Ignorance is no longer bliss in NCAA world.
The DePaul University men’s basketball program is in trouble for violating NCAA recruiting rules. But their fans can rest easy because the penalties the organization imposed amount to a slap on the wrist.
The university was placed on probation for three years. But there is no loss of scholarships, no post-season ban, nothing involving crippling penalties. So if the school keeps its nose clean — a standard that shouldn’t be a problem — for the foreseeable future, it’s home free.
There was one other minor sanction. Head coach Dave Leitao, who was not implicated in the actual misconduct, was suspended for three games.
The suspension may be embarrassing to Leitao and the university, but it’s not particularly harsh. It is, however, symbolic in the sense of the message the NCAA is sending to head coaches.
Just because they aren’t directly implicated in wrongdoing, it doesn’t mean they won’t be held responsible for the misconduct that occurs under their noses.
“The head coach did not promote an atmosphere of compliance because three men’s basketball staff members knew about the (recruiting violation) but did not report the violation or question whether it was allowable,” the NCAA’s ruling states.
The NCAA identified the recruit in question as 6’10” center Levi Cook of West Virginia. He played one season (2016-17) at DePaul before transferring later in 2017 to Marshall.
The NCAA said that DePaul’s associate head coach arranged for the assistant director of basketball operations to live with Cook and make sure Cook completed coursework required for him to be eligible to play. The NCAA indicated that special attention violated NCAA rules, making Cook ineligible to play.
DePaul described the incident as “isolated,” and it may be. It also described Leitao as a “man of character and integrity” and that also may be.
But he also was — either wilfully or inadvertently — presiding over a program that was operating beyond NCAA rules. In the old days, head coaches could escape sanctions by adopting a see-no-evil approach, but no more.