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WACO, Texas (AP) — Baylor has been fined $5,000 for NCAA football recruiting violations, the latest blow for a program trying to pick up the pieces from a sexual assault scandal and struggles on the field.
The NCAA announced the punishment Wednesday after an investigation found that assistant football coaches violated NCAA rules in spring 2015. The penalties were not severe, with the NCAA accepting most of the school's self-imposed punishments, including banning two assistants from off-campus recruiting for 12 weeks and game suspensions that have already been served.
Two assistants had been advised of recruiting rules but still tried to find loopholes that would allow them more interaction with football prospects, according to the NCAA.
In one instance, a coach asked at a campus compliance session if the football staff could attend a track meet but turn their backs when a prospect they were evaluating was competing so they could avoid having to log an evaluation of the athlete, the NCAA said. The school's compliance office said this was permissible but the NCAA panel that investigated the infractions found the counsel was "ill-advised at best."
"It is disappointing that the university's coaching staff was more interested in finding loopholes to exploit the rules instead of trying to follow the rules," said Greg Christopher, chief hearing officer for the infractions panel and athletic director at Xavier. "After we reviewed facts of the case, we determined a fine plus the self-imposed recruiting penalties appropriately addressed the violations."
The panel determined assistant coaches positioned themselves at track meets to engage in "brief, 'fan-like' exchanges " with prospects and exceeded the number of evaluations they're allowed to conduct of athletes they're trying to recruit. NCAA officials said a third assistant coach attended a game involving a future opponent, which amounted to prohibited off-campus scouting.
"Complying with NCAA regulation is a fundamental expectation of all Baylor coaches, staff, student-athletes and supporters," Baylor athletic director Mack Rhoades said.
The nation's largest Baptist university was rocked earlier this year by the assault scandal, which included claims that members of the football staff knew of reported assaults and alleged gang rapes by players and didn't report them.
An investigation by the law firm Pepper Hamilton found that the school mishandled assault claims for years. Coach Art Briles was fired, school President Ken Starr was demoted and eventually left, as did athletic director Ian McCaw resigned.
The school is facing several federal lawsuits by women who say the university ignored or tried to suppress their claims of sexual and physical assault. Briles has sued three of the school's regents and a vice president, alleging libel and slander.
New coach Matt Rhule was hired earlier this month after a successful run at Temple. He inherits a team that started 6-0 this season but then six straight going into the Cactus Bowl against Boise State (10-2) on Dec. 27.
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