The Collegian
Saturday, July 04, 2020

Athletics: Basketball staff recruited illegally, NCAA investigation complete

The University of Richmond and the NCAA have concluded separate investigations into hundreds of text messages that basketball coaches knowingly sent while recruiting prospective student-athletes, a violation of NCAA rules.

The announcement from athletics director Jim Miller -- posted Monday on the Spiders' Web site -- included information about the university's investigation and its sanctions against coaches and the programs, as well as a timeline of the violations.

"The coaches were aware of the rule," Miller said. "They've acknowledged that."

Carlin Hartman, a former men's basketball coach, and Chris Carroll, a former women's basketball coach, have resigned during the past year. Miller declined to confirm whether their resignations were related to the NCAA investigation, but he stressed that the coaches had not been fired.

The NCAA is expected to deliver its final decision about the violations during the next 30 days, but President Edward Ayers wrote in an e-mail to faculty, staff and students that the investigation may not be closed until the spring.

"Our athletics department has worked cooperatively with the NCAA and with appropriate university officials to conduct a thorough investigation," Ayers wrote in the e-mail.

If the NCAA decides that a major violation has been committed, Richmond will likely be sanctioned to a two-year probationary period, meaning coaches would have to file reports to the NCAA -- a sanction Miller said should not have an effect on basketball players.

The NCAA does not usually get involved with personnel matters, Miller said, an indication that further coaching changes are unlikely.

"They've been under sanctions for a bit now," said Bob Black, assistant director of athletics and communications and a broadcaster of Richmond games for 25 years. "They still seem to be moving forward" with recruiting.

In response to the violations, Ayers and Miller have reduced the number of days coaches are allowed to recruit off-campus, the number of official visits the team is permitted for recruits and the number of phone calls coaches can make to recruits -- all for the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons.

"They're real penalties, but they won't keep [the coaches] from being able to recruit like they need to recruit," Miller said. "We did research on similar cases. We were at least as tough if not tougher [than the other schools] and fully expect the NCAA to accept our sanctions."

Women's basketball coaches had more than 90 text message conversations -- totaling more than 300 text messages -- with student-athletes who had committed to play at Richmond.

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About 80 percent of those messages came from one assistant women's basketball coach. Miller said Michael Shafer, the head women's basketball coach, had sent about 10 text messages, and Chris Mooney, the men's basketball coach, had not sent any. Other assistant coaches sent the rest of the text messages.

The NCAA banned text messaging between college coaches and recruits in August 2007, but members of the men's and women's basketball coaching staffs continued to use text messages to contact recruits.

Daniel McCarthy, the university's assistant athletic director of compliance, first discovered the men's basketball coaches' text messages in November 2007 and reported the incident to the Atlantic 10 conference and the NCAA. Athletics department officials delivered a formal self-report to the NCAA in December 2007 and the NCAA classified the incident as a major violation.

In January 2008, NCAA enforcement employees requested that coaches for all sports at the university submit records of their text messages. In March, McCarthy found additional text message violations committed by women's basketball coaches.

The university submitted a report about the women's basketball violations to the NCAA in April, and in July, NCAA employees asked the university for phone records of men's basketball staff members, from which they discovered that the staff had likely exceeded the maximum number of calls allowed to recruits.

NCAA rules allow coaches to call a prospective player twice a week. But during a four-month period, between 50 and 90 phone calls beyond the limit were made from men's basketball coaches to prospective student-athletes.

The exact number of improper calls was not immediately clear, primarily because about 70 percent of them lasted two minutes or less, and there is debate about whether the short conversations constitute official correspondence.

Miller said the NCAA had previously assumed phone calls lasting less than two minutes were not conversations, a rule put in place for coaches who leave phone messages but don't speak directly to recruits. The university is now being required to show that coaches didn't talk to recruits during those brief calls, a task Miller said would be difficult.

An assistant men's basketball coach made about 75 percent of the calls for the men's program. Miller estimated Mooney had made about 10 improper phone calls, many of which were less than two minutes.

Miller said that if coaches were not keeping accurate records of the recruits they contacted, it would have been easy to make an improper call. Coaches can just as easily call recruits more times than allowed if they don't inform one another that they've called an athlete.

The athletics department will continue to update students, faculty and staff as developments in the case unfold, but Miller said the only guaranteed step left in the process was for the NCAA to deliver its notice of allegations.

"There is a time frame that we can then respond [to the notice of allegations]," Black said.

If university athletic officials choose to contest the NCAA's sanction recommendations, the case would be heard in front of the NCAA's infractions committee in April. If officials accept the decision, the university could enter the NCAA's summary disposition process -- a way to "process major violations when the institution, enforcement staff and involved individuals are in agreement about the findings," according to the NCAA's Web site.

That process would save the time and money athletic officials would have to spend on their in-person hearing in front of the NCAA infractions committee.

Ayers stressed in his e-mail that no student-athletes had violated NCAA regulations. The information on the athletics Web site noted that the prospective student-athletes who received these text messages and phone calls would not lose any eligibility because of the violations.

Athletics officials also said the staff members responsible for the majority of the improper text messages and telephone calls were no longer employees of the university.

Richmond's only other major NCAA violation occurred in the 1960s and involved financial aid, McCarthy said. The university and other schools usually self-report four to eight secondary violations to the NCAA a year -- typical of most athletics programs, McCarthy said. These infractions don't offer a competitive advantage and are not done intentionally, he said.

This story updates a previous version of the story with comment from Director of Athletics Jim Miller.

Contact staff writer Barrett Neale at barrett.neale@richmond.edu

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