Ellis Unhappy As Team Receives Letter From NCAA

Auburn has received an official letter of inquiry concerning an investigation into men's basketball recruiting.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn University announced on Wednesday that it has received an official letter of inquiry charging major rules violations from the NCAA in its investigation into recruiting by the men's basketball program.

Last year Auburn coach Cliff Ellis said his program could withstand the scrutiny of the NCAA probe and he repeated that assertion after getting the news of the official letter of inquiry.

Auburn athletic director David Housel originally said that he hoped the case would be resolved by last December, but it has not moved quickly. Housel and Auburn president Dr. William Walker flew to the NCAA headquarters on June 30th for an update on the case.

Auburn began the investigation on its own when an AAU basketball coach accused another AAU coach of being a recruiting interest of AU. While Auburn investigated the allegations, it held forward Brandon Robinson out 12 games before reinstating him to the team. He had played in 20 games for the Tigers, who posted a 22-12 record and reached the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.

Auburn's announcement reads, "Auburn University attorneys have received a letter and notice of allegations from the National Collegiate Athletics Association regarding the men's basketball program. The notice contains allegations of major rules violations concerning one former and one current assistant coach. Auburn has been cooperating fully with the NCAA and has assisted in the investigation of these matters over the past year." Current assistant coach Shannon Weaver and former assistant Mike Wilson are the subjects of the probe.

"The notice contains statements referring to possible major rules violations related to alleged offers and provision of improper inducements to prospective student athletes," AU's statement reads. "The notice of allegations deals with only those issues covered during the joint investigation by Auburn and the NCAA and does not contain any new allegations. There is no allegation of lack of institutional control or failure to monitor. Auburn's response to the notice is due to the NCAA on November 5, 2003, but the University may request more time if necessary."

AU's announcement also reads, "Consistent with NCAA and University policy, Auburn will not discuss the specifics of the investigation. Auburn's attorneys will not be releasing the letter or the notice of allegations at this time."

After Ellis strongly denied the charges last year, the coach was then told by AU officials he couldn't comment on the matter. However, on Wednesday the veteran coach did comment and said, "Given our program's efforts to comply with the NCAA rules at all times, I am obviously very disappointed. Our program has cooperated fully with this very thorough investigation and I have the utmost faith and confidence in our coaches, both present and former.

"We will respond in the appropriate forum in the future and we hope to have a favorable resolution of this matter as quickly as possible," Ellis added. "I am very excited about the upcoming season and continuing to build upon the momentum established during our last five seasons, which include three NCAA tournament appearances, two Sweet 16 appearances and an SEC Championship."

Auburn athletic director David Housel said on Wednesday said that he couldn't comment on the matter, which is being handled through the office of AU president William Walker.

The charges of illegal recruiting inducements are believed to concern two basketball players--Jackie Butler of McComb, Miss.,, who signed with Mississippi State, and Chadd Moore, who is at the University of Cincinnati.

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