Recruiting violations cost hoops

By By Patrick McHugh, News Staff

An NCAA investigation found that the men’s basketball team committed major violations in the recruitment of a former player in 2003 and 2004, the NCAA announced April 24, causing it to limit the team’s scholarships and recruiting and place the Athletic Department on probation for the next two years.
The Public Infractions Report No. 301, which was released by the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, outlines the penalties, which include public censure and reprimand as well as probation through April 23, 2011. In addition, the men’s basketball team was allowed only 12 scholarships rather than 13 last season, and was allowed a maximum of nine official visits for recruits during the 2008-09 academic year instead of the normal maximum of 12.
According to the report, booster David Caputo helped then-coach Ron Everhart in the recruiting of a prospective international athlete for the men’s basketball team during the summer of 2003. The report shows that during that time, Everhart and Caputo spoke via telephone several times about possibly recruiting Benson Egemonye to Northeastern to play basketball. For the next year, Caputo and Egemonye, who was playing for the Nigerian national junior team at the time, exchanged e-mail and telephone messages regarding his recruitment to play in the United States, specifically at Northeastern, according to the report.
On July 8, 2004, Tricia Turley, who was associate director of athletics at the time, became aware of Caputo’s involvement in Egemonye’s recruitment when she received academic information from Caputo regarding Egemonye, according to the report. The academic reports were in preparation for an official paid visit for Egemonye to campus in the future.
According to the report,’ Caputo purchased an airplane ticket on December 14, 2004 for Egemonye to travel to Boston to enroll at Northeastern. On December 27, Egemonye arrived in Boston and was put up in a hotel, which was paid for by Caputo. The next day, Caputo escorted Egemonye to campus to officially enroll him in the university. According to the report, no one from Northeastern was aware at the time that Caputo had paid for Egemonye’s airfare and hotel room, although both bills were ultimately paid for by the university.
Under NCAA legislation, once Caputo assisted Northeastern in the recruitment of Egemonye, Caputo became a representative of the university’s athletic interests. Under this status, Caputo’s involvement in recruiting violated NCAA rules.
Everhart declined to comment to The News. Caputo, Egemonye and Turley could not be reached for comment.
While Caputo’s involvement in recruiting Egemonye violated NCAA rules, it was the university’s failure to monitor the situation that resulted in the sanctions. Everhart told the NCAA that he was unaware that Caputo’s involvement was a violation of NCAA rules, something the NCAA expects all coaches to recognize. Similarly, Turley’s refusal to investigate Caputo and Egemonye’s relationship in connection with recruitment to the university is cited by the Committee on Infractions as a violation as well.
The NCAA first became aware of the recruiting violations wh Egemonye became ineligible in connection with another incident, according to the report. The report details Egemonye’s use of a calling card that was only intended for use by administrative officials and Everhart. From July 2005 to December of 2005, Egemonye used the calling card and totaled a bill of $201.36 while he called his family in Nigeria. According to the report, no one from Northeastern authorized Egemonye’s usage of the calling card. However, no one prevented him from access to the card, which the NCAA cites as negligence on the part of the university.
On December 8, 2005, Northeastern ruled Egemonye ineligible for competition due to his illegal usage of the calling card and submitted a report to the NCAA about the incident. By January 2006, Egemonye transferred to Niagara University in Lewiston, N.Y. and finished his playing eligibility in 2009. On March 29, 2006, Everhart left Northeastern to take the head coaching position at Duquesne University, a position he still holds today. Turley left Northeastern in December 2005 to take a similar position at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She currently serves as Ohio University’s Associate Athletic Director for Compliance and Student Services.
On September 20, 2006, Caputo contacted the NCAA about possible violations in connection with Egemonye’s recruitment to Northeastern. This was the NCAA’s first knowledge of any wrongdoing in Egemonye’s recruitment process, according to the report. The NCAA contacted the university in 2007 and requested that the school and Everhart participate in a summary disposition process. The NCAA for the next two years reviewed facts from the case and Northeastern’s disposition report and on April 24 released Infractions Report No. 301, which summarizes the violations and punishment in connection.
Athletic Director Peter Roby said although none of the individuals associated with the incident are still at Northeastern, the university deserves to take responsibility for the matter.
‘It’s appropriate for the responsibility to lie with the institution because it’s the institution that’s a member of the association,’ Roby said.
During the probation period the university must implement an educational program to familiarize athletic administrators, faculty, and coaches on NCAA regulations. The university must also periodically report its progress during the probation period by submitting letters and records to the Committee on Infractions, outlining the steps the university has taken to ensure it follows NCAA rules and how it has educated its personnel on these rules. Northeastern must remain in contact with the NCAA throughout the probation period.
Roby said he was part of a legal counsel that met with the NCAA in determining what an appropriate penalty would be. The NCAA allows schools to determine what they believe their reprimand should be based on previous cases with other schools in similar positions. Roby said he spoke about what sanctions might be levied with current head basketball coach Bill Coen, who declined to comment to The News.
‘We didn’t want to do anything or recommend anything without Coach Coen being aware of what we were recommending in fairness to him, despite the fact that he didn’t have anything to do with it,’ Roby said. ‘Once we did that it was just a matter of making those recommendations to the NCAA, which we did, and they were accepted.’
Roby said the program will not take a step back because all penalties are internal and do not affect the quality of performance for the teams.
‘The good news that’s happened with the sanctions is that we don’t lose out on any postseason play and we don’t lose out on any TV exposure,’ Roby said. ‘So with regard to the student athlete experience, nothing changes. It’s more of the administrative stuff that will see a change in terms of how we go about doing our stuff with regard to our vigilance regarding recruiting.’
He also said the school will use the circumstance to improve the department as a whole.
‘It’s an opportunity for all of us to use this as an example,’ Roby said. ‘We re-emphasized the importance of compliance and provided all of our coaches with the necessary resources and information that they need to do their jobs appropriately and stay within the NCAA rules.’

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