Auburn is contesting the charges other than to admit minor secondary violations. Assistant coach Shannon Weaver and former assistant coach Mike Wilson are charged with violations following a nearly two-year investigation into recruiting practices by the Tigers.
Auburn head coach Cliff Ellis has strongly denied wrongdoing in the case and university officials are expected to mount a strong defense before the NCAA Committee on Infractions. Ellis was not mentioned in the letter of inquiry.
AU is accused of offering illegal inducements to recruit current University of Cincinnati Bearcats guard Chadd Moore from Huntsville and Jacky Butler, a forward from McComb, Miss., who is a University of Tennessee signee. Huntsville AAU coach Mark Komara, who coached Butler and Moore in AAU ball when they were high school players, is accused of being a recruiting interest of the university, something that the university will deny in its response to the NCAA.
Komara has also denied the charges through his attorney and an attorney for Butler has denied that Auburn illegally recruited the former Mississippi prep star. Most of the accusations in the letter of inquiry are based on the assumption that Komara is a recruiting interest of Auburn, even though only one of his AAU players (Brandon Robinson) has attended Auburn and more of his players have gone to Alabama and other SEC and non-conference colleges.
Auburn's written response to the committee is as follows:
"Auburn University submitted its response to the Notice of Allegations from the NCAA regarding its men's basketball program. The University has worked closely with the NCAA Enforcement Staff for more than 21 months to investigate allegations of wrongdoing in the men's basketball program. The allegations are contained in the Notice of Allegations, which is being released today, and fall into two categories.
"The first category consists of two separate allegations that a member of of the men's basketball staff made an offer of cash and an automobile to a relative or acquaintance of a prospective student athlete in exchange for his commitment to attend the university. The allegations are made against a current member of and a former member of the men's basketball staff, and the alleged offers were made to different prospective student-athletes. Neither prospect attended the University. There is no allegation that cash or automobiles were actually provided to the two prospects. In response to the Notice of Allegations, Auburn denied that the offers of cash and automobile occurred.
"The second category consists of allegations that an individual outside the University provided benefits prohibited by NCAA Bylaws to two prospective student athletes, their relatives or representatives, and was acting as a representative of Auburn athletics interests in so doing. Auburn denied that the individual mentioned in the second category of allegations was acting as a representative of its athletic interests when he allegedly provided impermissible benefits to the prospective student-athletes or their relatives or acquaintances.
"In instances where the University found that comparatively minor mistakes were made during on-campus visits, it has acknowledged those mistakes to the NCAA and will propose appropriate penalties.
"Consistent with NCAA and University policy, no further comment will be made on the allegations at this time.
"The NCAA Committee on Infractions has scheduled a hearing on the University's case for Friday, February 13th, 2004 in Phoenix."
The letter of inquiry alleges that both Butler and Moore were offered automobiles and cash to sign with the Tigers. Among the allegations are charges that six wire transfers of money were made to Butler or a friend of the family in 2001 totaling $3,125.
As an alleged interest of AU, Komara is accused of arranging for Butler to attend an AU home game in March, 2001 in which food, lodging and tickets were provided to the player at no cost. Komara is also accused of paying expenses for Butler to attend AAU tournaments in Alabama, Nevada and North Carolina. AU is accused of having a representative spend $694 to have electronic equipment installed in Butler's vehicle in July 2001.
In recruiting Moore, AU is accused of having a representative (Komara) provide weekly cash supplements for spending money and clothes during the summer of 2001, offering a vehicle if he would sign with the Tigers, illegally providing round-trip transportation and meals to attend an Auburn game and that improper recruiting contacts were made through Komara during non-contact periods starting in the summer of 1999.
Weaver is the assistant head men's basketball coach at Auburn and Wilson is currently a pro basketball scout who left the Auburn program after the 2001-2002 season.
AU sources say that neither Moore or Butler was ever offered a scholarship by the Tigers.