Central Florida AD resigns amid recruiting allegations
Central Florida AD Keith Tribble is resigning amid recruiting violation allegations
David Kelly has also resigned; basketball coach Donnie Jones is suspended
UCF received an inquiry letter in August for violations between 2007-09
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Central Florida's athletic director and a football assistant resigned Wednesday after the school was hit with more NCAA violations, this time for involvement with runners for sports agents and cash payments and gifts to recruits.
Athletic director Keith Tribble and assistant football coach David Kelly stepped down after the NCAA cited UCF - which is currently on probation for previous violations - for unethical conduct amid allegations of recruiting violations in its football and basketball programs.
Men's basketball coach Donnie Jones was suspended for three games by UCF and given a letter of reprimand.
The NCAA notified UCF of the allegations in a letter dated Nov. 7. The notice details a list of infractions that Tribble, Kelly, also the wide receivers coach, and other athletic department employees participated in between March 2009 and July 2011. The infractions include involvement with reputed agent runners, current athletes and several potential recruits and also inducements including cash payments and gifts.
UCF President John Hitt denounced the allegations and pledged to comply fully with all the NCAA's requests and make changes to UCF's compliance.
"The conduct detailed by the NCAA's report falls far short of our university standards and my own expectations of how our athletics program should operate," Hitt said Wednesday at a news conference.
Hitt said Jones was suspended because he ""failed to maintain a culture of compliance" in the recruitment of a pair of players.
UCF football coach George O'Leary was not cited for wrongdoing by the NCAA in the report.
The school has 90 days to respond to the report. University general counsel Scott Cole said it will consider self-imposed penalties and also work with the NCAA to "get a consensus on appropriate penalties."
"But for the most part we think most of the investigation is done," Cole said.
Phone messages left at the homes for Tribble and Kelly were not immediately returned.
Due to the nature of the infractions and because UCF is a repeat offender, it can't avoid a formal hearing on the charges. Instead it must now have a formal hearing before the Committee on Infractions that is scheduled for April.
UCF is on probation until February 2012 after football staff members placed impermissible calls to perspective recruits between 2007 and 2009.
The school received an inquiry letter in August regarding the latest violations regarding its relationship with Ken Caldwell, a recruiter for a professional sports agency and associate Brandon Bender.
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.
A call to Caldwell seeking comment was not immediately returned.
Hitt said the allegations are not expected to affect the school's potential movement from Conference USA into the Big East.
UCF has yet to receive an official invitation from the Big East, but Hitt said he spoke with Big East Commissioner John Marinatto on Wednesday about the NCAA's allegations and it is his understanding that this matter won't have an impact.
"I think it's moving around rather nicely," Hitt said. "It's not a game-changer. It doesn't delay or impeded or entry into the Big East."
Al Harms, a vice president of marketing, communications and admissions at the school, has been appointed interim athletic director. Hitt said a national search will begin immediately for Tribble's replacement.
Tribble took over as UCF AD in 2006 after previously serving as the director of the Orange Bowl Committee and oversaw the construction and opening of UCF's first on-campus football stadium in 2007.
"No one feels good about it," Hitt said. "But in the real world things sometimes go in a direction that people never anticipated," Hitt said. "...I have a lot of compassion for people whose careers are being so terribly affected by this."
The improper conduct detailed in the report includes telephone and in-person meetings with perspective athletes that the NCAA said Caldwell and Bender had with Tribble, Kelly, Jones and assistant Darren Tillis in several instances.
It said that all parties from UCF were aware of the recruiting contacts Caldwell and Bender had with the perspective athletes and that Caldwell, while working for a sports agency, provided impermissible benefits to basketball and football players and perspective recruits.
Those improper benefits that occurred between March 2009 and 20011 included:
Deposits totaling $500 into a bank account of a men's basketball player, who competed while ineligible during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons.
Arranging for tuition and university fees totaling more than $14,000 to be paid for a men's basketball player and men's basketball recruit.
Providing a laptop computer to a perspective football recruit.
Paying for transportation expenses for a perspective men's basketball recruit.
The NCAA has asked for the school to provide responses to each of the allegations as well as phone records and e-mails, and university tuition records and bank records of the men's basketball player in question. It has also asked for UCF to identify all athletics department staff members with knowledge of the inducements.
All of the involved athletes were redacted from the report, and Hitt said that of the 11 athletes it referenced, only senior basketball player A.J. Rompza has participated athletically at UCF.
Rompza was held out of the Knights' exhibition game last week and remains out indefinitely though he's practicing with the team. Rompza played high school basketball in Chicago where he was a teammate of UCF junior guard Marcus Jordan, the son of NBA legend Michael Jordan.
UCF's regular season begins Saturday.
Questions were originally raised in May following media reports detailing a link Caldwell had with UCF's highly ranked basketball recruits Michael Chandler and Kevin Ware, and that of football recruit DeMarcus Smith.
Chandler, from Indianapolis, was the No. 4-ranked center in the country and most highly rated player UCF had ever signed. He had previously committed to Louisville and Xavier.
Ware, from Conyers, Ga., was released from a national letter of intent he signed with Tennessee after coach Bruce Pearl was fired. He subsequently signed a grant-in-aid with UCF in April. But he then backed out of his commitment to the Knights.
Smith's situation had even more twists and turns. A quarterback from Louisville, Ky., he originally verbally committed to Louisville, but wound up signing a national letter with the Knights. He had second thoughts in March and asked O'Leary for a release, but the coach denied it.
Smith then reversed field again, and was reportedly eager to report to UCF this spring - but that never happened.
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