U of U Athletic Department Put on Three Year Probation

U of U Athletic Department Put on Three Year Probation

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah's athletic program was placed on three years' probation by the NCAA on Wednesday for rules violations that included excessive meal money for men's basketball players and academic fraud on the football team.

The Utes may still participate in postseason tournaments and no restrictions were placed on TV appearances. The school scheduled a news conference for later in the day.

U of U Athletic Department Put on Three Year Probation

The NCAA Committee on Infractions announced the punishment after a two-year investigation of a university review.

Infractions committee chairman Tom Yeager said the violations were relatively minor and did not warrant more serious penalties.

"These were not five-course steak meals at the finest restaurant in town," Yeager said.

"This case may sound a lot worse when you actually hear all the details and all the nuances," he added.

At a news conference after the findings were released, University President Bernie Machen said, "We accept the findings, and we accept the sanctions imposed."

"This has been a very painful, but yet a very constructive process for the university," Machen said. "As a result of this process we have improved our compliance procedures while maintaining a quality program which emphasizes academic success and academic and athletic excellence."

The NCAA accepted the university's self-imposed sanctions, including cutting one men's basketball scholarship for the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons, and added one scholarship penalty for 2006-07.

The committee found a "lack of institutional control," noting the basketball staff "failed to foster an environment of compliance."

The NCAA said the length of daily and weekly practices by the basketball team went beyond what the organization allows.

U of U Athletic Department Put on Three Year Probation

The report said basketball coach Rick Majerus told the NCAA he thought meals he bought for players were allowed because he lives in a hotel near the university. Coaches are allowed to host athletes for home meals.

The committee found that the meals were not permissible even though the hotel is Majerus' primary residence.

Other infractions found by the committee:

--Basketball staff arranged for a plane ticket for a player to attend a funeral. The player did end up paying for the ticket, but the university did not properly seek reimbursement.

--Men's basketball players got excessive meals and meal per diem allowances, mainly through "nominal amounts" of cash during road trips.

--An athletic department tutor provided two football players with a paper for a writing class. The paper was discovered, the tutor was fired and the athletes failed the course. But the school did not report the violation to the NCAA, Yeager said.

--In May 1997, a female track-and-field athlete dropped her course load to below 12 credit hours one day before she competed.

The university had taken several corrective steps before Wednesday's announcement, including hiring a new NCAA compliance officer, freezing the salaries of athletic director Chris Hill and Majerus for one and two years, respectively, and reducing the number of recruiting visits for the men's basketball team.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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