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Will Arizona State’s Punishment Fit the Crimes?

In a word: “No”.

In a couple of words: “Probably Not”.

Okay, it may not be that cut and dried. Perhaps the NCAA, which was just handed it hat by the Supreme Court in the Alston case, and which has abdicated its role in the Name, Image and Likeness opening – despite having almost two years to try and come up with national rules – will put on its big boy pants and hold Arizona State accountable for its “blatant and callous indifference” to the recruiting dead period during the pandemic.

But I’m not holding my breath.

First, let’s back up, and take a look at what we know so far.

What has been reported …

From YahooSports.com … Within the last month, an anonymous person sent a dossier of dozens of pages to the Arizona State athletic department. It included screenshots, receipts, pictures and emails related to numerous potential violations within Arizona State’s football program, according to sources.

The NCAA enforcement staff is in possession of those documents. Among the enforcement staff members working on the case is Vic DeNardi, an assistant director of enforcement. And the arrival of those documents to Arizona State compliance chief Steve Webb has ASU officials conducting internal interviews. (The NCAA declined comment.)

Arizona State vice president for media relations Katie Paquet confirmed the NCAA investigation.

The documentation includes specific evidence of multiple examples of high school prospects taking illicit on-campus recruiting trips to the Arizona State campus. Those came during the pandemic-inspired dead period that ended June 1. For more than a year prior, NCAA rules explicitly banned players from visiting on campus because of COVID-19. The dossier, according to sources, lays out pieces of both the players’ trips to campus and how those trips were paid for.

Sources said members of the football program deliberately, blatantly and consistently broke rules related to hosting players during the dead period, including coach Herm Edwards meeting with recruits. A source added that the evidence included pictures of the visits, including Edwards with a recruit who ended up enrolling at ASU. “It’s clear whoever provided it had a ton of access and knowledge of the football program. The stuff in there wouldn’t be provided by anyone outside the football program.”

… Yahoo Sports interviewed more than a dozen current or former ASU staff members this week. Multiple sources indicated that at least 30 players visited campus over a span of months, a practice so common coaches referenced “official visit weekends” in staff meetings, coaches bumped into recruits and families in a back stairwell and a routine developed of facility tours being given around 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. at night.

On one weekend in October, there were so many high school kids visiting that a staff member parked a 12-person van in the staff parking lot to tour around recruits. The visits spanned months, sources said, including some in October, the weekend of the UCLA game in December and through the spring game, which one source said “was like an official visit weekend.”

“It wasn’t a secret,” said a staff member with direct knowledge of the visits. “As far as knowing everyone who came into that [football] office, the number is too big and the names are too many. They would bring in parents, their moms and dads and friends. They’d get a facility tour like they were on an official visit. They’d show you the weight room and training room. They’d show you everything.”

Compare CU’s punishments by the NCAA … 

Arizona State has more major NCAA infractions – nine – than any other Power Five conference school (only SMU, with ten, has more. In case you are interested, the SEC – surprise! – has more major infractions than any other conference, with 79. The Pac-12, embarrassingly enough, is second, with 62, followed by the Big Ten, with 56, and the Big 12, with 52).

The University of Colorado has been hit five times with major infraction charges, dating back to 1962. In this century, the Buffs have faced penalties twice, in 2002, and 2007.

According to the NCAA database, this is what happened in 2002 …

 NCAA violations involving the provision of clothing items to recruits during official paid visits, contacts with an athletics representative, publicity involving a prospective student-athlete, excessive reimbursement of travel expenses for recruits and improprieties involving recruiting entertainment expenses. The institution was also found to have failed to adequately monitor the recruiting practices of its former football staff. Also secondary violations.

 Public reprimand and censure; two years of probation; limit the number of grants in the sport of football to 20 (instead of 25) for either the 2003-04 or 2004-05 academic year; limitation of expense paid visits to 51 for the 2003-04 academic year; the number of football coaches permitted to recruit off campus any one time shall be reduced by one until July 31, 2003; show-cause provision for the former head football coach at his employing member institution; annual reporting.

If you remember back that far, the 2002 penalties were the courtesy of Rick Neuheisel, who left CU for Washington after the 1998 season. Of the mess he left behind, Neuheisel said: “I made it clear that I never deceived anybody, nor was I dishonest. I thought, very honestly, I was acting within the rules. I was trying to—as the NCAA likes to put in quotations—to be creative, and find ways to win recruiting battles legally.” (One story: Neuheisel stayed in his car and called a recruit from across the street and waved. No contact – no violation, right?).

