Dallas — The NCAA banned the SMU men’s basketball team from postseason play Tuesday and suspended veteran coach Larry Brown for nine games after concluding that he lied to its investigators and simply turned his back on a case of academic fraud involving one of his players.
In a scathing report, the NCAA noted that Brown, the former Detroit Pistons coach who previously coached at Kansas and UCLA, made “choices against his better judgment when it came to compliance issues” at SMU.
“These choices included not reporting possible violations in his program, initially lying to the enforcement staff during the investigation and providing no specific guidance to his staff on rules compliance,” the NCAA said in punishing SMU for its nation-leading 10th major infractions case.
The school said it was studying the report and would decide within the next two weeks whether to appeal.
“Our compliance program is among the best in the nation, but we acknowledge that even the strongest compliance programs can fall short when individuals act in an unethical manner,” SMU President Gerald Turner said in a statement issued before a news conference.
The basketball team will lose nine scholarships over the next three seasons and could have some if not all of its 2013-14 season vacated, a season in which it went 27-10 and lost in the NIT championship game. The 75-year-old Brown, the only coach to win both NCAA and NBA titles, is also subject to a show-cause order over the next two years.
“I am saddened and disappointed that the Committee on Infractions believes that I did not fully fulfill my duties and I will consider my options to challenge that assertion in the coming days,” said Brown, who is 69-34 in three seasons at SMU. “Still, there was a violation in our program and I take responsibility for that and offer my sincere apologies to the university community.”
The NCAA said Brown acknowledged “his failed judgment” during a hearing on the case.
“But I realize, you know, in hindsight that was a terrible mistake on my part,” Brown said, according to the NCAA report. “I wish I could have changed all that. But we had that interview with the NCAA, I don’t know why I lied. You know, dealing with people that I really care about, and I used terrible judgment, and I tried to acknowledge that as quickly as I could, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference. I realize that.”
SMU is still the only school ever given the NCAA’s so-called death penalty in football for multiple violations and the program was shut down for two seasons, 1987 and 1988. The latest case included violations in the compliance office, men’s golf and the revived Mustangs basketball program run by Brown.
Brown led Kansas to the 1988 national championship with Danny Manning leading the way before returning to the NBA as San Antonio’s coach. But the Jayhawks were banned from postseason play the next season and placed on probation for recruiting violations during Brown’s tenure. UCLA was 42-17 in Brown’s two seasons, but the Bruins’ runner-up finish in the 1980 NCAA Tournament was later vacated by the NCAA after two players were determined to be ineligible.
Brown coached the NBA's Pistons from 2003-05, leading them to the 2004 NBA title.
Michael Adams, the Pepperdine chancellor who was the chief hearing officer, said SMU’s past transgressions were taken into account this time. He said Brown’s past, and leaving Kansas and UCLA before sanctions hit those programs, were not factors.
“The committee’s responsibility is to look at this institution and to look at what may or may not have been done improperly in this case,” Adams said. “I don’t remember any online or offline discussion about any previous activities of the basketball coach, and it probably would be improper for us to have done so.”
The infractions were revealed more than eight months after the school acknowledged an NCAA investigation and six months after the Mustangs went to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1993.
SMU’s acknowledgement of an investigation in January came after an appeal of an academic suspension that sidelined sophomore guard Keith Frazier the rest of the season. That was also days after assistant coach Ulric Maligi, who recruited Frazier out of Kimball High in Dallas, took an indefinite leave of absence for personal reasons. Maligi is no longer on staff.
While no names were revealed in its report, the NCAA said a former assistant men’s basketball coach encouraged an athlete to enroll in an online course to meet NCAA initial eligibility standards and be admitted to the university. The NCAA also said a former men’s basketball administrative assistant hired by Brown then completed the coursework; she then provided false information to NCAA investigators and also attempted to influence the player to also provide false information.
According to the report, Brown learned of the misconduct in 2014 and didn’t report it to anyone for more than a month.
When asked by the NCAA enforcement staff about the potential violations, he initially denied having any information about conversations with the former administrative assistant and player. He later explained why.
“Now, this might sound so silly, when all these allegations are read, and when (enforcement staff) was basically taking the position I didn’t do the right thing, I can’t argue with that,” Brown said, according to the NCAA. “There is no excuse for not going to (the athletic director) when (the student-athlete) told me he didn’t do this online the course. That’s all he said to me. There is no excuse for that, there is no excuse to go before the committee and not tell the truth when a question is directed at you. I have no excuse for that. I did not do that promptly.”
There were also scholarship and recruiting reductions issued for the men’s golf team. Among the infractions cited by the NCAA were that between Dec. 6, 2012, and Oct. 23, 2013, the former head golf coach and an assistant coach engaged in 64 impermissible recruiting contacts with 10 men’s golf prospects and seven parents.