NCAA slaps Illinois with one-year probation

Friday, October 28, 2005

A booster provided money to a football recruit.

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The NCAA placed the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on probation for one year Thursday because a booster improperly provided payments and other benefits to a football prospect, the organization said.

The offenses were a major violation of NCAA rules and occurred between April 2003 and January 2004.

An athletic booster provided lodging, transportation and use of a vehicle and paid the prospect for work he never performed, said Gene Marsh, chairman of the NCAA's infractions committee.

Major violations generally draw a minimum penalty of two year's probation but the committee chose a lesser penalty because the university has a good record of rules compliance, reported the infraction and cooperated throughout the investigation, he said. The probation does not affect other sports, Illinois' future football scholarships or bowl eligibility.

"What matters most in this case was the effective steps taken by the university," Marsh said.

However the university still objects to the decision to call the violation major and is considering an appeal to the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee, Chancellor Richard Herman said in a statement. The conclusion of a major violation means the university would face harsher penalties, including a ban on competition, if another major violation occurs within the next five years, according to NCAA bylaws.

"We discovered, we investigated and we acted strongly and decisively with all parties involved," said athletic director Ron Guenther. "This is a perfect example of how a student-athlete in need can form a relationship with an individual outside our control and without our knowledge, and then accept benefits that should not have been accepted."

Marsh said nobody on the university's staff was involved and commended the school for its cooperation, but he said the committee felt it had to classify the infractions as major.

"These inducements and extra benefits began while the student-athlete was a prospect and continued after he began football practice and enrolled at the institution," the committee said. "The committee found that the university gained a substantial advantage as a result of the improper recruitment and extra benefits provided to the student-athlete, which totaled $2,348.98 during a nine-month period."

The booster was a former college football player, but not at Illinois, a university spokesman said. Neither the booster nor the athlete were identified.

The university has excluded the booster and his wife from any involvement with the school until at least June 2007, the NCAA said. The athlete, who no longer attends the university, repaid the value of the benefits, the school said.

"This was one individual, one student-athlete and the school demonstrated very well that they were doing as good a job as you can in trying to educate boosters," Marsh said.

The committee's report said the booster, whom the athlete had met at his high school, drove the athlete from the airport to the booster's home where he stayed for two nights the weekend of Illinois' 2003 spring football game. Later that summer, the booster gave the athlete a job at his company and a company-owned 1996 Chevrolet Blazer.

The athlete was paid for a week after he quit the job to begin football practice, underreported his wages and continued to drive the Blazer for more than five months after he quit, according to the committee's report. The committee also said the booster and the player lied about the vehicle's ownership to university investigators.

The university will be required to develop a system for tracking incoming athletes and how their pre-enrollment expenses are paid and set a schedule by Dec. 30, 2005, for implementing it, the NCAA said. The school also must file a progress report by Sept. 15, 2006.

On the Net: 27--illinois--infractions--rls.html

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