Thursday, February 28, 2008

Arizona State: Scandal Looming in Baseball Program

The fuse has been lit on an explosive new scandal, this time in the baseball program at Arizona State University. As always, it will be months before there is any solid information beyond allegations. And as always, it will be months before we know whether it will be a firecracker or a hydrogen bomb which ultimately explodes. The story does, however, warrant a vigilant eye for several reasons: the information on the alleged violations comes from Mikel Moreno, a graduate assistant who was until just recently WITHIN the baseball program, and was also a player from 1995-1998; the head coach Pat Murphy was allegedly aware of and complicit in the violations; the Arizona State program has won five National Championships, and is one of the most successful programs in recent NCAA history. The following story represents the perspective of the accuser:

Mikel Moreno said he knows his baseball career is in jeopardy after the allegations he made about Arizona State's baseball program became public.

He said he also knows that the truth is more important than the "code."

The code he is referring to is the unwritten code of silence that current and former teammates, coaches and team officials stand by surrounding the inner workings of their program.

On the evening of Dec. 31, Moreno was informed by ASU coach Pat Murphy that his services were no longer needed as graduate manager of the top-ranked Sun Devils.

Moreno said Murphy's explanation for his sudden termination came down from the NCAA, which stated the Sun Devils' staffing condition was unfair to other programs.

"As far as I know, I never offended the man or did anything wrong for him to say that I was fired," Moreno said.

Three days after his firing, Moreno broke his code of silence after ASU compliance officer Bill Kennedy contacted him regarding alleged violations within the program. . . .

After Kennedy spoke with Moreno, ASU hired Ice Miller, an Indianapolis-based law firm, to investigate allegations of academic fraud, recruiting violations and other potential violations.

Yes, that is the same law firm that led the debacle of an internal investigation into Kelvin Sampson's cheating at Indiana University.

Moreno said his mother was unaware of any of the alleged violations the baseball program had committed, but had only warned officials of character flaws and minor grievances towards Murphy.

But according to Moreno, her warnings were enough to alert ASU's compliance office and prompt an investigation.

However, before Moreno informed Ice Miller of his allegations, he said he tried contacting Murphy on several occasions in an attempt to understand the reasoning behind his unwarranted termination.

"Three or four days went by without him returning my messages," Moreno said. "So I texted him, ‘Do I have a job at ASU in the future?'"

The text Moreno said he received from Murphy in return was shocking.

"He texted back saying, ‘I haven't done (expletive) and that I've only worked under Clint Meyers and I'm only a high school coach.

"I forwarded the message to Jeff Mousser and he even agreed that it was just a pretty bad message."

Mousser - a former Sun Devil pitcher - was the other graduate manager who had his position terminated on Dec. 31. Mousser, who helped direct Murphy's Cleats All Nine Baseball Academy, was also contacted and interviewed for the investigation. . . .

Moreno said the ASU Athletic Department was aware of many of the program's violations, but turned its cheek on the baseball program.

"To be honest with you, ASU has known about it (violations), but everyone is fearful," Moreno said. "ASU baseball is the Harvard of business."

Moreno declined to comment on specific violations he made because he has been threatened with lawsuits, but said the allegations he has made are the "tip of the iceberg."

"I was definitely aware that this could definitely hurt the program and I did not want that to happen," Moreno said. "But like I said, because of the actions of a few, and myself included, the program will be dinged a little bit."

The program allegedly sent players to at Athletes' Performance in Tempe - a world class training facility, which is a clear violation of the NCAA Baseball Rules Committee.

The program is also being accused of violations relating to players working for Murphy's non-profit PTM Programs for Youth.

"The bottom line is when you have a disgruntled employee that leaves and makes it his mark to take down the program, you go through some uncomfortable times," Murphy told The East Valley Tribune. . . .

But the student newspaper at Arizona State reported today that Moreno's teammates vouch for his credibility:

Andrew Beinbrink, Moreno's former teammate for three seasons, said Moreno would not purposely denigrate ASU baseball.

"He got put into a position where he got questioned, almost under oath," Beinbrink said. "He's the type of guy who answers honestly so he can look himself in the mirror.

"I really hope this doesn't derail the program in any way and jeopardize their competitive play. There are two sides to this, and Mikel and Murphy are both good people." . . . .

Mark Ernster, a Sun Devil from 1997-99, said he believes Moreno is a "strong willed person who believes in fairness."

Ernster, too, was drafted in 1999, as a sixth-round pick of the Milwaukee Brewers.
And as an alumnus, Ernster said he fears allegations could tarnish the school.

"They have a tradition-rich program. I definitely don't want to see any black marks," he said. "I don't think Murphy would do anything like what's being mentioned intentionally."

But Ernster, now the head coach of the baseball team at Liberty High School in Peoria, and Beinbrink, who now lives in San Diego, admitted they do not have the same access to ASU baseball that Moreno did as a graduate manager in 2007.

"As an alumni and former player, I know that boosters have no idea of what goes on behind those four walls," he said. "A competitive, Pac-10 program has a lot going on — recruiting, preparing for games and scheduling good games."

Head coach Pat Murphy also had this to say to the press:

"Any investigation of any program in Division I may show minor hiccups from time to time, none with intent or adding any advantage and most of which would be clerical or administrative error."
Somehow, I cannot take much comfort in the fact that his public comments on this matter have amounted to an attack on the credibility of the accuser and a statement which essentially parses as 'We cheat like everyone else but never intentionally.' Stay tuned.

Update 12:44 PM

A link to a interview with Mikel Moreno on KTAR radio 620, Phoenix on Tuesday.

1. Arizona State: Scandal Looming in Baseball Program
2. Arizona State Baseball: Jason Jarvis Speaks Out
3. ASU Baseball: Cheating in Online Music Course?
4. ASU Baseball: Jason Jarvis Declared Ineligible


Anonymous said...

if ASU really wanted to find out about the fraud that Murphy has perpetrated over his tenure there, they would only need to look at the scholarships that werw given back and asked how they were attained - not too difficult really

Profane said...


I am not following. Could you please elaborate?

Anonymous said...

Murphy over recruited enticing players to come in on small scholarships. Then these players were basically put through a try out between nearly 50 players. He would then create some bogus reasoning for cutting players or getting players to transfer from the program that "didn't make the cut". If you weren't one of his "guys" your baseball career was derailed if not ruined completely.