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Records show several NCAA violations in UI Athletics Department

[ 0 ] June 17, 2013 |

The University of Iowa athletics department reported 14 minor NCAA and Big Ten Conference violations — many of them accidental calls or text messages — between August 2012 and May 2013, according to documents provided by the university through a public records request.

The documents outline so-called secondary infractions that coaches made while attempting to recruit potential student-athletes to the university, things such as making too many phone calls to high school students, calling students in the wrong grade or treating the wrong people to complimentary meals on the university’s dime. Eight of the cases are still awaiting a response from the NCAA, which is undergoing a major overhaul of its secondary infraction reporting protocols.

The NCAA defines secondary infractions as isolated or accidental incidents that provided only a minimal competitive advantage in recruiting a potential student-athlete. Major violations, by contrast, provided extensive recruiting advantages and can lead to significant penalties against the school.

Iowa’s violations come two months after it was reported that Iowa State University committed “major” recruiting violations and was facing NCAA penalties. Iowa State’s violations totaled 1,484 impermissible phone calls over a three-year period across all sports — most of which were deemed secondary in nature, but 79 of which the NCAA is evaluating for punishment.

Neither Iowa athletics director Gary Barta nor Iowa president Sally Mason were available for comment Monday. NCAA representatives also did not return requests for comment.

The university reports the violations annually to the Board of Regents. Last year, it reported 14 violations, and the number typically hovers within that range, said Mary Curtis, UI’s associate athletics director for human resources and compliance.

Universities typically report between 15 and 25 secondary violations each year, most of which deal with improper recruiting methods, Curtis said.

In some cases, coaches reported their own violations. Others turned up in reviews by the athletic department’s compliance office. In every case, the university issues its own sanctions in line with NCAA and Big Ten rules, and both of those organizations determine whether more sanctions are necessary. Penalties for secondary violations can be more than a “slap on the wrist,” according to the NCAA’s website. They can include fines, vacation of records and scholarship reductions. The prospective student-athlete tied to a case often is temporarily declared ineligible for recruitment at the institution.

“It is their job; they’re supposed to know exactly what they can and can’t do,” Curtis said. “It’s their job to keep accurate records and know who is a senior, who is a junior, who is a sophomore and know exactly what they can do with every child.”

But that can be tricky when coaches are communicating with potential recruits through different mediums, Curtis said.

“When you think about it, if somebody texted you and you weren’t sure who it was, what’s the likelihood you’d say, ‘Who is this?’” she said. “Well, for an NCAA coach, as you can see, when they do that and it’s a recruit, for most of our sports, that’s a violation.”

Of the 14 violations, eight remain open with the NCAA. They include:

–On Oct. 19, 2012, assistant men’s gymnastics coach Ben Ketelsen brought his girlfriend along to an official visit dinner with prospective student-athletes at Iowa River Power in Coralville. On Dec. 8, 2012, assistant football coach Erik Campbell did the same. “In both instances, the meals of the girlfriends were paid by the institution,” according to a university document reporting the error.

–Assistant rowing coach Beth Redfearn made two improper recruiting calls in July and August 2012 and three improper calls to potential 2014 recruits.

–Luke Eustice, director of wrestling operations, sent a text message to a prospective student-athlete on Oct. 15, 2011, when he or she was on campus for an official visit. Eustice sent a second text message to the prospective student-athlete on Oct. 26, 2011.

–Assistant baseball coach Zach Dillon met with prospective student-athletes and their guests Feb. 9 at the Hamburg Inn for breakfast, but failed to realize that the restaurant was off-campus by a block and the date fell upon a “quiet period” on the recruiting calendar. The prospects and their guests paid for their own meals. They also received complimentary admission to a basketball game.

–Frannie Malone, associate head coach for swimming and diving, sent a text message to a recruit on Oct. 6, 2011, who was on his way to an official visit to Iowa. Malone reported that the recruit sent a text message that he was having trouble with reception in the airport, so Malone responded with “ok.”

–Assistant gymnastics coach Spencer Slaton sent a text message to a prospective student-athlete in October 2011 to obtain the person’s fax number. The recruit was planning an official visit and the university’s compliance staff needed a fax number to send visitation information. Slaton said he didn’t realize the text message was a violation.

–On Feb. 23, Iowa reported to the NCAA that JD Reive, head men’s gymnastics coach, had sent a text message to a prospective student-athlete sometime between 2010 and 2011.

–On Sept. 8, 2012, assistant track and field coach Clive Roberts received a text message from an unknown number. He replied, “Who is this?” and learned it was a current 2013 prospective student-athlete.

The six closed NCAA cases include:

–In June 2012, assistant men’s basketball coach Sherman Dillard called a prospective student-athlete, a high school sophomore. Dillard reported he later realized the recruit was ineligible to receive the call. Dillard reported the infraction and told the prospective athlete he or she would be ineligible to compete at Iowa.

–Steve Pritzker, head coach of rowing, mistakenly held practice on the water in August 2012. At the time, the rowing team was out of season. Pritzker, who was named head coach the month before, said he was unaware of rule that precluded him from holding practice on that day, and said he wanted to engage the student-athletes.

–Assistant track coach Joey Woody placed two calls to a prospective student-athlete in December 2011, a date that falls during winter break and is thus considered a “quiet period” of the 2011-2012 academic year. Woody said he had lost track of days he had called the recruit and, upon noticing the error, reported his calls to the compliance office in January 2012.

–An audit of the athletics department between August 2011 and December 2012 found that the recruiting materials for women’s and men’s basketball, football, men’s and women’s swimming and field hockey did not meet NCAA bylaws because, in some cases, their envelopes and postcards contained a URL, which is considered a logo, not part of a return address. The recruiting materials had been used for years, but legislative changes that took effect Aug. 1, 2010, made them impermissible.

–Head swimming coach Mark Long accidentally sent a text message to the father of prospective student-athlete on Oct. 18, 2012, while attempting to text Michigan State University assistant swimming coach Tim Loeffler alerting him of the swim team’s arrival time.

–In fall 2012, head women’s golf coach Megan Menzel and assistant women’s golf coach Laura Cilek exceeded the allowed number of off-campus contacts with two prospective student-athletes.

The documents provided to the Iowa City Press-Citizen were redacted to exclude the names of potential recruits under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, commonly known as FERPA.

Information about potential disciplinary action taken against coaches also was redacted pursuant because of a clause in Iowa’s public records law that allows the personnel records of government employees to be kept private.

Rick Klatt, Iowa’s associate athletics director for external relations, said the violations are an indicator that the athletics department’s compliance office is committed to being fair in its recruiting.

“It’s evidence of our commitment to playing within the rules,” he said. “Our compliance office is proactive in our education of coaches and staff.”

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