NCAA drops the hammer on Arizona State

The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions penalized Arizona State’s baseball program for major and secondary violations Wednesday. The Sun Devils, in addition to their self-imposed penalties, received three years probation and a one-year ban from the NCAA postseason, effective 2011, for infractions committed over a five-year period.

Other penalties, some self-imposed, include scholarship reductions, vacating 44 of 49 wins – including College World Series games – in 2007, recruiting restrictions and limitations on coaching activities during practice.

“The violations were the result of poor record-keeping, failure to monitor and a cavalier attitude on the part of the former head baseball coach to NCAA regulations,” the committee noted in its report.

Arizona State is in a world of hurt after the NCAA handed down its penalties as a repeat offender.
(US Presswire)

The Sun Devils will be on probation from Dec. 15, 2010, through Dec. 14, 2013. The postseason ban comes at time when the Sun Devils are coming off their 22nd trip to the CWS and likely would have been in the mix to return next season.

The fact ASU was a repeat offender with a nation-leading nine infractions was the tipping point for the committee and essentially decided their fate for a postseason ban.

“There was another violation during the five-year period back in 2005, and that just tells us Arizona State was a repeat offender no matter the changes it has made,” Paul Dee, chairman of the Infractions Committee said. “You have to look at everything in this situation. Particularly, they probably shouldn’t have participated in the 2007 postseason, but did. I think this is an appropriate penalty when an institution has a control problem like this.

“There were plenty of good reasons to impose that penalty on Arizona State.”

Arizona State Vice President of Affairs Virgil Renzulli didn’t agree with the NCAA’s reasoning for the postseason ban. He also discussed the institution’s willingness to appeal some of the committee’s findings and penalties.

“We have nine NCAA infractions in all, but these are infractions that go all the way back to 1954,” he said. “It’s my take that a postseason ban was a little harsh and I would say we as an institution are highly disappointed [in that penalty]. I couldn’t put a percentage on a potential appeal, but we want to sit down and really look at this situation. We’ll put all of our options on the table.”

It’s expected the Sun Devils will appeal the decision. However, an inability to get the ruling overturned could have severe consequences. Rule 14.8.2, which applies only to seniors at Arizona State, states the recommendation of the Committee on Infractions is to waive the transfer rule, meaning a player who transfers would not have to sit out a year. Should ASU lose the appeal, seniors could transfer and be immediately eligible elsewhere.

While Arizona State was hit hard, former coach Pat Murphy, who was in charge of the program during the five-year stretch the infractions took place, strangely only got a slap on the wrist. However, he already has served some punishment after being removed from the ASU program in November of last year and missing a season of coaching.

Murphy was issued a one-year show-cause penalty that would force him to go through some hoops should he get hired by another member institution. Murphy will be bound by the show-cause through Dec. 15, 2011, and any institution employing him must prohibit him from participating in any telephone calls with prospective student-athletes. Murphy also will be required to attend an NCAA regional rules seminar at his own expense, and must provide, within a month of attendance, a list of sessions attended and a certification of attendance. Lastly, any institution employing Murphy during the one-year period must contact the office of Committee on Infractions to review the penalties, and will be required to document Murphy’s actions to see he’s abiding by the rules.

“The NCAA report confirms what I stated the first day of the investigation, that I have never intentionally or knowingly violated NCAA rules,” Pat Murphy said in a statement. “My penalty of one year recruiting call restrictions indicates the NCAA realized I was not the crux of the problem. However, I do accept responsibility for not being well versed on some rules or interpretations. Somehow, I am grateful for having to endure this and certain it taught me valuable lessons.”

Though hiring Murphy after this investigation is a risk, it could be a risk worth taking for an program wanting to win. Murphy spent 15 seasons at Arizona State and led the team to four College World Series appearances and a record of 629-284-1. Murphy also had led the program to three straight Pac-10 championships before getting let go and won Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors in each of those seasons. The college coaching veteran is slated to manage the minor league Eugene, Ore., Emeralds of the San Diego Padres organization in 2011.

Murphy and the Sun Devils have a laundry list of wrongdoings in the committee report.

Violations include poor record keeping by the baseball program and compliance office, making more than the permissible one phone call a week to prospective student athletes, including 25 that were to recruits before they were juniors. The violations also include the improper recruitment of a player, the improper use of student managers during practices, improper benefits given to players for work not done totaling $5,889.34 and impermissibly using a privately owned athletics training facility located on the ASU campus and not paying for those services, valued at approximately $60,000.

The Committee on Infractions also pointed out Murphy asked some student athletes to surrender some or all of their scholarships to make room for other student athletes. Interestingly, the charges of unethical conduct against Murphy and other members of his staff were dropped by the NCAA.

The committee commended current Arizona State coach Tim Esmay for abandoning the practice of decreasing players’ scholarships. The committee also is requiring Arizona State to abandon the practice on a permanent basis.

Arizona State has until the end of the month to appeal the NCAA’s penalties, including the postseason ban. For now, though, one of the nation’s most historic programs is on the verge of missing the postseason for the first time since 1999.

Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Yahoo! Sports and Rivals.com. Follow him on Twitter and follow Yahoo! Sports College Baseball on Facebook. Send Kendall a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Wednesday, Dec 15, 2010