COLUMBIA, S.C. – The NCAA has ruled that South Carolina failed to monitor its athletic program and has accepted the school’s proposed sanctions to cut six football scholarships the next three years and slash its official recruiting visits by more than half.
There were no forfeiture of games or bowl ban attached the penalties which stemmed from athletes receiving $59,000 in impermissible benefits. The NCAA said South Carolina’s cooperation went ”beyond standard expectations.”
The school will also pay a fine of $18,500.
”The university regrets the past actions and decisions by individuals that resulted in violations of NCAA legislation,” South Carolina athletics director Eric Hyman said in a statement released after the NCAA ruling. ”We are pleased, however, that the Committee on Infractions found the corrective actions we have taken and the penalties we have self-imposed reflect the University’s commitment to full compliance with NCAA rules.”
The case involved athletes staying at a local hotel near campus at a reduced rate and its connection to a mentoring group based in Delaware.
The school will reduce football scholarships by three in each of the next two years. The football program will reduce official visits from 56 to 30 in 2012-2013.
South Carolina President Harris Pastides said the university appreciated the NCAA’s ”thoughtful consideration of our case.”
”While it is most unfortunate that we stumbled, we have certainly had a teachable moment from this experience which will strengthen our resolve to ensure that our athletics and our university operate in full compliance with NCAA legislation,” Pastides said.
The NCAA found the Whitney Hotel charged a rate of $14.95 per athlete for two-bedroom suites. The NCAA said the rate should’ve been more than $57 per night for each athlete. One football player who spent more than year at the hotel, the NCAA said, received an extra benefit worth $19,280.
Former South Carolina compliance director Jennifer Stiles had said the hotel rate was comparable to other available off-campus housing. The NCAA called her assessment ”flawed” in correspondence from 2010 and said the school should have compared the rate to the price for others who stayed at the Whitney long term.
”Had this good faith error in judgment not occurred, the university believes the violations in allegation one would have been minimized,” South Carolina said in its NCAA response.
The NCAA also alleged that South Carolina received $8,000 in improper benefits from the Student Athlete Mentoring Foundation.
SAMF president Steve Gordon and treasurer Kevin Lahn were found to have paid for several unofficial visits by Gamecocks freshman receiver Damiere Byrd. Both Gordon and Lahn are South Carolina graduates.
Byrd was suspended for South Carolina’s first four games and had to pay back $2,700.
Lahn also paid for a $3,350 dinner cruise on nearby Lake Murray for several prospects that was also attended by track coach Curtis Frye and 16 members of his program.
South Carolina said it would pay a fine of $18,500 for four athletes who competed in 2009 and 2010 while ineligible because of these violations.
The university has disassociated itself from three boosters; Gordon Lahn, and Whitney general manager Jamie Blevins.
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