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Saint Mary’s Hit With Extensive and Creative NCAA Penalties

Saint Mary’s was sanctioned by the NCAA today for a host of major violations. The violations centered around the recruitment of an international prospect in 2009 as well as training activities involving outside consultants in the summers of 2009–2010. On top of the underlying violations, a former assistant coach was charged with unethical conduct, head coach Randy Bennett was charged with failure to monitor and failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance, and Saint Mary’s was charged with failure to monitor.

The interesting part of the case is not the violations but the penalties. Many of the penalties are fairly standard stuff, like four years of probation, scholarship reductions, and recruiting restrictions. Saint Mary’s self-imposed some typical penalties for the training violations. And Bennett’s suspension is not surprising given the push for the use of coaching suspensions.

But three penalties are odd, if not unprecedented, in a major infractions case:

  • Saint Mary’s is prohibited from going on a foreign tour until the 2017–18 academic year.
  • Saint Mary’s is prohibited from participating in a qualifying multi-team event in the 2013–14, 2014–15, and 2015–16 academic years.
  • Saint Mary’s is prohibited from engaging in skill instruction with the men’s basketball team during the 2013–14 and 2014–15 academic years.

The foreign tour ban needs no explanation. Basketball teams are allowed to pick one of two limits on their season: 27 games and a qualifying multi-team event, or 29 games and no such event. QMTEs are early season tournaments like Maui or the NIT Season Tip-Off. Because schools normally get four games in those tournaments, Saint Mary’s effectively loses two games for the next two years.

During the offseason parts of the academic year, teams are allowed to engage in two hours each week of skill instruction, part of their eight hours per week of offseason workouts. Between September 15 and April 15, these workouts can be with the full team (otherwise it is four athletes at a time). Saint Mary’s is prohibited from engaging in this type of skill instruction for two years. That means coaches will only be able to workout players during the season and possibly during the summer practice period for men’s basketball (the report is unclear about summer).

Those penalties are creative ways to punish a school for excessive practice and the use of outside consultants. A two-year ban on skill instruction is a harsh penalty too, especially on top of the practice reductions the school had already self-imposed. Also interesting is that there appears to be no attempt to tally up the workouts and impose a two-for-one penalty over the next year or two, like in the Michigan case.

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