No further sactions imposed on Smith

Thursday, June 19, 2008
Southeast Missourian file photo Southeast Missouri State University women's basketball coach B.J. Smith was all smiles after cutting down one of the two basketball hoop nets after the Redhawks won the 2006 OVC championship.

B.J. Smith is "very pleased" with the outcome of the NCAA investigation into violations by the Southeast Missouri State women's basketball program during his tenure.

That's according to his attorney.

Smith referred all questions Wednesday to Scott Tompsett of the Stinson Morrison Hecker law firm in Kansas City.

"We accept the committee's report, and we're pleased that the committee did not impose any restrictions on B.J.'s ability to coach in the NCAA," Tompsett said in reading from a prepared statement. "B.J. cooperated fully with the investigation, and he's learned from his mistakes. He's ready to move on and is looking forward to returning to what he loves -- coaching college basketball."

Smith has been out of coaching since leaving the Southeast program in December 2006, early in what was the most successful Division I campaign in school history. He was serving a suspension, imposed just prior to the start of the season and related to his teaching duties that semester, when he and the university released a joint statement announcing his resignation.

By then, the university was involved in the NCAA investigation and had penalized itself with a reduction in scholarships and recruiting days, among other sanctions.

Smith, who came to the university from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M junior college, guided the program through what had been its most successful four-year stretch of Division I basketball. He led the team to a 19-11 record in his debut season in 2002-03, and eventually in 2005-06 to its first Ohio Valley Conference tournament championship and NCAA appearance, which resulted in a loss to Stanford.

His four-year record of 79-41 was the best in the OVC during that span, but the 22-8 season of 2004-05 and the 22-9 season of 2005-06 both will be lost from the record books after Wednesday's action by the NCAA Committee on Infractions.

The university will weigh its options to appeal the vacation of records, said university president Dr. Kenneth Dobbins, but Tompsett said Smith won't appeal the penalty.

The report by the NCAA cites the university's lack of oversight after "red flags" in the program were raised in the fall of 2003 during the university's internal investigation into the program. It also cites Smith for failure to monitor the summer programs for the first four summers in his coaching tenure, 2002 through 2005.

Originally, the committee planned to vacate the records of all four years of Smith's tenure, but it reduced that penalty following an April 19 hearing in which Smith and the university stated their case.

"I would say his cooperation and participation in the hearing was similar to what it was throughout the case," Tompsett said. "He cooperated fully. He was candid and answered all of their questions and appreciated their attention to the case.

"Based on the report, I think it's clear they carefully examined his involvement, and we think they reached the appropriate decision."

Smith has no restrictions placed on him for any future coaching at the NCAA level, but the report also states the women's basketball coaching staff had its hand in some of the violations.

The coaching staff arranged impermissible transportation for seven prospects and the mother of one prospect during the summers of 2004 and 2005, according to the report. It also provided impermissible transportation locally in the summer of 2004. And the staff knew prospects occasionally lived in an off-campus house from the summer of 2003 through 2005, but "made no effort to assure that they paid a commensurate share of the rent," the report stated.

It indicated the number of minor violations added up to major infractions. "The violations were neither isolated nor inadvertent, they provided more than a minimal recruiting or competitive advantage," the report stated.

The report made brief mention of a July 2004 internal memo from Alicia Scott, who was then assistant athletic director for compliance and student services, highlighting her concerns that prospective student-athletes were required to live in Cape Girardeau and be at the camp during the summer.

But that was only part of her memo, which alleged the program was "pushing the limits," had staged a concerted effort to be vague in the 2003 internal investigation and was acting with disregard to university and NCAA policies.

Southeast athletic director Don Kaverman refused to speculate Wednesday whether the list of violations during Smith's tenure demonstrated ignorance of NCAA rules or intent.

"I don't want to personally speculate on what the motivation of someone else may have been for violating a rule," Kaverman said. "That's difficult for me to determine. Clearly, the legislation governing these violations has been in place for some time. There was a lack of understanding relative to the specific procedures that we needed to have in place to monitor some of this activity, which we didn't have previously.

"I don't really want to presume what coach Smith may or may not have been thinking when he talked to me about various issues," he added later. "I have no way of being able to document whatever I say one way or another, so I would rather not go there."

Tompsett said the NCAA has within its powers the ability to make such a determination, and it did not cite Smith for intentional conduct.

"There's no finding nor was there any allegation B.J. committed unethical conduct, which is NCAA bylaw 10.1, which is the charge the NCAA would have brought against B.J. or would have found if they felt the evidence indicated that he knowingly or intentionally violated the rules," Tompsett said. "There is no finding of that and I think it would be totally unsupported for anybody to reach that conclusion."

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