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Texas Southern hit hard by NCAA penalties

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

The NCAA has hit Texas Southern University with major penalties in both football and basketball, citing lack of institutional control at the school.

Among the penalties, the NCAA agreed with TSU's self-imposed decision to vacate the school's wins in football in 2010 when the Tigers won their first-ever outright conference title in the 64-year history of the program.

In its findings following an investigation into TSU athletics, the NCAA wrote in its report: "Texas Southern demonstrated a lack of institutional control and was responsible for booster involvement in recruiting, academic improprieties, ineligible student-athlete participation and exceeding scholarship limits."

The report from the Division 1 Committee on Infractions was released on Tuesday.

The committee pointed out "that as a double repeat violator, Texas Southern has either been on probation or had violations occurring on campus, or both, for 16 of the past 20 years.

"At various times during the earlier probation periods the university reported to the committee it was taking certain remedial actions when it actually was not, which was of particular concern to the committee."

The report pointed out major rules violations in football and basketball when Johnnie Cole was the football coach and Tony Harvey was the Tigers basketball coach.

Neither is with the school now.

The NCAA penalties include public reprimand and censure, five years probation from 2012 to 2017, and postseason ban for football in 2013 and 2014 and in men's basketball for the upcoming season.

"This has been a struggle for (TSU athletics director) Charles (McClelland) and I since 2008 when we landed and we knew we had problems," said Dr. John Rudley, TSU president, in an interview with FOX 26 Sports.

"Can you imagine from 2008 to now having to wait to walk the plank?

"We're glad now we've turned the corner. We know all of the things that have been levied against us, we can manage those things. We're going to be onward and upward trying to make sure we keep our nose clean and move the program ahead.

Dr. McClelland agreed that is has not been easy waiting for the NCAA to release its findings.

"This has been a four-year process and we knew at the end of the process we were going to have to take significant sanctions," McClelland said.

"It's a sad day for Texans Southern, but it's also a new beginning.

In the NCAA's conference call with the media, Greg Sankey, a member of the infractions committee, acknowledged that the possibility of the "death penalty" was considered.

However, he pointed out that the cooperation provided by Rudley and McClleland played a key role in the committee's decision to not go beyond the penalties handed out to TSU.

"As an administration, to hear from the NCAA that we acknowledge that you guys have done the right thing was icing on the cake for me," said Dr. Rudley.

"It vinidicated all of the work we've done over the last four and a half years."

McClelland said the NCAA's acknowledgement of the work TSU has done in the past four years meant a great deal to him personally.

"For us to go through this process and for this process to be so lengthy, for the committee to acknowledge it, was a personal vindication for me of all of the things that we had to do deal with," McClelland said.

"Our number one goal was to strengthen and improve Texas Southern University and by virtue of our actions we're able to continue and function as an athletics program."

Both Cole, who is now the offensive coordinator and assistant head coach at Fort Smith Junior College in Kansas, and Harvey told FOX 26 Sports they will appeal the findings against them.

"I feel it's very unfair, the ruling," Cole said. "I think the problem stems from a lack of administrative errors. I thought I had done my due diligence as the head football coach to run a clean program and I asked the questions through the compliance officer as well as the AD and I moved forward. Nothing I did or done was hidden as far as the over- signing of scholarships.

"I feel the NCAA took advantage of the little man. I've been wrongly accused and the crime doesn't fit the punishment. I will appeal it."

McClelland denies Cole's accusations.

"The part about us being aware is absolutely false," McClelland said. "The NCAA has investigated this entire process and their findings are in black and white and as they said on their (conference) call, they stick by their findings. As far as the way that we run our program, it's always going to be ran one way, the right way."

While Cole was fired by TSU, Harvey resigned.

"On the findings, I'm sadly disappointed, deeply saddened," Harvey said. "Me and my counsel, I felt like we had a great argument and a great case, a great presentation.

"My intentions are to appeal this process. I've been forthcoming throughout the investigation and I haven't lied at all."

The NCAA levied three-year show-cause orders for both Cole and Harvey.

During that three-year time period any penalties handed down by the NCAA to the two coaches remains in effect if they are hired by another NCAA member institution

The NCAA released the following statement on its website on Tuesday:

Texas Southern University demonstrated a lack of institutional control and was responsible for booster involvement in recruiting, academic improprieties, ineligible student-athlete participation and exceeding scholarship limits, according to a decision announced today by the Division I Committee on Infractions.

