NCAA says UCF player eligible next month
Central Florida will soon get one of its basketball team leaders back.
The NCAA has informed the school that A.J. Rompza will be eligible next month after sitting out the start of the season because of a probe into UCF's basketball and football programs.
Rompza, a 5-9 senior guard, has not played this season after being withheld from playing as part of the NCAA investigation. He is eligible beginning Dec. 30 and is being required to repay $900 in improper benefits.
UCF basketball coach Donnie Jones is sitting out a school-imposed penalty of three conference games and was also given an official reprimand by school President John Hitt.
''We respect the NCAA's decision,'' Jones said in a statement. ''I know sitting out is tough for A.J. and that he is anxious to get going. Once he meets the requirements set forth by the NCAA, we will welcome him back.''
Keith Tribble resigned as UCF's athletic director earlier this month, along with a football assistant coach David Kelly when the NCAA released a notice of allegations accusing both of unethical conduct for involvement with runners for sports agents that included cash payments and gifts to recruits.
The school received an inquiry letter in August and a letter of allegations Nov. 7 pointing to a relationship Ken Caldwell, a recruiter for a professional sports agency, and associate Brandon Bender had with school officials and athletes.
The NCAA said that Caldwell and Bender ''assisted the institution in the recruitment of six men's basketball players and five football perspective student-athletes'' through inducements including cash payments. It also said that Tribble, Caldwell and Jeff Lagos, a ''known representative of the institution's athletics interests, attempted to arrange employment'' for people involved.
All athletes' names were redacted from the NCAA's report, but Hitt said Rompza was the only current player named.
Rompza met Caldwell while he was playing high school basketball in Chicago.
Al Harms, who is serving as UCF interim AD, said recently that the focus of the 90-day period of before UCF's response to the NCAA will be used to also look at how the athletic department does business.
''We have worked with the NCAA on this issue and are satisfied that the outcome is fair an appropriate,'' Harms said in a statement on Rompza's eligibility resolution.
Rompza was a standout on a Knights team that started last season 14-0 and earned their first national ranking before tumbling to a 21-12 finish, missing the NCAA tourney.
The Knights (2-1) play the College of Charleston Thursday in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in Nassau, Bahamas.