NCAA Infractions Head Press Conference

Here is the complete (and long!) text of the questions and answers from Thursday's media teleconference with NCAA Infractions Committee Chair, Thomas E. Yeager.<br><br> Note: we think you'll find his words are extremely interesting, as they point out how the NCAA thinks as they investigate reports of violations. Some of it is rather (very!) 'mind-boggling'!

Excerpt from Tom Yeager's opening statement:
There was universal agreement with regard to the facts in this case. The only questions for the Committee were the extent, if any, of institutional responsibility and culpability relative to these violations and if any additional sanctions were warranted. In the early- to mid- 1990s, the University of Michigan enjoyed tremendous basketball success. From 1992-1998, the team appeared in four NCAA Division I men's basketball tournaments, including two consecutive Final Four appearances in 1992 and 1993 and won the NIT championship in 1997. As a result, the University garnered significant athletics prestige, recruiting advantages and favorable exposure. The reputation of a head basketball coach was enhanced and the professional career opportunities of star student-athletes were virtually guaranteed. Unfortunately, four of the student-athletes on those teams had violated their amateur standing during their collegiate careers. Three of those four had accepted cash payments of more than $100,000 each and a fourth received cash benefits of more than $70,000. In fact, the reputation of the University, the student-athletes and the coach as a result of the basketball team's accomplishments from 1992-1998 were a sham.

Q: Tom (Yeager), does this involve the Big Ten Tournament as a post-season or is that considered a regularly scheduled end-season event for Michigan?
Yeager: No. The post-season prohibition basically relates to the NCAA or NIT tournament. Conference tournaments are considered part of the regular season. That would be a determination for the Big Ten Conference.

Q: Could you please explain the rule regarding transfers and how a player currently on the roster can transfer without sitting out a season?
Yeager: The NCAA rule provides that if a student-athlete's remaining years of eligibility are affected by a post-season ban that that student could qualify for a waiver of the transfer rule. In this instance, it would relate to this year's senior class of basketball players.

Q: In your opinion, is there any way that a diligent coaching staff could have not known about this situation – the violations that were occurring – and, given that, is there any intent or plan to sanction the coaches that were there at the time?
Yeager: Well, again, there was no evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of the coaching staff during that time period. It goes without saying that they were part of the environment that brought the representative into proximity with the team and the violations that resulted. I really can't speculate about what could have been done. I wasn't there and don't know all of the many nuances that might have been taking place.

Q: Did you feel compelled because of the big name of Michigan and also the other scandals throughout college basketball to "send a message" to other member institutions?
Yeager: No. This penalty has nothing to do with who the institution was at the time. This is one of the most serious cases that has ever come before the committee. This has been the consequence, we believe, was sufficiently mitigated based on the University's cooperation, based on the University's self-imposed penalties and it would have been the same result regardless of what institution was before the committee.

Q: I understand that the University is going to appeal the postseason ban. Can you explain how an appeal would work?
Yeager: They will have a window of opportunity to notify the NCAA president that they would like to appeal the penalty. They then have an opportunity to submit their appeal documents, make their arguments. There is a separate committee who handles appeals. The appeal committee is part of the Committee on Infractions and if they believe they want to appeal, they have that opportunity.

Q: There was a lot of money made through marketing during this time period by the U-M. Was their any consideration given to monetary damage and can you fine them, so to speak?
Yeager: The possibility of a fine is provided within the NCAA enforcement procedures, but the committee did not look at any financial penalty beyond what was already imposed and calculated through the Big Ten distribution. We felt that the penalty speaks for itself and we though that the consideration the University already (made) in its self-imposed sanction went a long way to (showing) their acceptance and responsibility in this case.

Q: When the University came out with their self-imposed sanctions, they said it was because (the case was the result of) extra benefits. With the additional sanctions, are you saying that there was also a recruiting violation as well?
Yeager: There were some elements of recruiting in the case because some of the relationships started before the students enrolled at UM. But in a general characterization, this is viewed as an extra benefits case that the significant portion of the funds that were provided to these students while they were enrolled at the UM.

