Wichita State baseball put on NCAA probation for impermissible benefits
Wichita State’s baseball program was placed on probation Thursday after the NCAA found that the Shockers used 21 players who received impermissible benefits over a two-year period.
The school self-reported the violations last year, likely resulting in lighter sanctions. Still, the NCAA decided that Wichita State’s storied program would need to vacate wins from 2011-13 — including its 2013 NCAA tournament appearance — in which the players participated. The NCAA did not say how many wins were compiled with the use of ineligible players.
Wichita State said that it will appeal the decision to vacate the wins.
"The student-athletes involved acted without guilty knowledge. It seems unfair to permanently tarnish the records they achieved as a team," said Wichita State President John Bardo, adding that the school would not appeal any of the other sanctions.
Wichita State will be required to tell recruits and publicize for the next year that the program is on probation, though the sanctions will not disqualify the Shockers from competing in any postseason tournaments. The school must also pay a $5,000 fine.
The violations occurred under the watch of former coach Gene Stephenson, who was fired in June 2013 after 36 seasons. His dismissal was largely criticized by fans who had watched him lead the Shockers to 26 NCAA tournaments and seven trips to the College World Series.
The Shockers won their only national championship in 1989.
"He was at the school for a very long period of time, had a highly compliant program during that period, never had a major violation," said Eleanor W. Myers, the chief hearing officer for the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions. "This occurrence … was something that went on over a period of time when he was not in the office as much as he once was."
Myers said that Stephenson did inquire about the discounts, which included 50 percent off Under Armor gear. Stephenson was assured by a former administrative assistant that the athletes were paying for the apparel and that such purchases were legal. Under Armour supplies the equipment for the Shockers’ baseball program.
NCAA rules prohibit athletes from purchasing gear — in this case clothing, hunting gear and non-athletics items — at discounts not available to the student body, family and friends.
The violations were discovered by current coach Todd Butler, who was hired shortly after Stephenson’s dismissal. The school self-reported the violations, and eight players still with the program were suspended for the first part of last season.
Bardo said the school has already taken steps to prevent such violations from occurring by revising its policies for interacting with apparel manufacturers.
Myers said the one-year probation was proposed by the school and that the committee on infractions accepted the penalty, along with leveling the additional sanctions.
"(The school) now will be required to submit reports to the committee on infractions so we can review their program to make sure they have made the enhancements they have promised to make in their corrective actions," she said.