Titans Bobby Brown, Frank Robinson, Scott Cutley and Curtis Battles will be sidelined when the team faces California Maritime Academy on Nov. 10, Hope International on Nov. 14 and Texas-San Antonio on Nov. 22 for their misuse of book vouchers during the spring semester.
Brown, Robinson and Cutley apparently supplied books to three walk-on teammates using book vouchers that were part of their scholarships. Battles and two other walk-ons, Jerard Moret and Damien Massey, who are not on the team this season, received the books purchased with vouchers that were solely to be used on course-related books for the three athletes with scholarships.
"Our players in all honesty had no idea that these were NCAA violations," Titan Head Coach Bob Burton said. "They just thought they were trying to help their teammates out, not realizing that this was wrong."
The suspensions leave the Titans opening their season with just 11 players. Without Brown, Robinson and Battles, senior forward Justin Burns will be the only available player in the first three games who was on the active roster last season.
"I feel like I let my teammates down," Brown said. "They understand what we were doing was for a good cause, but at the same time it's a violation, so we have to sit out three games. We'll be on the sidelines cheering them on."
Julie Bowse, CSUF assistant athletics director and compliance officer, was unable to speak specifically about the case but said that the rule violated was bylaw 126.96.36.199 in the NCAA rulebook.
The bylaw states that "there is no dollar limit for books a student-athlete may receive, provided each book is required for a course in which the student-athlete is enrolled."
The NCAA rules state that eligibility shall not be affected if the total amount is less than $100. A suspension is in order if the noncourse-related required books cost over $100. The student athlete is required to repay the value of the benefit to a charity of his or her choice. In both cases with the suspended athletes, books were less than $100 but exceeded the limit when taxes were added.
"If these two kids have done this in the state of Oregon where there is no sales tax, there would've been no penalty and they wouldn't even be sitting out games," Burton said.
The violation was self-reported by CSUF upon discovery that some of the books purchased with vouchers did not match the classes being taken by the student-athletes with scholarships, Burton said.
"They did match a lot of the walk-ons' classes, so with that they put one and one together," Burton said. "It's just another lesson we've learned and now we have a better check-and-balance system for books at our school."
Burton said that with the three projected starters sitting out the first three games, it's going to give other players an opportunity to start and force the team to help develop its depth.
"From our standpoint it's tough because now we're going to go in three games without three of our top players," Burton said. "It really makes it hard because now we're trying to get two teams ready - one ready for the first three games and another team for when those kids come back."
The four suspended players will be cleared to return to the court when CSUF is on the road to play Louisiana-Lafayette on Nov. 24.