Q: Because you refer to this as one of the three or four most egregious incidents in history, what sort of a frame of reference did you use when coming to a conclusion on the penalties?
Yeager: We will avoid trying to pull up the specifics of any other case. What are some of the most serious cases? What in general are some of the penalties attached to those? But these cases are all so different. This case is unlike any other. The dollar figure puts it unlike any other. There were so many factors, including the fact that the University (cooperated) in the investigations as early as 1996-1997, cooperation in the FBI investigation and imposing significant penalties were all considerations that came into play. We worked very hard at trying to find what we believe to be the appropriate outcome.

Q: (Given the extent of Ed Martin's involvement with the basketball program) How could the head coach not know what was going on?
Yeager: First off, I think it's important to focus on the fact that the real involvement started in the early 90s and ran from 91-97 when he was disassociated from the University. We're going to go back to the actual evidence developed by the NCAA, the Big Ten and the University. The source of this money was illegally obtained, so there was obviously great effort to conceal anything that would demonstrate the fact that this illegal money was being channeled wherever it went and I think that followed with, in part, the lifestyle of the representative, the coaches and, excuse me, the players as to not call attention to itself.

Q: Is self-reporting by an institution and the fact that Michigan put the self-sanctions on itself, does that sort of ingratiate the University to the committee and do they find favor with an institution that comes forth or would the committee rather lay down (its own) punishments from the beginning?
Yeager: No. We absolutely believe that an institution, when there's no dispute of the facts – and there's no point of contention here – that an institution stepping up as President Coleman has done and acknowledging the violations, accepting the responsibility, and imposing what they believed to be meaningful penalties was absolutely the right thing to do. Universities are all about integrity and pursuit of the truth and accepting responsibility and that was done in this case. The committee cannot support any more strongly the action that was taken by President Coleman. She did the right thing. And this might not be a great message to a lot of folks about another post-season ban at Michigan, but the University should be commended for getting half-way there and I'm proud of the stand that she took.

Q: Ed Martin had a relationship with Louis Bullock that started in college, but the other three started when they were in high school. I just want to know, were they "damaged goods" before they went to college? For example, Chris Webber who reportedly took money in the eighth grade, would he have been damaged goods if he went to Duke or North Carolina or wherever?
Yeager: Well, without getting into the specifics identities of any of the student-athletes, obviously the provision of cash to student-athletes prior to enrollment in college was a violation of amateur standing in the college rules and I'm sure it would be in the (MHSAA) rules also.

Q: What's the NCAA's interpretation of the integrity of other players who have learned from the Michigan case and have skirted the rules with pseudo guardians and AAU reps and the like?
Yeager: I don't know if I fully understand your question. It would be the same scenario. The point that caused an institutional infractions case is that this was a representative of the University's athletic interests. In all this other stuff that goes on that I think we're all aware of around college basketball, if the source of that money would be coming from someone that is a representative of any institution's athletic interest, they'd be in the same scenario here about violations. Often times these are more agent cases where there is not necessarily an institutional attachment. There was an institutional attachment here.

Q: Did you folks find the University guilty of a lack of institutional control in this matter and if you did or didn't, did the fact that the University was already on probation on a major infractions case in the baseball program in which it had been found guilty of a lack of institutional control at all lead you to consider the bylaws on repeat offenders?
Tom: First off, we did not find any violation of lack of institutional control. The baseball case is a pretty old case, but they were not in the classification of repeat violator which relates to a major case. That had long expired by the time this issue came up.

Q: Why the Committee's willingness to go over and above self-imposed sanctions in other areas such as the post-season ban, but declining to go over and above those of monetary damages. Why is the committee reluctant to impose greater monetary damages if it has that power?
Yeager: The monetary damages related to the way income was derived through the NCAA tournament as it was distributed through the Big Ten formula. Basically it is NCAA policy that they don't have to return money that went to other Big Ten conference members. We believe that the financial penalty is appropriate.

Q: Tom, you said this was a two-year case, meaning it deserved a two-year ban. Could you talk about what took it to that level and why two was appropriate as opposed to one or three?
Yeager: You start looking at one, the amount of cash involved in the violation and that it involved a number of student-athletes over an extended period of time. This representative was not operating on the periphery of the Michigan basketball universe - he was at the core of the team. There was a huge competitive advantage that was enjoyed by the University over the time that this occurred. Again, those are all mitigated down. A two-year post-season ban isn't the worst that could happen by any stretch. I think that when the committee evaluated all these factors and gave consideration to the University's mitigation, cooperation, age of the case, self-imposed penalties, we felt it was a two-year case of which one has already been served.

