Arkansas Accepts Penalties

The NCAA released its verdict on a three-year investigation of UA athletics Thursday. The Hogs will lose two scholarships next season, but the committee didn't ban them from bowls or TV appearances, and it did not cite lack of institutional control. UA officials met with the media to discuss the "good news."

Arkansas chancellor John White said it didn't take long to decide not to appeal the decision announced Thursday by the NCAA Committee on Infractions. The Hogs will accept the added penalties of two more scholarships in the next recruiting class and move on.

"That's the bottom line, we do not intend to appeal," White said at a media briefing after the UA heard the NCAA's verdict earlier in the day.

White noted that speculation and even a published report were far off target on what the committee actually considered. Earlier in the day, Thomas Yeager, the chair of the NCAA's committee, said that at no time did his group consider that Arkansas' punishment should include either post-season bowl bans or TV bans.

"Speculation ran wild over the past three years," White said. "One published report even stated that we would receive the death penalty. The chairman said early on that this was not a post-season prohibition case."

Frank Broyles, UA athletic director, never thought it was a case that warranted a bowl ban, with one clear disclaimer ... if the committee based Arkansas' penalties on what they had given out in past cases.

"I based my ability to sleep at night on the fact that bowl bans and other restrictions like TV were given 100 percent of the time to schools that had coaches and employees involved," Broyles said. "I knew that I could say that no one here was involved in these violations.

"This is a situation that you hoped that the past controled the future, and that was proven to be an accurate measurement. That's what we told ourselves and we were right."

The one thing that could have caused concern would be a "guilt by association" penalty. In other words, there were concerns that the committee might want to send a message that it wanted to clean out the cheaters in the SEC. White said they tried to address that with the committee in the introduction portion of their meeting in Charlotte, N.C., on Jan. 18.

"There were concerns on our part that there would be guilt by association," White said. "We addressed that early on at Charlotte. We were clear to differentiate between our violations and others (in the SEC). We knew that there would be concerns with what has happened in the SEC. We wanted them to look at the specifics of this case, and others that were similar to it, and to those that were not similar. We think they did that.

"One thing that really helped us is that at the end of that meeting, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive asked to address the committee. He made a very strong statement on our behalf. I will never forget it. I can't tell you exactly what he said, but he spoke in clear terms about how the University of Arkansas had done things in this investigation in the right manner and is a model for the rest of the nation."

The UA maintained that they did not accept all of the findings by the committee on infractions, including an area that most at the UA still feel strongly on as far as athletes working for no pay.

"We think they did work, and they even admitted that there was never an instance found where an athlete did no work for pay," White said. "But, that is behind us now. I will not argue that any more.

"I will say that you can argue in sports until the umpire rules, but once he says it is a ball or strike, you move on. There is no sense in arguing when you might be thrown from the game. You accept their ruling."

One source within the university close to the investigation indicated that there was never an instance of the athletes saying they felt they were over paid. In fact, in consistent fashion, they said they felt the pay matched the work or insisted in some cases because of the difficulty of the work or the conditions (extreme heat) that they were under paid.

The UA's interviews determined in every case that athletes did the work and also "felt they were paid fairly" based on the kind of work done (heavy labor) and in the kind of conditions that the work was done. The athletes also were able to describe the work place and give exact times of when they worked and describe the conditions.

That is the major area that the UA and NCAA investigators differed. The UA found cases where other UA students that were non athletes were paid high wages for summer work based on heavy labor for private firms.

The NCAA committee found that athletes were paid for not working based on the fact that if "you are paid $40 an hour for work that should be at $10 an hour, that you got $30 for not working." The UA argued against that premise.

The person most relieved on Thursday was football coach Houston Nutt.

"This is a great day," Nutt said. "The cloud has been lifted. I can operate with this. We'll have this on our internet site in a hurry and it will say no bowl ban. No TV ban. That's what I needed to know. I can go in homes and get my job done. The scholarship reductions ... we've been working with this fine. We'll be okay there.

