Probe: Men's basketball program also has its faults

Saturday, July 1, 2006

Southeast's men's basketball program violated NCAA travel rules, inquiry shows

The Southeast Missouri State men's basketball program repeatedly violated NCAA travel rules over the past two seasons by allowing ineligible players to travel with the team to away games, school officials disclosed Friday.

The violations occurred while Gary Garner was the head coach.

"I am very disappointed," school president Dr. Ken Dobbins said, adding that the school won't tolerate such violations.

Athletic director Don Kaverman said the university needs to do a better job of educating coaches in all sports about NCAA rules and monitoring team activities.

Two student-athletes traveled with the team to away games in the 2005-06 season even though they were ineligible to play. One ineligible athlete traveled with the team to away games in the 2004-05 season.

Reached at his Cape Gir-ardeau home, Garner said he was never aware as head coach of the NCAA travel restriction regarding ineligible players.

"I did not know that was a violation. Naturally, I knew they couldn't compete, but I thought they could travel," Garner said.

"I would never intentionally violate the rule," he added.

School officials said they didn't learn of the violations until after the university decided in February not to renew Garner's coaching contract. Garner served as head coach of the men's team for nine years. But the program had a losing record four of the past five years.

Both Dobbins and athletic director Don Kaverman said the violations had nothing to do with the school's decision to replace Garner.

Garner didn't attend Friday's news conference, where school officials announced the violations and self-imposed sanctions.

The university will pay a fine of $12,600 to the NCAA -- double the amount of the travel costs paid for the ineligible athletes -- and the men's basketball program will lose five recruiting days over the course of the next school year. The basketball coaches still will have 125 recruiting days, starting in September 2006 and ending in August 2007, school officials said.

Southeast officials said they learned of the problem after another OVC school reported the issue to the conference commissioner.

Charles Smrt of The Compliance Group in Lenexa, Kan., subsequently investigated the issue and reported his findings to the OVC commissioner and Southeast officials.

Smrt previously worked for the NCAA's enforcement division. He was hired by the OVC to investigate alleged NCAA violations surrounding the women's basketball program but expanded his inquiry to include the complaint about the men's program.

The university, Dobbins said, didn't publicly disclose the allegations of NCAA violations in the men's basketball program earlier this year because they were considered minor compared to alleged violations involving the women's program.

School officials decided on the penalties with advice from Smrt.

The university said travel costs associated with the three ineligible athletes totaled nearly $6,300 for transportation, lodging and meals.

Smrt said the self-imposed fine complies with NCAA guidelines which call for the amount to be twice as much as the travel costs.

Kaverman said the travel violations amount to secondary infractions in the eyes of the NCAA, which will receive a copy of the report.

Kaverman said the NCAA doesn't conduct full-blown investigations for secondary infractions.

Southeast isn't the first school to violate NCAA travel rules, said Kaverman. "There are many, many cases of this occurring," he said.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: