INDIANAPOLIS --- St. John's University (New York) has been penalized by the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions for violations in the sport of men's basketball.
The violations centered mainly on cash payments to an international student-athlete.
A former director of basketball operations at the university was cited for unethical conduct by the independent committee for making monthly payments to the student-athlete for more than three years. The former director of basketball operations also provided the student-athlete cash to help pay tuition during his first year at the university when he enrolled but did not academically qualify for a scholarship.
The former director of basketball operations was given a three-year show cause penalty, meaning that should he seek athletically related employment with another NCAA institution, he and the hiring institution must appear before the Committee on Infractions to determine whether his duties should be limited.
The Committee on Infractions also cited the university and the former head men's basketball coach for failure to monitor the financial situation of the student-athlete. Committee on Infractions chair Gene Marsh emphasized that the committee was troubled by this case as yet another example involving the lack of financial monitoring of international student-athletes.
"This institution should have identified, communicated with and tracked the sources of income for the student-athlete, who it knew to be in financial difficulty," said Marsh, a professor of law at the University of Alabama. "Had it done so, it would have been able to determine that the young man was unable to meet his financial obligation and was receiving funds from unknown and possibly impermissible sources."
The committee noted in its public report that the director of basketball operations made $300 monthly payments to the student-athlete from September 2000 to February 2004. He also provided the student-athlete $2,400 to help pay his tuition in the 1999-00 academic year, when he did not qualify for a scholarship. These impermissible payments were extra benefits clearly prohibited by NCAA bylaws.
The university set up a tuition payment plan for the student-athlete to follow in his first year at the school, but he "failed to abide by the agreement," the committee said. When the student-athlete was awarded a scholarship, the university established an automatic monthly deduction plan from the scholarship to pay his outstanding $17,000 bill at the school.
The committee said the student-athlete complained to the former head men's basketball coach and the former director of basketball operations that the monthly deductions left him without food money. The former director of basketball operations then began making the monthly cash payments to the student-athlete.
The former director of basketball operations claimed the former head men's basketball coach supplied some of the cash during the 1999-00 academic year, but the former head men's basketball coach denied that assertion, and no allegations were made against the former head men's basketball coach by the NCAA enforcement staff related to the cash payments, the committee noted in its report.
The committee also found that the university provided extra benefits to the student-athlete by making special arrangements for him to rent an apartment at a reduced rate. This finding was included by the committee as a basis for the failure to monitor charge against the former head men's basketball coach and the university.
The committee emphasized that the actions of the former director of basketball operations were unethical, especially since he knew the cash payments were direct violations of NCAA bylaws.
"While he has now come forward and admitted his involvement in the violations, he only did so after the violations were announced by the student-athlete's attorney at a press conference," the committee said of the former director of basketball operations in its report. "On the other hand, if the former director of basketball operations had not admitted the violations, this case would have been much more difficult to process."
The committee added that the former director of basketball operations fully cooperated with the investigation and appeared at the committee hearing when he was under no obligation to attend. In part because of his cooperation, the former director’s three-year "show cause" order has a start date of April 14, 2004, the day he resigned from the university, and ends April 14, 2007.
The student-athlete was suspended by the university on February 11, 2004, and he did not cooperate in the investigation, the committee said in its report.
In addition to the unethical conduct finding and the show cause penalty against the former director of basketball operations and the failure to monitor charge against the university and the former head men's basketball coach, the Committee on Infractions imposed the following penalties in this case:
- Two years' probation beginning May 11, 2006.
- The committee accepted the university's self-imposed ban on postseason competition in men's basketball, which was served in the 2004-05 season.
- The committee accepted the university's self-imposed reductions in scholarships in men's basketball from 13 to 12 in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons. These reductions would be in addition to any scholarship reductions based on lack of academic performance under the NCAA's academic reform program.
- The committee accepted the university's self-imposed penalty of vacating all wins by the men's basketball team in which the student-athlete played. All university and NCAA records must be changed as well.
- The university must return to the NCAA 90 percent of the monies it received from the Big East Conference for competing in the 2002 Division I Men's Basketball Tournament, a self-imposed penalty accepted by the committee.
- St. John's University is subject to the repeat violators' provision of NCAA bylaws for a five-year period starting May 11, 2006.
Committee on Infractions members who heard this case in addition to Professor Marsh were Edward (Ted) Leland, vice president for advancement, University of the Pacific; Andrea L. Myers, director of athletics emeritus, Indiana State University; James Park Jr., attorney, Lexington, Kentucky; Josephine R. Potuto, faculty athletics representative and professor of law, University of Nebraska; and Thomas E. Yeager, commissioner, Colonial Athletic Association.