NCAA Bans SMU Basketball From Postseason Play For Academic Fraud, Unethical Conduct | KERA News

NCAA Bans SMU Basketball From Postseason Play For Academic Fraud, Unethical Conduct

Sep 29, 2015

The NCAA is banning the SMU men's basketball team from postseason play, saying the university has committed academic fraud and unethical conduct.

The NCAA has also suspended coach Larry Brown for nine games during the upcoming season. It singled out Brown for making bad choices that included "not reporting possible violations in his program, initially lying to the enforcement staff during the investigation and providing no specific guidance to his staff on rules compliance."

In addition, the men's golf program has been banned from postseason play after the NCAA says it committed violations related to recruiting and unethical conduct.

The penalties were revealed Tuesday, more than eight months after SMU acknowledged an NCAA investigation. The basketball team will also lose nine scholarships over the next three seasons.

SMU says it is reviewing the NCAA findings.

"SMU is reviewing the full report to determine if the University will appeal any findings and/or penalties," the university said in a statement. "We are particularly concerned about sanctions that are punitive against student-athletes who were not involved in any infractions. ... The NCAA noted SMU’s 'prompt acknowledgement of the violation, acceptance of responsibility, imposition of meaningful corrective measures, and affirmative steps to expedite final resolution of the matter.'"

SMU President Gerald Turner will address the media at 2 p.m. on the findings. Brown will talk with the media at 3:30 p.m.

The news comes three decades after SMU’s football program got college football’s only “death penalty” for violating recruiting rules.

On Tuesday, the NCAA said Brown "failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance" in the basketball program when he didn't report violations and wasn't initially truthful during an interview with NCAA staff. 

Brown, 75, is a repeat offender: After he won the national championship at Kansas in 1988 and left for the NBA, the NCAA issued a similar postseason ban against the Jayhawks.

SMU was the American Athletic Conference champion last season. The Mustangs went to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1993.

About the violations

The NCAA has issued a statement regarding the violations:

Men's basketball violations

Here’s what the NCAA says happened:

  • A former assistant men’s basketball coach encouraged a student to enroll in an online course to be admitted to the university. Then a former men’s basketball administrative assistant obtained the student’s username and password to complete the student’s coursework. The student received “fraudulent credit” for the course and competed while ineligible during his freshman season.
  • The student told NCAA staff that the former administrative assistant asked him to provide false information during the interview with NCAA officials.
  • The assistant violated ethical conduct rules when she provided false information during her interviews with the NCAA. The assistant ended a second interview early, refused to provide documentation and denied additional interview requests.
  • An NCAA panel says it didn’t see a “record of steps” that coach Larry Brown took to establish and ensure a culture of compliance within the men’s basketball program. The panel says he didn’t have direct knowledge or involvement in the misconduct, he didn’t follow up on the completion of coursework. When he learned of the misconduct, Brown didn’t report it o NCAA compliance staff. He initially denied having information about conversations with the former administrative assistant and student-athlete.
  • The NCAA says Brown “failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within his program.” 

Men’s golf violations

Here’s what the NCAA says about the men’s golf program:

  • The former golf coach committed several recruiting violations, including 64 impermissible contacts with 10 prospects and seven parents of prospects. He offered university merchandise and golf equipment to prospects at a significantly reduced price in 2013 and didn’t consult with the compliance staff.
  • A booster contacted nine golf prospects and facilitated contact between the former golf coach and the prospects and their families. He also encouraged the prospects to arrange unofficial visits to SMU. The former coach denied knowledge of the booster activity. But an NCAA panel determined the former coach was aware of the booster’s contact with the prospects because he was copied on emails and given updates by the booster. 

SMU's response

SMU President Gerald Turner said in a statement: “When these allegations first came to light, the University cooperated fully with the NCAA, accepted responsibility, imposed corrective measures and took strong action when it believed that our employees failed to live up to the core values of SMU.  Our compliance program is among the best in the nation, but we acknowledge that even the strongest compliance programs can fall short when individuals act in an unethical manner.  SMU has a proud history of academic and athletic excellence, and we are committed to full compliance with NCAA bylaws and with our ethical standards. Moving forward, we know that we can—and will—do better.”  

Men's basketball coach Larry Brown issued a statement: “Leading the SMU men’s basketball program is an honor and a responsibility that I take very seriously. That duty incudes helping our young men develop into people of character and to ensuring that we pursue our goals with integrity. I am saddened and disappointed that the Committee on Infractions believes that I did not fully fulfill my duties and I will consider my options to challenge that assertion in the coming days. I truly believe that our program has dedicated itself unwaveringly to the ideals of academic integrity and NCAA compliance. Still, there was a violation in our program and I take responsibility for that and offer my sincere apologies to the University community.”

ESPN reports:

This marks the third time a Brown-coached program has been sanctioned by the NCAA, with the others happening at Kansas and UCLA.

Part of the investigation at SMU stemmed from whether a former basketball administrator and ex-assistant coach Ulric Maligi helped Keith Frazier to become eligible to play there, a source previously told ESPN.

The school and Brown met with the NCAA's committee of infractions in late June. Maligi took a leave of absence in the middle of last season, but he was not found to be involved after the NCAA investigation, a source said.

Brown reflects on his career

In 2014, Brown talked with KERA about his career -- and how SMU basketball has come so far. 

“I kind of felt everything was in place if we did our part, but the fact that we’ve been able to play well and be lucky enough to recruit some really quality kids and get some good transfers, it gave us the chance to be good," Brown told KERA. "We’re very fortunate, we have a great facility, but if you didn’t have a good team, all you’d have is a pretty building.”

Videos: SMU violation coverage