"I'm just so excited that we didn't have a bowl ban. I never thought we deserved that, but the speculation and the anxious moments were killing me. It was just so tough. I'm happy with this. I've had days when I thought it could be worse because you just had nothing to go on. I heard the chairman of the committee say that this was never a case that was going to be a bowl ban. I wished he had called me and told me that. I could have done some good with that news.

"We lost a couple of two-year players this year that were committed until someone told them we were going to get a bowl ban and no TV games. That cost us those two and probably many, many others. I wish I could have had them talk to the chairman and he could have said this wasn't a bowl ban case."

Broyles said he believes that as many as 15 players were lost in the last signing class due to the negative recruiting.

"We had that many tell us that was the reason they didn't come here, that many that felt we were going to lose the ability to play in a bowl or on TV," Broyles said. "That's why we tried to get this over in quick fashion by self imposing so much .... we wanted it over.

"I talked to (another athletic director) just this week about an investigation. He told me that they had decided to accept every allegation leveled at his school even though several were not true just to get the case behind them. Anything you can do to get it behind you is worth it. Take your penalty and move on. I can tell you it's the thing to do."

White said he found out about the verdict at noon Wednesday when the school received a certified letter. He said he notified the legal defense team immediately, then the SEC commissioner and later the athletic department. He said Broyles was notified about a little later in the afternoon.

"I'll tell you what Frank said .... halleluia," White said, mocking Broyles' famous Georgia drawl.

Broyles was then allowed to notify both Nutt and basketball coach Stan Heath.

Nutt was at the UA's noon media briefing at Bud Walton Arena. Heath did not attend because of a luncheon elsewere in Northwest Arkansas. However, the hoops coach did leave a statement that said he was "happy" and "pleased" with the decision. He laughed a bit as he passed reporters in the parking lot as he headed to the luncheon, stating, "This is fine with me." Basketball was given no additional sanctions.

Members of the UA defense team accepted the committee chairman's response to why the investigation dragged for three years.

"I'll agree with them that between the time that we self reported and in October when we delivered the final summary, there were many times that some of the individuals (from the Harrod trucking company) declined to interview with investigators because of pending litigation.

"There were actually two cases pending in Texas, and one more possible case," said Scott Varady, a member of the UA legal team. "We tried to get them to meet with them, and they declined several times. That made it very tough. I understood the reasons for the delays. If you can't get those people to talk to you, then you have a hard time moving forward, and I also understood why the (Harrods) were reluctant to talk with the ongoing litigation. Many people did decline when investigators called on them."

White addressed the matter of trainer Dean Weber accepting gifts from Ted Harrod while he was being asked to pay fines in a disciplinary matter over a federal drug case over narcotics being handed out in the training room.

"Dean is a class act, and the only thing that went wrong there is that he didn't report it on NCAA income forms," White said. "That's what it came down to ... that he didn't report it. They brought it up that he was the one who could provide access to the sidelines and the locker room, but Dean never really was involved there.

"In the end, if Dean had listed it on the outside income form provided by the NCAA, this wouldn't have been a problem. Someone has suggested that it was a case of buying access, but I don't think that was the case. (Harrod) had access and the trainer did not have anything to do with it."

As one of the UA's self-imposed sanctions accepted by the NCAA and now part of its ruling, the UA has "disassociated (Harrod) his businesses, and members of his family effective May 12, 2000 until at least May 12, 2007, from any involvement with the athletics department, including a ban on employment of any of the university's student-athletes."

White was asked if that meant White could become a UA booster again after May 12, 2007.

"I don't see any reason why he couldn't," White said. "That's when the ban ends. Unless something happens between now and then, he could. I'd allow that. That's the length of the ban."

Interestingly, White said that there was a difference of opinions within the UA camp as to what to expect from the committee as far as additional sanctions.

"Each of us had a different set of expectations," White said. "On balance, it was clear that what we self-imposed were useful, fair and important in the view of the committee."

As far as White's view on why it took over three years for a verdict to arrive from the NCAA, he said, "A lot of things contributed and I don't want to point blame. What I will say is that we know enough that we don't ever want to have the opportunity again to hope for things to speed up. This should be a lesson that you don't want to be involved in anything like this."

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