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Kentucky gets three years probation

Posted: Thursday January 31, 2002 11:21 AM
Updated: Thursday January 31, 2002 4:21 PM

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Kentucky was hit hard by the NCAA on Thursday when it was placed on three years' probation for football recruiting violations in "one of the more serious cases heard by the committee in recent years."

The Wildcats, cited by the NCAA for more than three dozen recruiting violations, were banned from a bowl game next season and must forfeit a total of 19 scholarships over the next three years.

"This is an embarrassment to the university, it's an embarrassment to our fans and it's an embarrassment to the athletic department," Kentucky athletic director Larry Ivy said. "It's something we wish hadn't happened and something we hope never happens again."

In a 41-page report citing Kentucky as lacking institutional control over its football program, the NCAA said it was "troubled by the widespread nature of the undetected violations in time, frequency and the number of individuals who would have some knowledge that the activities were improper and failed to report them to the proper authorities."

Kentucky can sign only 16 of a possible 25 recruits for next season (signing day is Tuesday), 18 the following season and 22 in 2004. During the probation, the Wildcats can only have a total of 80 players on scholarship -- five under the 85-player limit.

Former recruiting coordinator Claude Bassett also was effectively banned from working at an NCAA school for the next eight years.

President Lee Todd said the school would accept the NCAA's sanctions, although it may appeal the postseason ban.

The bowl ban was the first the NCAA's committee on infractions has levied against a Division I program since Miami was kept from the postseason seven years ago, said Thomas Yeager, the committee's chairman.

"I don't know how much damage is going to be done to the program," Kentucky coach Guy Morriss said. "The first thing I want to do is walk across the street and talk to our players. Then we have to look at what we can do to salvage this new recruiting class."

The Wildcats were 2-9 last year, including 1-7 in the Southeastern Conference.

The violations were committed from 1998 to 2000 during the tenure of Hal Mumme, who resigned as coach under pressure last February. Mumme was charged with failure to monitor the program, but was not given any individual sanctions.

This is not the first time the Wildcats have been hit by NCAA sanctions. The Wildcats' basketball program was banned from playing in the NCAA tournament in 1989 and 1990 because of numerous recruiting violations, including the mailing of cash to a recruit's home.

Todd, who began his term in July following the retirement of Charles Wethington, said he would appoint a committee to look at the athletic department and recommend changes to prevent future problems.

In Thursday's ruling, the NCAA said more than $7,000 was spent by Kentucky, primarily through Bassett, for improper recruiting or gifts of money to high-school coaches and prospects.

Bassett was found in violation of ethical conduct bylaws and received a show-cause order, which means any NCAA institution that wishes to hire Bassett during that period would have to demonstrate to the committee why it should not be penalized if it hired Bassett.

Mumme resigned during an internal investigation by Kentucky into allegations of wrongdoing in the football program.

The probe began in November 2000 and intensified the following month when a Louisville newspaper published copies of $1,400 in money orders sent from Bassett to the coach of a Memphis, Tenn., high school where the Wildcats were courting recruits.

The committee said Mumme failed to adequately oversee the program because he did not closely monitor Bassett's activities even after being told on three occasions about possible rules violations.

Neither Mumme nor his attorney, Travis Bryan, could immediately be reached for comment.

Bassett planned to appeal his show-cause order.

"Though coach Bassett readily admits to wrongdoing, he denies many of the charges against him outright," Bassett's lawyer, Robert Furnier, said in a statement. "The coach feels that he deserves to be punished for only those actions which violated NCAA regulations."

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