PULLMAN – At noon today the NCAA Committee on Infractions issued its report outlining violations at Eastern Washington University.
"We were aware, from our own research and Paul (Wulff), of potential NCAA infractions at Eastern Washington University during the time frame when Paul was the head football coach," said Washington State University Director of Athletics Jim Sterk. "Due to the ongoing NCAA investigation, we were prohibited from commenting on the situation until after the NCAA Committee on Infractions concluded its investigation and released its findings. We feel now, as we did then, that this was an institutional issue with Eastern Washington University, which is supported with today's NCAA release regarding the situation."
| Big Sky conference elevated case in 2007|
THE FINDINGS RELEASED today by the NCAA have roots going back at least two years -- and are specifically tied into the compliance department at the Big Sky conference.|
Back in February of 2007, Eastern self-reported on exceeding the number of countable coaches according to the EWU student newspaper. Contained in Eastern's report was a letter from Wulff to the NCAA in which he said that he had been unaware of the potential violation for the past seven years. Also included in Eastern's report was the list of student-assistant coaches at Eastern who were found to be under violation of that rule after taking a lesser number of credits than required by the NCAA.
Wulff said in Eastern's 2007 report that "I was unaware that select few of the student-assistants that were involved with our program were not enrolled full-time nor do I believe we gained a competitive advantage due to their academic status."
As part of the self-imposed penalties at the time, EWU's actions included: limiting to one the number of student assistant football coaches per year for the next six years, that Wulff would attend an NCAA regional Compliance Seminar being conducted in the spring of 2007, and letters of admonishment were sent to Wulff and the two assistant coaches deemed out of compliance, Malik Roberson (now at WSU) and Jeff Schmedding. All Eastern football coaches were further required to attend a quarterly rules education session on campus.
The Big Sky conference, however, felt Eastern's self-imposed penalties were not enough.
Big Sky assistant commissioner of compliance Jaynee Nadolski said in 2007 that "the Big Sky is not satisfied with the self-report turned in by Eastern Washington regarding the use of extra coaching staff in football...we feel a more thorough investigation is in order."
The NCAA limits to 11 the number of coaches. A list of countable coaches according to Eastern's report were that EWU had 13 countable coaches in 2006 and 12 in 2005. The NCAA said as many as 15 performed "coaching duties" over a four year period in their report today. NCAA by-laws also indicate that all student assistant coaches must be full-time students working toward receiving a degree.
The NCAA penalized Eastern Washington for major violations in its football program. In addition to penalties handed down to Eastern Washington, penalties were also imposed on Wulff as he was the head coach. Those penalties include educational seminars each of the next three years and he will not be allowed to coach the Cougars for the first three days of the 2009 fall camp.
"During Paul's hiring process he was straightforward about these allegations," said Sterk. "We take these issues very seriously and believe Paul is a man of tremendous integrity and the situation derived more from a lack of institutional control at Eastern Washington, where limited compliance and academic staff were in place at that time. Paul was not found by the NCAA to have purposely violated NCAA rules in order to gain a recruiting advantage."
Wulff, who was hired as the Cougars' 31st head coach Dec. 11, 2007, acknowledged mistakes were made while at Eastern Washington University. "I understand the severity of the situation and at no time did I ever intentionally violate NCAA rules," said Wulff. "As head coach I take responsibility for the mistakes that occurred and accept the NCAA's penalties.
"I greatly appreciate the support of Washington State University, the athletic department and all Cougar fans throughout the past year," Wulff continued. "Now that I have been immersed for more than a year in the athletic department and the excellent compliance support it provides, I am confident situations such as these will never happen again."
"We have systems and resources in place at Washington State that help prevent occurrences like this from taking place now or in the future," Sterk said. "There is a culture of compliance here that fully embraces NCAA rules and regulations."
IN A CONFERENCE CALL with reporters early this evening, Sterk was very clear in pointing out institutional problems at EWU. Specifically, he noted that during Wulff's time there, EWU cycled through five athletics directors, three presidents, had no compliance personnel, no secretary, a half-time faculty rep, no strength coach, and deficient academic assistance support.
"Paul was trying to do a lot of things .. he's sorry for the mistakes but given the resources he was given he did the best he could," Sterk said. He added that the problems stem from "the university's (EWU's) failure to have a compliance system in place." Those defiiciences were exasperated by the turnover in administrative staff and "the failure to devote adequate resources to compliance."
Sterk also emphasized that Wulff didn't knowingly violate rules and was forthcoming from the start with everyone involved. Sterk also mentioned that WSU was well aware of these issues when interviewing Wulff. They talked with Wulff about them, with EWU and the NCAA.