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Savannah State placed on NCAA probation for three years

May 20, 2006

INDIANAPOLIS --- The Division I Committee on Infractions has placed Savannah State University on probation for three years, restricted expense paid visits in football and adopted a number of penalties that were self-imposed by the institution in a case involving major violations in its football program.

The case was resolved through the summary disposition process rather than a formal hearing before the Committee on Infractions. Summary disposition is used when there is agreement among the institution, the NCAA enforcement staff and involved parties as to the facts of the case. The Committee on Infractions reviewed the agreement and the penalties recommended by the institution.

The case includes a finding of unethical conduct against a former assistant coach, several recruiting violations, impermissible summer workouts with football prospects before their initial full-time enrollment and several prospects' receipt of impermissible benefits, including free housing. There were also findings against the institution for lack of institutional control and failure to monitor its athletics program.

The former assistant coach was terminated by the university in November 2004 and disassociated from the institution for 10 years. In addition, the committee has given the former assistant coach a seven-year show cause order. This means that if the former assistant coach seeks employment or affiliation in an athletically related position at an NCAA member institution before May 18, 2013, he and any involved institution will be requested to appear before the Committee on Infractions to consider whether the member institution should be subject to show cause procedures, which could limit his athletically related duties at any such institution for a designated period.

In a major infractions case against Savannah State University in 1998, the Division II Committee on Infractions also ruled that there was a lack of institutional control. In both the 1998 and the current case, it was found that institutional staff members misunderstood NCAA rules and the institution did not have an adequate compliance program in place to monitor the activities of the coaching staff.

The committee noted it has seen a recurring theme in other infractions cases in recent years that there are difficulties faced by small, understaffed and under-funded institutions during the transition from Division II to Division I.

"As the committee observed in an infractions case involving an institution in a similar position as Savannah State, institutions making the move to Division I must have a heightened sense of awareness with respect to compliance during the period of transition and such institutions need to take deliberate steps to adequately prepare for the elevation to Division I status,” the committee report said.

Though the former assistant coach participated in an initial interview by NCAA enforcement staff during the investigation, he provided false information and refused repeated requests for additional interviews, the committee said in its report. The former assistant coach did not respond to the written warnings that the Committee on Infractions would consider his unresponsiveness as a sign that he does not contest the allegations.

The case involved numerous infractions committed by a former assistant coach who, during the summer of 2004, provided or arranged for lodging and meals for eight prospective student-athletes before their initial full-time enrollment at the institution. Also in the summer of 2004, the former assistant coach observed 16 student-athletes and prospects in impermissible athletically related activities, and provided transportation to several prospects. When prospects are brought to campus during the summer before their initial enrollment, the institution has an obligation to monitor these prospective student-athletes, the committee said, especially noting how they are paying their living expenses and monitoring out-of-season workouts in which they may be participating.

The committee found that the former assistant coach also violated the principles of ethical conduct by encouraging a student-athlete and several prospects to purchase and use NCAA-banned substances. In the summer of 2004, other members of the football coaching staff, including the head football coach, learned of the details of the former assistant coach's involvement in summer workouts with student-athletes and prospects. They also received information indicating the former assistant coach was promoting the use of anabolic steroids, the NCAA-banned substances referenced earlier. Despite being informed of this information, the other members of coaching staff failed to notify the athletics administration.

The committee found that the institution had prospects sign the National Letter of Intent although the institution was not a member of the National Letter of Intent program. During January 2004, the former head coach hand-delivered copies of the National Letter of Intent to at least seven prospective student-athletes prior to the initial signing date in the sport of football. When the institution reclassified to Division I, it failed to subscribe to the National Letter of Intent program.

During the 2000-04 academic years, staff used the National Letter of Intent with prospective student-athletes.

During the 2004-05 academic years, two student-athletes received athletics aid although they were ineligible because they did not meet NCAA transfer requirements after transferring from a two-year collegiate institution.

There was an agreement that Savannah State lacked institutional control during and following its move from Division II to Division I. The institution's failure to monitor the former assistant coach's actions led to failure by the institution to monitor its athletics program, the committee said.

The penalties in the case are as follows:
* Public reprimand and censure.
* The institution will be placed on probation through May 18, 2009.
* Reduction to 36 practice activities allowed, beginning in spring 2006 and continuing through spring 2007. (Note: the institution cancelled the 2006 spring football practice period).
* The institution is limited to no more than 27 expense-paid visits in the sport of football for the 2006-07 academic year, representing a reduction of two visits from the average number of annual visits during the past three years. NCAA rules allow for a maximum of 56 expense-paid visits per year.
* The former head coach was reprimanded for his involvement in NCAA violations. The former head coach resigned on March 18, 2006.

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