Oklahoma had about one quarter of its recruiting days this season taken away by the NCAA on Friday as punishment for committing major violations while the men’s basketball program already was on probation.
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The NCAA Division I infractions committee reduced the Sooners’ recruiting days from 130 to 100 and also put Oklahoma on probation for three years, vacated all 13 wins from the 2009-10 season, took away one scholarship and eliminated two of the school’s 12 allowed official visits this year.
Former assistant coach Oronde Taliaferro, who resigned during the investigation, also was prohibited from recruiting for two years.
However, the Sooners were not labeled a ”repeat violator,” avoiding the possibility of more severe penalties.
”The ruling was great from the standpoint that it doesn’t affect these guys at all. As players, it has no effect,” first-year coach Lon Kruger said after winning his debut 78-74 Friday night against Idaho State. ”It limits a little bit what we can do recruiting-wise in terms of number of days on the road.
”But as far as postseason opportunities, if we’re good enough to earn that then we’ll play.”
Most of the penalties had been proposed by the school, which said Taliaferro broke NCAA rules by failing to report that a player had received an impermissible extra benefit and by lying to investigators. The NCAA said its findings included unethical conduct by the former coach, extra benefits, preferential treatment and ineligible participation.
Oklahoma had proposed a reduction of only 10 recruiting days — an amount tripled by the infractions board — and two years of probation instead of three.
”Maybe you can’t go see quite as many players as you typically would with those extra days. You have to be a little bit more efficient,” Kruger said.
The NCAA also tacked on a $15,000 fine — $500 for each of the 30 games the player, Keith ”Tiny” Gallon, played while ineligible.
The violations occurred while the Sooners were still on probation for major rules violations involving recruiting phone calls by former coach Kelvin Sampson, a case that ended in 2006, and football players being paid for work they weren’t doing at a Norman car dealership in 2007.
Under NCAA bylaws, a repeat violator can face a minimum of having the sport dropped for one or two seasons with no scholarships provided for two seasons.
Oklahoma chose to settle the case through a summary disposition, in which the university and NCAA agree that major violations have occurred and work jointly to investigate the case and decide on penalties.
In reporting the Taliaferro case in July, Oklahoma admitted to two major rules violations but asked the NCAA for leniency despite its second serious infractions case in the last five years. The school conceded it does qualify under the description of repeat violator — having two major infractions cases within five years in the same sport — but said previous cases show those penalties ”are not appropriate in this case.”
The NCAA agreed, saying ”the violations in this case were serious, but limited” to Gallon and Taliaferro. Gallon has said in interviews that he took $3,000 from a Florida financial adviser to pay debts owed to his high school to allow transcripts to be released and clear the way for him to attend college.
The NCAA wrote in its public infractions report Friday that Taliaferro knew Gallon had received the impermissible benefit in August 2009 — before the season started — but failed to inform head coach Jeff Capel or other university administrators. By letting Gallon go ahead and play, it only compounded the issue.
Capel was not implicated in the violations. He was fired in March.
Oklahoma’s coaches now will be required to inform every recruit over the next three years of the rules that were broken and the probationary period that exists before the player can make an official visit or sign a letter of intent.
”It clears the air. There’s no question about a recruit who comes here next year. It doesn’t affect him at all. So, it does help,” Kruger said.
”A lot of times, the penalty of not knowing is worse than the penalty itself.”
Because it went through the summary disposition process, Oklahoma cannot appeal the penalties. The school said in an unattributed statement that it accepts the punishments.
”University of Oklahoma officials fully understand that however rules violations may occur, the NCAA requires institutional accountability,” the statement said. ”As such, even in cases like this — where the violation is isolated to the actions of one former student-athlete and the failure of a former assistant basketball coach to disclose his knowledge of the violation — the NCAA imposes penalties upon the institution in addition to the individuals.”
Taliaferro is allowed to appeal his penalties. Although he consented to go through the summary disposition process, the NCAA said he did not agree with the penalties recommended against him when it ended.