by Tom Witosky
The University of Iowa has admitted NCAA recruiting violations that involve husband-wife film stars Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore.
The violations involve the Hawkeye men’s basketball staff but took place during a U of I football game last month at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, according to documents school officials filed with the NCAA.
Athletic officials acknowledge that they allowed two high school recruits to meet Kutcher, Moore and several former Hawkeye basketball players, according to records obtained by The Des Moines Register under Iowa’s public records law.
NCAA rules prohibit potential high school recruits from having any contact with individuals considered to represent a university’s athletic interests because of the potential influence boosters can have on the recruiting process.
The university’s report to the NCAA indicates that new head basketball coach Fran McCaffery’s recruits met with former Hawkeye basketball players Reggie Evans and Dean Oliver after a pick-up game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena – then met Kutcher and Moore in a suite at the football stadium later that day.
Evans, Oliver and Kutcher are considered representatives of Hawkeye athletic interests, the school has told the NCAA.
Mark Abbott, a senior associate athletic director, said the U of I is awaiting the NCAA’s response to the school’s internal investigation.
Abbott said he did not believe the violations would preclude the Hawkeyes from continuing to recruit either athlete, although the final decision will be made by the NCAA.
The documents provided to the Register blocked out the names of the recruits cited in the violations and the members of the Hawkeye basketball staff who were present at the time of the violations.
But published reports in September and October quoted Josh Oglesby, a senior at Cedar Rapids Washington High School, and Marcus Paige, a highly recruited junior at Linn-Mar High School, as saying that they met Kutcher and Moore on Sept. 11 at the Iowa-Iowa State game.
Oglesby announced his verbal commitment to the Iowa program in late September after his official visit to the Iowa City campus.
Paige, who also is being recruited by Clemson, Illinois, Iowa State, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina and Virginia, has made no verbal commitments. In Division I, basketball players can commit to schools by signing official letters of intent starting Nov. 10.
The parents of Oglesby and Paige both declined to comment. Attempts to reach Kutcher for comment were unsuccessful.
McCaffrey, who was named the U of I coach last spring, also declined to comment through a school spokesman.
Hawkeye officials contend that the violations should be considered inadvertent contact and, therefore, secondary violations.
“The university is remorseful that these violations occurred,” Fred Mims, associate athletic director, wrote in a letter on Oct. 1 to the NCAA. “We believe they were the result of sloppy management by our basketball staff.”
But a review of the documents raises questions about how inadvertent the contact was.
The documents disclose:
- NCAA staff sent a letter on Sept. 15 to Iowa officials raising questions about two prospective recruits having acknowledged in published reports that they met with the former basketball players, Kutcher and Moore. As part of the inquiry, NCAA officials required the school to obtain statements from both recruits regarding their visit and with whom they met.
- One recruit acknowledged meeting Evans and Oliver after a pick-up game played at Carver-Hawkeye during an unofficial visit on Sept. 11. The recruit said he introduced himself to the two players, but someone else, whose name was marked out on the documents provided to the Register, introduced him to Kutcher and Moore at halftime of the football game. That person’s name was redacted from the report, too. The recruit also said that when he met the two actors, “recruits and the coaching staff were present.”
- School officials told the NCAA where the recruits met with the actors – but that information was marked out on documents the Register received. But in answer to a question during the internal investigation, one of the recruits indicated they watched the game in a suite on the press box level of Kinnick Stadium. Suites designated for use by Hawkeye athletic officials and coaches are on that level.
The recruit stated he left the suite prior to the start of the second half and went back to his seat in the south end zone for the rest of the game. NCAA rules prohibit recruits from watching football games from the school press box or suites.
- The second recruit, who was on an official visit, also said that he met Evans and Oliver at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and met the actors during halftime of the Iowa-Iowa State game.
- That recruit also acknowledged meeting former Hawkeye basketball player Jeff Horner that night as he walked back to his hotel.
Hawkeye officials have determined that meeting was an unavoidable contact, which is not a potential NCAA violation.
Notes from a meeting between Mims, who oversees the U of I’s compliance with NCAA rules, and members of the basketball staff on Sept. 24 also provide context to how the meeting between the recruits and the actors took place.
Those notes say that the actors were allowed in a location at Kinnick “upon the request of the University of Iowa Foundation,” the school’s fundraising organization.
The presence of Kutcher and Moore “drew a crowd and a created a circus-like atmosphere,” according to Mims’ notes.
“The prospects … met both celebrities and proceed to take pictures with them,” the notes state.
The U of I’s internal report says “the men’s basketball staff present did not attempt to put an immediate stop to the situation as they said the situation was ‘uncomfortable’.”
Mims, in the school’s official response to the NCAA, confirmed that the recruits met with the actors and the former players.
“The university believes that violations did occur,” his letter says. “These violations were inadvertent and steps have been taken to ensure it will not recur.”
Below: Read the NCAA’s letter to the University of Iowa. The letter outlines alleged rules violations. (Use the notes at the right to see highlighted parts of the document.)
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball