Following the allegations accusing the University of Central Florida of NCAA infractions, which began in late April with Pete Thamel’s and Pat Forde’s “hit pieces”, will certainly give you headaches. Where does one begin to dissect the allegations when the evidence is cloudy, based on rumors and hearsay?
NCAA recruiting can be a shady, corrupt world, and best not to enter ill prepared. A school must police all employees of the athletics program, including their high profile coaches whose million dollar contracts are earned by winning games and recruiting the best athletes, and millionaire boosters whose most valuable asset is their pride. When the NCAA finishes their investigation of UCF on September 30th, will Keith Tribble and company be exonerated of all allegations or will UCF be following the footsteps of the University of Miami fiasco, that has dragged UCF QB Jeffrey Godfrey into the mess?
All of the accusations of potential NCAA infractions stem from recruiting battles in early 2011 between UCF and the University of Louisville for “Four Star” athletes Demarcus Smith (Football) and Kevin Ware (Basketball). After UCF’s initial win in these recruiting battles, chaos erupted. Smith attempted to get out of his letter of intent before recommitting and Ware de-committed from UCF and committed to Louisville after having conversations with UCF’s new friends Thamel and Forde. Unfortunately, both student-athletes forgot the student part of the equation and failed to qualify this summer for the upcoming semester.
But when investigating the allegations against UCF, it is tough to decide who to believe. In one corner you have the culprit behind all of UCF’s allegations, Ken Caldwell, whose criminal record and rumored link to basketball agents cancels out his philanthropic work and mentoring for Chicago basketball youths. Caldwell’s connection to UCF runs deep. He is the legal guardian of UCF basketball walk-on Dogukan Kuzucan, a former mentor to starting point guard A.J. Rompza, and his son attended UCF.
In the other corner you have Thamel and Forde, who have potential conflicts of interest. One journalist has failed “hit piece” articles from the past and the other has ties to the University of Louisville. Thamel spent last year battling in-state Louisville foe, the University of Kentucky, by investigating Eric Bledsoe and Enes Kanter’s eligibility. An investigation that was littered with Thamel twisting quotes of those he interviewed and unnecessary cost.
Pat Forde’s relationship with Louisville is more cut and dry. Forde partnered in a financial relationship to write a book with Louisville Head Basketball Coach Rick Pitino called Rebound Rules. He is also a former Louisville sports writer and still attends basketball games to support his business partner Pitino.
Unfortunately Pat Forde has declined to comment on the development of his original story and his relationship with the University of Louisville and Pete Thamel has not replied to the request for comment.
Its best not to get caught up in allegations surrounded by rumors of he said/she said nonsense. The best practice in this case would be to consult an expert on the subject of NCAA infractions in order to get a better understanding of what goes into an NCAA investigation. Below you will find the conversation between me and former NCAA Division I Infractions Committee member Jo Potuto whose resume speaks of her dignified career on the subject.
Please note that these answers are independent of the facts in the UCF inquiry — about which, Former NCAA Division I Infractions Committee Member Jo Potuto, has no information. They are general, informational responses directed at the operation of NCAA bylaws and are not predictions of what might happen in the UCF case.
Danny Peterson: Jeffrey Godfrey was included in the University of Miami scandal report as receiving a pair basketball shoes and attending a University of Miami football game in a booster’s luxury box at Dolphins Stadium while being recruited as a high school athlete by the University of Miami. What does this mean for UCF and could Godfrey face a potential suspension in the future?
Jo Potuto: It depends. Regarding prospects and the provision of benefits, there are recruiting violations (NCAA Bylaw 13) and amateurism violations (NCAA Bylaw 12). Recruiting violations are specific to a particular school and are committed by someone associated with the school. No other school would be responsible for Bylaw 13 violations and any impact on a prospect’s eligibility would be specific to that school. Amateurism violations attach to a prospect and affect his eligibility at any NCAA college or university. Among amateurism violations are benefits provided to a prospect because of his athletics ability or reputation (220.127.116.11.6); payment for playing; and involvement with agents. How serious the consequences to a prospect depends on a variety of things — how large the benefit; the degree of knowledge of the prospect that the benefit was prohibited; status of the person providing the benefit (agent/handler etc). It is possible for conduct to be both a Bylaw 12 and a Bylaw 13 violation.
DP: The NCAA’s letter of inquiry states its enforcement staff intends to complete its investigation by Sept. 30. The letter of inquiry was sent to UCF on August 17th, which gives the NCAA a month and a half to complete their investigation. Does this mean the investigation has been going on since before August 17th or does this mean they are allotting a month and a half to complete the entire investigation?
JP: In almost all cases the enforcement staff does a preliminary review of information and follow up to decide if it has “reasonably reliable information” that a violation has been committed (32.5.1.) At that point it sends a notice of inquiry to a school.
DP: Does their need to be clear evidence in order to hand out infractions to a school’s athletic program? Or does the infractions committee just need to form a majority opinion that they believe a potential violation occurred?
JP: You are asking two questions here — (1) what level of confidence is needed to find a violation and (2) how many Committee members must share that level of confidence. As to the first, NCAA bylaws dictate that the Committee on Infractions may find a violation only if it concludes that the information supporting a finding is “credible persuasive and of a kind on which reasonably prudent persons rely in the conduct of serious affairs). (NCAA Bylaw 32.8..8.2) This is a standard in law that is called “clear and convincing.” As to the second, NCAA bylaws do not require that the Infractions Committee must be unanimous before deciding that there is a violation.
DP: Are there NCAA rules that deem media (who have ties to certain schools) contact with high school athletes as being a potential violation if the media personnel misleads the recruit to steer clear of a school based on nonfactual information? I ask this question because these allegations began with articles published by two former Louisville sports writers who published these stories after UCF beat out Louisville for two high profile recruits. The media representatives then contacted one of the recruit’s parents to talk about these unproven allegations, resulting in the recruit de-committing from UCF and committing to Louisville.
JP: The NCAA is a private association. It has jurisdiction only over schools that are members of the association and, through them, to their staffs and student-athletes. Schools are responsible for the conduct of their boosters. (NCAA Bylaw 13.02.14.) It is not impossible for the relationship of a media rep with a school to make the media rep a booster. Violations committed by a booster are violations of the school. A school may “disassociate” its booster because of the conduct of the booster.
A question regarding the potential relationship between UCF and Ken Caldwell was presented but an answer was respectfully declined due to the fact dependence of the question.
What does all of this mean for UCF and this mess of an NCAA investigation? One can’t come to a positive conclusion without asking more questions. Is there a paper trail linking Caldwell to a sports agent? Has UCF been in contact with Caldwell to facilitate illegal recruiting methods of prep athletes? What are Pete Thamel’s motives behind his assault on this year’s chosen school? How deep is the relationship between Pat Forde and the University of Louisville?
All of those are interesting questions but the most important question is simple. What does UCF do going forward to put all of this bad press and lousy 2011 summer behind them? That question will be answered soon.