Judgment Day: Will the NCAA Place Recruiting Restrictions on UTEP's Tim Floyd?

On Friday, the NCAA Committee on Infractions is set to release their findings into a multi-year investigation into alleged major infractions in the USC football and basketball program.  Why does this matter to UTEP fans?  Good question and there's a very simple answer:  If the NCAA determines that new Miner basketball coach Tim Floyd did commit violations while he was the head coach at USC, the Committee on Infractions could assess recruiting violations on Floyd personally.  UTEP, of course, can't be punished as an institution for whatever may or may not have happened at USC.  But the NCAA can restrict Floyd individually- which in essence would create a de facto sanction on UTEP basketball.


Background

The day UTEP hired Tim Floyd, we discussed the likelihood that the NCAA could levy sanctions against him.  Here's the quick summary of the allegations I wrote then.

There is a reason why Tim Floyd won 20 games in three consecutive season at USC, went to three straight NCAA Tournaments (including a Sweet 16 appearance) but is no longer coaching Southern Cal.  He resigned from USC amid a looming NCAA scandal related to alleged cash payouts to one of O.J. Mayo's personal associates, Rodney Guillory.  If you want a complete breakdown of the Floyd allegations, go here, where Yahoo! Sports writers Charles Robinson and Jason Cole run through the alleged payments. 

Last month, Floyd testified before the NCAA Committee on Infractions where he, and USC, presented their case denying the allegations made by a "confidant" of Mayo's. Floyd, no longer employed by USC, had no legal obligation to testify.  But, he went anyway and stated his case to the committee.  He didn't run from the accusations.  He faced them head on, even after he felt USC's athletic department turned their back on him.

Before the hearing, USC announced self imposed sanctions, including vacating 21 wins from the 2007-2008 season, scholarship reductions, and a ban on postseason play in 2009 (which included the PAC 10 Tournament).

Monday, AP writer Alicia Caldwell asked UTEP athletic director Bob Stull whether or not he was worried about potential penalties when he hired Floyd. 

"Tim had never had a previous NCAA violation and from further investigation we, along with five other universities who were trying to hire him, felt like it was unlikely for (the) allegations to be valid," Stull said.

Tomorrow, the answers to a lot of questions will be answered.  We'll finally know if Reggie Bush is ruled ineligible for taking well over $200,000 in cash and gifts while starring for the Trojans football team.  The football accusations encompass a bulk of the investigation and obviously have the highest stakes.  A national championship and a Heisman Trophy may be swinging in the balance.  The basketball accusations are, of course, centered around the accusation that Floyd himself handed $1,000 in cash to Guillory, who in turn, helped secure O.J. Mayo's commitment to USC. 

Even if the NCAA does find Floyd broke rules, the NCAA could simply adopt the self-imposed sanctions as the total punishment, right?  Yes, that's true.  But, there's also the tale of Kelvin Sampson. Which brings me to the key question.

The Key Question:  Has the NCAA ever placed sanctions on a coach at a new school for violations that occurred at his old program?

Yes, and it was in a high profile case just like this one.   The last time it happened, the violations surrounded former Oklahoma and Indiana head basketball coach Kelvin Sampson.  Here's a summary of what happened with Sampson- forgive the formatting, I am having trouble with it as I'm to import this from a paper I wrote on NCAA punishment mechanisms and recruiting.

 

Prior to being hired at Indiana, Mr. Sampson was the head coach at Oklahoma University.  While at Oklahoma, the NCAA enforcement staff investigated Mr. Sampson for potential major infractions. In April of 2007, Indiana, aware of pending investigation,  hired him away from OU with a seven year contract that guaranteed him a salary of over $1 million per season. Before Mr. Sampson ever coached a game at Indiana, the NCAA Infractions committee ruled he and his staff had made 577 impermissible phone calls to recruits and that Sampson himself was personally responsible for about half of that total.  NCAA Infractions Committee Chairman, Thomas Yeager, noted that Sampson’s conduct constituted "deliberate noncompliance" and "willful violations."  He also noted that he there were more documented calls, each one its own violation, than he had ever been familiar with and that the violations were successful for Sampson in that four of the recruits he contacted impermissibly signed to play with OU.  As a result of the investigation, Sampson was barred from making any phone calls to prospective recruits for one year at Indiana.

            Indiana, aware of the investigation, had negotiated a clause in Mr. Sampson’s contract that gave the university the option to terminate his employment should the NCAA’s punishments exceed the penalties expected for the violations (those self imposed by Oklahoma) which they ultimately did.  Indiana declined to exercise the option and elected to let Sampson keep the position of head basketball coach.  In October of 2007, less than a year after Sampson started his new job at IU, Indiana self reported potential violations to the NCAA related to 133 impermissible phone calls made by Sampson and assistant coaches.  Indiana took no action against Sampson but instead allowed him to terminate an assistant coach in response to the allegations.  Only four months later, the NCAA sent notice to Indiana that Sampson had committed five major violations related to even more occurrences of impermissible phone calls with potential recruits.  Indiana knew of Mr. Sampson’s past recruiting violations before they hired him; allowed an assistant coach to "fall on the sword" for another instance of intentional violations after he had been sanctioned, and then ultimately had to fire him when he was caught breaking the same rule for the third time in two years.

So, in summary:

  • IU knew Sampson was under investigation when they hired him away from Oklahoma (like UTEP did when they hired Floyd)
  • IU protected their program by negotiating a clause in Sampson's contract that permitted them a way out of the deal should the sanctions be stronger than those self-imposed by OU. (I am not sure if UTEP included a similar provision in Tim Floyd's contract)
  • IU did not exercise the contractual option when the sanctions were in excess of those self imposed by OU. 
  • The NCAA restricted Sampson's ability to use telephone calls on prospective recruits while at IU for one year. 

The key here is that the NCAA found "deliberate noncompliance" and "willful violations" related to Sampson's conduct.  Obviously, this was proven to be an accurate finding as Sampson again violated the rules after the NCAA imposed their penalties on him at Indiana.  If the NCAA finds that Floyd did in fact give cash to Guillory, then it's safe to say that the conduct will be "deliberate" and "willful" due to the very nature of the claim.  So, there is some precedent here that says that the NCAA can place a restriction on Floyd at UTEP. 

What kind of restriction?  Trust me, as someone who researched and wrote a 25 page paper on NCAA Regulations and Punishment, there's absolutely no way of telling what kind of punishment the NCAA could impose.  It literally will differ from case to case.  Sampson's punishment was simple, a one year moratorium on telephone recruiting, but that doesn't help us when predicting potential punishment here simply because the alleged violations are quite different.

Well, we'll know soon enough whether or not the NCAA will impose penalties on Floyd and we'll have Floyd's take on the ruling soon thereafter.  ESPN's Andy Katz tweeted that Floyd will hold a teleconference for reporters on Monday to address whatever is revealed tomorrow.

Full coverage of the NCAA's findings tomorrow.

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