Q: Is it possible that the appeal of the additional one year postseason play ban could happen? Has it happened before?
Yeager: Institutions appeal actions by the committee on infractions all the time. That's another group. We've done our work at this point, if the institution desires to appeal, then that responsibility shifts to another committee in the process and I don't have any position one way or another and won't speculate on it.

Q: What is the timeline for the appeal and what is the name of that committee?
Yeager: There is a 15-day window that the University has to report to Miles Brand who is the president of the NCAA that they intend to appeal. Once that has been acknowledged, then the institution has 30 days to submit their written appeal. The Committee on Infractions then has 30 day window to respond to the appeal documents and set forth rationale for penalty that was imposed. Then there is another 14 day period for the institution to respond to the Committee on Infractions documentation and report. Then there is an appeal to the Infractions Appeals Committee and there would be a hearing scheduled for the case to be heard at a mutually convenient time and then the case would be heard. So even before you look at scheduling a date, there are 90 days in the process of making presentations of the materials before an actual appeal would be scheduled.

Q: Just so we're clear on this, the former coach does not have to show cause at SDSU at all where he is? There is no penalty for him? And you talked about "dissociating" the University from the four players, but what does that specifically mean? Does that mean that they cannot go to a game at Michigan, that they if they're given Michigan tickets on the road, that they're not allowed to give money, appearances? What specifically does that mean?
Yeager: First off, the University has already vacated all the team performances during the years involved. The committee basically extended that to all the individual records as well. In layman's terms, they're "persona non grata" with the University. It's in the report as far as what exactly would apply. They should not accept nor should they provide assistance to the players. That's basically the extent of it.

Q: Why did the committee find it necessary or want to make it clear that Ed Martin was a bona fide Michigan booster? What was the thinking there?
Yeager: The question of him being a booster basically takes this to an institutional infractions case. His actions then had a tie to the University and the University was then repsonsible for his actions.

Q: Tom (Yeager), you've had harsh words in the past in discussing cases involving boosters. I was wondering if the harshness of this penalty an attempt to address that issue?
Yeager: This is one of the most serious cases in NCAA history, period. The NCAA over the years has tried to minimize boosters in the programs as they are often the source of the cash and violations. There are thousands of very honorable boosters, supporters of the Universities that we couldn't exist without, through the good times and the bad. The problem is with the bad boosters that bring the kind of disgrace to the Universities that damage the programs. If there is a consitent message that we try to send out, it's that these guys may think they're helping the programs out, but they are absolutely a cancer on the program.

Q: Michigan officials disclosed after the meeting with the Committee on Infractions on February 14 that the final verdict would come within 5-7 weeks of the meeting. What took so long? Did you hit any bumps in the road along the way?
Yeager: No. We didn't hit any bumps along the way. This is obviously a busy time of year. Other cases being processed. We try to process these cases as quickly as we can. Sometimes our ambitious 6-8 week statement we don't meet. There were no other factors.

Q: You seem to be walking a fine line here with regard to the former coach. In reading the report, it's clear that the booster was at his house, that the booster was found to be very thick in the program, yet you say there was no evidence of wrongdoing by the coach. Are you worried about sending the message that as long as the coach is "blind" to it, he can get away with it?
Yeager: I think that's an age old question that sometimes there are cracks in the theory, but there was no direct evidence that the former coach was involved with the violations, hence there is no penalty.

Q: You're saying then that SDSU does not have to show cause to why Steve Fisher should still be employed or have any other penalty, is that correct, Tom?
Yeager: That is correct.

Q: You talked about self-reporting. A lot of these presidents – say at Georgia or St. Bonaventure – they're under the impression that their self-imposed penalties will alleviate any other post-season ban. Does this send a message that, while it helps, it certainly doesn't eliminate added penalties.
Yeager: Again, their actions in all those cases are to be commended because it takes a great deal – they absorb a great deal of criticism – to get out in front of those cases. Each case will be looked at individually and evaluated individually. If those actions in the committee's view completely treat what should be the outcome in these cases, then the committee will accept those actions. If they're a little bit short, then the committee will adjust them accordingly. But they're doing the right thing, absolutely.

