Wednesday, May 2, 2007

West Virginia Men's Soccer Placed on Probation

It has been a slow news week, but there is finally some grist for the mill. The NCAA DI Committee on Infractions issued its report and handed down penalties against the Soccer program at West Virginia stemming from the misdeeds of its ex-coach, Mike Seabolt. Seabolt succeeded in turning around the program during his stint as head coach from 2003-2006, but at the expense of engaging in abuse of recruiting regulations. Most seriously, the committee found that he engaged in unethical conduct by providing false and misleading information about the eligibility of a potential player:

INDIANAPOLIS---The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions has penalized West Virginia University for major and secondary violations in the men's soccer program, including an unethical conduct violation against the former head coach.

Penalties for the violations included a four-year show cause penalty for the former coach, two years of university probation and reduced recruiting contact, among other sanctions. . . .

The committee found that the former head coach encouraged nine prospects to become members of, or practice with, this outside team. These practices and games constituted impermissible try-out activities and in-person, off-campus recruiting contacts in excess of the number allowed under NCAA rules. The former head coach also violated NCAA rules prohibiting contacts with prospects on the day of competition.

The former head coach also arranged for transportation from the airport and approximately 10 days of free housing for one of these prospective student-athletes involved with the outside team. In addition, the former head coach allowed two student-athletes to practice with the outside team even though neither was a member. . . .

In the summers 2002 to 2004 at least 12 men's soccer prospective student-athletes arrived on campus prior to enrollment and participated in preseason practice activities. The men's soccer coaching staff arranged for these prospective student-athletes to live free of charge with enrolled men's soccer student-athletes. The number of days of cost-free housing ranged from one to 10. . . .

The third and most serious allegation concerned unethical conduct by the former head coach. The committee found the coach acted unethically in an effort to gain eligibility for a student-athlete. Specifically, the former head coach provided false and misleading information and also failed to disclose information that would have highlighted issues needing resolution regarding the student-athlete's amateur status. Finally, he directed the involved student-athlete to provide false and misleading information. A full chronology of the events concerning the effort to achieve eligibility for the student-athlete is detailed in the public report. . . .

The West Virginia Athletics Department is, of course, spinning this to make themselves look like the good guys:

“The WVU athletic compliance office spearheaded this entire investigation,” said WVU athletic director Ed Pastilong. “Due to their determination to develop complete information regarding the eligibility of a single student-athlete, the student-athlete did not compete in any championship season (fall) game for WVU. The process worked.” . . .

“West Virginia University has a strong history of NCAA rules compliance. We have and will continue to treat NCAA compliance with the utmost importance,” Pastilong said. “There were no surprise issues and the report remained focused on one sport (men’s soccer). We will continue to review and apply best practices in the area of compliance education and monitoring.”

“Our office worked very hard over the past few years to investigate this all the way through to its conclusion,” said Brad Cox, assistant athletic director for compliance. “We also work very hard at rules education and have good systems in place to track compliance. At the end of the day, when we have a coach who does not follow our internal compliance procedures it makes our job harder. This report underscores that challenge.”

Next time, save yourself the trouble and hire an ethical coach.

As for Seabolt himself, he will not be greatly affected, despite the four-year show cause hiring ban - since he has already been hired – by Missouri State in March. His new employer cannot, however, be particularly pleased about his 2-year ban from recruiting visits, since he had been hired to oversee recruiting. There has, so far, been no buyers remorse, only a studious silence on Seabolt's past.

Welcome, Bears, to the cesspool.

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