this report.