Q: Why did you think it was important to disassociate the players involved and why was the period 10 years settled on?
Yeager: It goes without saying that, in light of the level of the cash that was received, these four student-athletes knew exactly what they were doing. They knew they were accepting improper payments. This isn't confused with an emergency loan to go home for Christmas. Three of these guys were in excess of $100,000. We felt that consistent with the team vacating performances, that individually they should not be associated with the program. Ten years is the outside limit that we've looked at in disassociation cases.

Q: From the NCAA standpoint, is the case over or could further information come to light such as the Chris Webber perjury trial that could reopen this case and result in further penalties or measures?
Yeager: Short of an appeal within the NCAA process, we look at it as being completed.

Q: Other players that attended other universities who were linked with this representative giving illegal payments – I know you're just dealing with Michigan today – but do you intend to pursue the other players who attended other universities as well?
Yeager: You have a statute of limitations question that there is a four-year window about pursuing any NCAA violations. Also, in their instance, these would be amateurism questions, not institutional violations related to any representative being tied back to an institution. Players who received payments prior to any college enrollment, if they left the area, there is no evidence of any player who did not attend the University of Michigan receiving payments after they enrolled somewhere else.

Q: There are going to be fans who scream hypocrisy that Steve Fisher just coaches on? Could you address why an instituation should suffer and how a coach who was present during the violations coaches on scott free?
Yeager: (long pause) There is no evidence that was presented to the committee related to the former coach being involved in any violations. We sympathize with that concern just as well as we sympathize with the fact that the current coaching staff and current student-athletes are paying for the sins that occurred long before they set foot in Ann Arbor. If there is a fairer way particularly related to the impact on the current coaches and student-athletes, the committee and the NCAA would love to figure it out and apply those kinds of sanctions.

Q: The senior next year has the right to transfer from Michigan without penalty as long as that post-season ban is in effect. With the appeal process, does he have to wait to the end of the appeal process to exercise that right?
Yeager: I believe they do. That would obviously be a question the University could sort out with the Membership Services staff if there is a student-athlete considering that.

Q: Beyond the obvious mistake of allowing a booster to get too close to the program, is there anything Michigan could have or should have done during the process – a key mistake – that others can learn from that would have ended this process quicker than in seven years?
Yeager: No. Again, you need to remember that the University, the Big Ten, the NCAA, outside legal counsel were all over the relationship in the 1996-1997 time frame. I think it's fair to say there may have been some lingering information that was inaccessible. It took all the powers of the FBI and in fact it took the FBI three years to crack this case and bring it to light. There is no question that the University gave its best shot at trying to get the information as quickly as possible.

Q: If there's no evidence the coach knew anything and there was no evidence of any wrongdoing and it was so hard to bring the information to light, what could the University have done while these infractions were going on? How was the University supposed to know in order to prevent them?
Yeager: (*very* long pause) When you bring someone that close to your program as obviously was done with the former basketball staff, you have to know to the extent that you can what's going on. I'm not sure that at least the basketball staff at the time was as diligent as it could have been in looking at what these relationships were. Beyond that, it's a tough question and I think that there again you go back to the fact that this was, at its roots, illegal funds and that the whole scheme was designed to operate below the radar. But I think that, again, there is no fault being directed at the University administration about what might have happened, but there is concern that the basketball staff might have been able to be more diligent about the relationships. This guy was as close to the team as he could be.

Q: You said that the University was diligent in looking into this in 1996 and 1997 and disassociating itself as much as possible.Yet one player (Louis Bullock) continued to take money after 1998. How can you reconcile that and did that have any effect on the decision?
Yeager: The fact that this happened in 1999 that brought this whole case out of the statute of limitations questions when it popped up in 2002 (note: otherwise the case would've been too old). It was very troubling to the University that despite all their efforts that were extended in 1997 and how emphatic they were about not dealing with this individual, that it still continued on. It shows how deeply embedded this representative with the team and allowed to be with the team. Despite the steps taken by the University, he still operated for two years after he was dissociated.

Q: What corroboration was there from the booster about the amount of money involved given that some of the players have offered other accounts?
Yeager: Those were the amounts the booster plead guilty to as part of the criminal indictment that he faced.

The Michigan Insider Top Stories