Sources: NCAA looking at Gaels
The Saint Mary's men's basketball program has been under NCAA investigation this year for potential recruiting violations, multiple sources told ESPN.com.
What specifically the Gaels are under investigation for is unclear. Multiple attempts to reach Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett and athletic director Mark Orr have gone unanswered.
A source told ESPN.com Friday that an email was sent Friday from the president's office to the Saint Mary's board of regents acknowledging that the college was cooperating with an ongoing NCAA investigation into the men's basketball program.
Mike McAlpin, Saint Mary's director of media relations, acknowledged to USA Today that the school is in contact with the NCAA.
"Saint Mary's College and the NCAA have been working cooperatively on a matter related to the men's basketball program," McAlpin told the newspaper in an email Friday afternoon. "To respect the integrity of that process, the college will have no further comment at this time."
The NCAA has declined comment.
Three West Coast Conference coaches told ESPN.com that they did not see Bennett at any site for the three recruiting evaluation periods in July. When asked whether Bennett, who had back surgery in June, was held out from recruiting in July or missed the period due to his recovery, Saint Mary's compliance director Stephanie Shrieve declined comment.
Saint Mary's associate athletic director Richard Kilwein also declined to comment when asked whether Bennett's surgery was the reason for his absence during the evaluation period. At one point, Kilwein said he wasn't allowed to speak to the media about the subject and that his job could be on the line if he did so.
Sources confirmed to ESPN.com that former Saint Mary's assistant David Patrick was interviewed by the NCAA. Patrick, now an assistant coach at LSU, abruptly left the Gaels in 2010 to become a scout for the Houston Rockets. Patrick, who was suspended for a year by the NBA for working out players during the lockout, helped recruit several Saint Mary's players from Australia, notably guard Patty Mills.
Bennett has built the Gaels into regular WCC title contenders, thanks in large part to an influx of Australian talent. Het took over at Saint Mary's in 2001 and led the Gaels from a 9-20 (3-11 WCC) season in his first year to being NCAA tournament qualifiers in four of his next 10 seasons, reaching the Sweet 16 in 2010 and winning the WCC outright in 2012.