In addition, the former head basketball coach was cited for unethical conduct and the former head football coach did not promote an atmosphere for compliance, the committee said in its report.

The committee noted that as a double repeat violator, Texas Southern either has been on probation or had violations occurring on campus, or both, for 16 of the past 20 years. At various times during the earlier probation periods the university reported to the committee it was taking certain remedial actions when it actually was not, which was of particular concern to the committee.

In this case, the university allowed 129 student-athletes in 13 sports during seven academic years to compete and receive financial aid and travel expenses when they were ineligible. The majority of these student-athletes had not met progress toward degree or transfer requirements. The committee noted "particularly serious violations" occurred when the former head football coach knowingly allowed a booster to recruit for the football program and the former head men's basketball coach provided false or misleading information during the investigation.

The men's basketball team also failed to serve its academic performance program penalty. During the 2009-10 season, the university was required to limit scholarships and restrict its athletically related activity to five days a week. The team awarded two more scholarships than allowed in the penalty and did not adhere to the practice restrictions.

The former head football coach and three former assistant football coaches were all aware that a booster was contacting potential transfers and their parents, according to committee findings. The booster also purchased an airline ticket for a prospective student-athlete's girlfriend through an acquaintance of the former head football coach. The committee notes the staff not only failed to dissuade the booster from making such contacts but also actively encouraged him and did not attempt to determine if the booster's activities were permissible under NCAA rules.

Over two academic years, the former head basketball coach and former head football coach made an arrangement to put two student-athletes on football scholarships for the purpose of circumventing the scholarship limits placed on the men's basketball program. One of the student-athletes admitted he had initially been untruthful about playing football during the investigation and both student-athletes did not participate in the football program.

The university exceeded financial aid limits during the 2008-09 through 2010-11 academic years. Compounding the problems with oversight was that no squad lists were produced by the compliance office during the years the violations occurred.

The former head football coach failed to promote an atmosphere for compliance in the football program and monitor the activities regarding compliance by assistant coaches. The report states, "The former head football coach's purported ignorance of well-understood and long-standing NCAA rules is not persuasive." The committee noted the former head football coach demonstrated that rules compliance was not of foremost importance. Additionally, he did not establish a culture for rules compliance within his program and he did not monitor his staff's interactions with the booster.

The former head basketball coach was cited for unethical conduct for knowingly providing false or misleading information concerning improperly awarded scholarships to two men's basketball student-athletes. In its findings, the committee noted that the coach's sole purpose in asking the head football coach to put the two student-athletes on a football scholarship was to procure athletically related scholarships beyond what the men's basketball program was able to provide.

Because of the scope and nature of the findings, Texas Southern lacked institutional control due to its failure to have necessary safeguards in place to prevent violations; ensure the academic performance program sanctions were fully understood and complied with; and make certain that all scholarships were properly awarded and to generate squad lists. The university also insufficiently investigated academic issues that involved 24 student-athletes and allowed 12 of the 24 student-athletes to receive unearned academic credit. Texas Southern also failed to notify the NCAA about the ineligible competition of some of the student-athletes.

Penalties in this case include:

- Public reprimand and censure.
- Five years probation from October 9, 2012, through October 8, 2017.
- Postseason ban for the 2013 and 2014 football seasons and 2012-13 men's basketball season.
- Three-year show-cause orders for the former head men's basketball coach and the former head football coach. The public report contains further details.
- A limit of no more than 65 overall counters, 25 initial counters (from 30 maximum) and 60 equivalency scholarships (from 63 maximum) in football for four academic years.
- A limit of 11 men's basketball scholarships (from 13 maximum) for three academic years.
- Due to health and safety concerns related to the reductions in scholarships and squad size, during probation, the football team may only compete against FCS member schools.
- Vacation of all team records for the 2006-07 through 2009-10 academic years in all sports, and vacation of all team records for the 2010-11 academic year in football and woman's soccer (self-imposed by the university). 
- Reduction in the available number of recruiting person days by 10 for men's basketball during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 academic years (self-imposed by the university).
- During the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years, the university may only use half the available evaluation days in both the spring and fall evaluation periods in football.
- Football official paid visits are limited to 30 total per year for football and nine total per year for men's basketball during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 academic years.
- An in-person review of the university's athletics policies and practices must be conducted annually, at the university's expense, through the term of probation. The review must generate a report of his/her findings, to be submitted with the annual compliance reports and submitted to the committee.

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