And in 2007 …

 Violations involving non-scholarship student-athletes being charged the wrong amount for training table meals.

Public reprimand and censure; two years of probation; financial aid awards in football reduced by one during each of the 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10 academic years; financial penalty in the amount of $100,000 and annual reporting required.

Remember this one? Part of story. A recruit brought his younger brother on his official visit, instead of his parents. The recruit didn’t know that the family’s food wasn’t covered during the visit. CU fed the teenager rather than let him starve … and self reported the infraction.

What’s next for Arizona State … 

Per the NCAA, the enforcement staff begins by reviewing information about potential violations. If it finds reason to proceed, it issues a notice of inquiry and begins investigating the allegations. If no violations are found, the case is closed. If violations are uncovered, three things can happen:

1. The NCAA can issue a notice of allegations that outlines the case and includes the rules that allegedly have been broken. Schools have up to 90 days to respond in writing. They also can ask for an extension. Once this process is complete, the case goes before the Committee on Infractions, which decides violations and penalties.

2. If a school agrees with the facts of an investigation, it can enter a negotiated resolution or summary disposition process. With negotiated resolutions, the parties agree on facts of the case, the severity of rules violations and penalties. This cannot be appealed. With summary disposition, the parties agree with case facts and rules violations, but the Committee on Infractions determines the penalties.

3. In complex cases, independent investigators are used to find facts and potential wrongdoing.

From The Athletic … Investigations tend to hang over programs like a dark cloud. At minimum, this will be a distraction. Former Arizona coach Sean Miller recently told The Athletic that during an investigation into his basketball program he felt like a baseball pitcher taking the mound only to learn he had to throw five feet beyond everyone else. It took a toll on both him and the program. It’s not impossible to overcome. Most notably, North Carolina won the 2017 men’s basketball national championship while the university was accused of academic fraud.

Arizona State Vice President of Athletics Ray Anderson told azcentral.com that the program is moving forward and the investigation “can’t be something that bogs us down.” This suggests the Sun Devils will take a “business as usual” approach. But it might depend on what else surfaces over the next few months. The more smoke, the harder it is to operate as if nothing’s wrong.

If you compare what CU did, and the penalties imposed, to what Arizona State is accused of doing – over an extended period of time, with blatant disregard for the rules – you would have to assume that the penalties against the Sun Devil program will be significant.

But you know what they say about the word “assume” …

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3 Replies to “Will Arizona State’s Punishment Fit the Crimes?”

  1. I’m as curious to hear about other schools who were doing the same things – it seems there have to be at least a few, if not many – as I am to see what ASU and/or the NCAA do to the asu football program and staff involved.

    Go Buffs

  2. So ,in other words, its going to take at least another year for the NCAA to come to a decision on the ASU case.
    I wonder if the ASU attorneys could argue the case that the NCAA has lost all credibility to hand out appropriate penalties due to its past history…..if it even gets that far.
    Do all the big schools get the Michael Jordan “no calls” by the refs? Or maybe something like traveling as opposed to a personal foul. And then there is all that crap thrown at CU over a recruit meal.
    And then there is tricky Ricky who has a law degree …… which didn’t keep from getting in trouble at Washington either. Maybe he developed some self awareness that keeps him from getting back on the carousel where I’m sure some struggling FCS team wandering in the wilderness would take a chance on him.

    1. Ricky is doing too well “kicking it” as a broadcaster for him to go back into coaching and I don’t think he has that drive in him to work that hard.

      The sandals at CU were either from poor judgement, the kicker, in hind sight, shouldn’t have been on the team, or in other cases manufactured or somewhere in between with Ricky and maybe GB letting somethings slide, like the partying, but ASU’s looks to be deliberate and should be handled as such. CU has seen 20 years in the desert for their sins and I doubt with the loss of power due to NIL, that the NCAA will end up doing anything substantial to ASU; and it will take too long to investigate.

      Meanwhile those coaches are being paid a lot to go on as usual while a year is taken to investigate. And some may move on before anything comes down too; leaving the school to pay for their actions.
      I’m betting that the guys lower down the chain of command can find a buddy to get a job from and leave before anything happens.

      At his age, Herm could just retire and what really could the NCAA do to him then? How much has he made since taking the job?

      Yea, he’s worried!

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