Stewart Mum on New Violation

Mountaineer head coach Bill Stewart did not comment Tuesday evening as the West Virginia athletic department declared his program committed a "secondary" violation of NCAA rules by having players wear "spider" shoulder pads on the first two days of preseason training camp.

WVU assistant athletic director for communications Michael Fragale issued a brief statement just after Stewart's regularly scheduled post-practice press conference was completed Tuesday.

That statement confirmed that the University was aware that football players were wearing "vests" during the first two practices. It went on to say that the athletic department would declare a secondary infraction to the NCAA and follow the appropriate process from that point forward.

The possibility of a rules violation first came to light when Colin Dunlap of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a story Tuesday afternoon that said photographs and videos published on the internet and in print showed players wearing the "spider" pads, a violation of NCAA rule, subsection "d."

That rule states that helmets are the only protective gear football players may wear for the first two days of fall practice (the "acclimatization period" in NCAA parlance).

Tony Dobies of the Daily Athenaeum then reported the violations spanned multiple years, as file photos from that newspaper showed the same pads being worn on the second day of fall camp in 2009.

After Stewart's press conference concluded, Drew Rubenstein of the Morgantown Dominion Post attempted to ask the head coach about the violations. Stewart walked past Rubenstein without offering any response to the question.

Stewart was ushered into an office in the Milan Puskar Center soon after by West Virginia director of football communications Mike Montoro.

About 10 minutes later, the pair emerged and headed towards the team's cafeteria. With about five media members standing in the lobby area waiting for the chance to ask Stewart questions, the head coach walked by and simply said, "You all have a nice night."

Separately, the athletic department announced that the NCAA would hear WVU's case in regards to allegations of five major violations and one other secondary violation on Feb. 11-12 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The University had the option of a hearing in December, but chose to take the full 90 days it has to respond to the formal Notice of Allegations it received last week, pushing the hearing date back two months.

The new secondary violation will not be considered at the hearing, according to Fragale.

Other schools have been guilty of similar rules violations in recent years and not faced harsh punishment.

Clemson received no penalties of note after its players wore "girdles" -- compression pants with thigh pads in them -- to the first practices of the fall of 2009 under new coach Dabo Swinney.

But having to self-report further violations was cause for further embarrassment to a West Virginia program already under scrutiny for separate transgressions.

"NCAA compliance is essential to our athletic success," said Mountaineer athletic director Oliver Luck at a press conference last week, when the school announced it had received the Notice of Allegations.

"Our commitment to rules compliance is clear: nothing short of perfection is acceptable. If we fall short of that standard, in any way, we will acknowledge it and remedy it."

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