BOISE, Idaho — Boise State football coach Chris Petersen, in the wake of a series of NCAA violations, will have fewer scholarships to hand out in the next two years and less time on the practice field to prepare for tough season openers against Georgia this fall and Michigan State in 2012.
The sanctions already imposed on the Bronco football team are part of a broader penalty package put in place by university officials this week for men’s and women’s tennis and track and field after an NCAA inquiry identified nearly two dozen violations by coaches in those sports.
The NCAA said its inquiry, along with an internal investigation by Boise State, identified 22 infractions and an absence of institutional controls necessary to fully comply with rules governing collegiate athletic programs.
University officials say the penalties for Boise State’s high-profile football program and other sports, first reported by the Idaho Statesman, are part of its overall response to the NCAA investigation. The NCAA can impose even tougher sanctions against the university after its Committee on Infractions meets next month to review the Boise State case.
But Boise State administrators are confident the self-imposed penalties, which include a three-year probation period, and steps to bolster its compliance office will satisfy college athletics’ governing body.
“A lot of thought went into what the appropriate sanctions should be for us,” Boise State athletic director Gene Bleymaier told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “We believe these sanctions are what’s warranted and needed to correct the mistakes.”
The university’s 1,500-page response to the NCAA details a series of “secondary” violations by football staff during a four-year period. During that time, coaches arranged for incoming players to get cheap transportation, meals and housing — in some cases nothing more than a couch at a current player’s apartment — during voluntary summer workouts. The report states 63 prospective players received those benefits, valued at less than $5,000.
Bleymaier said new rules and policies have been put in place to help the football staff avoid similar missteps in the future. The university also issued a letter to Petersen and his staff detailing the rules and infractions committed between 2005 and 2008.
The report and penalties come as Boise State, which has never before been found in violation of NCAA rules, and its highly successful football program transition from the Western Athletic Conference to the more competitive Mountain West Conference. Bleymaier, who was attending MWC meetings in Phoenix this week, said his new colleagues are sympathetic to the complexities of heeding the NCAA rule book.
“We’re always concerned about perception,” Bleymaier said. “That’s why we want it to be very clear what the issues are and how we’ve dealt with them.”
The infractions were not limited to the football team. Similar secondary violations were unearthed in the men’s tennis program and the men’s and women’s track and field programs.
As a result, the university is cutting scholarships and imposing recruiting restrictions for track and field, and reducing practices and eliminating bonuses in 2011 and 2012 for the head men’s tennis coach.
The most serious violation was discovered in the women’s tennis program as part of the university’s own internal investigation. The university’s report says the head coach and an assistant violated rules by providing cash, lodging, entertainment and other benefits to a recruit and allowed her to take part in practices and other NCAA events before she was officially enrolled.
The university also alleges former head coach Mark Tichenor and assistant Tiffany Coll gave false statements to investigators about their actions, claims that expose the program to NCAA ethics violations. Both coaches are no longer with the university.
Penalties for the women’s tennis team include the loss of three scholarships for 2011 and in 2012, reduced practice time and a $5,000 fine. The Bronco women’s tennis team will also vacate all wins and records for matches involving the ineligible player during the 2008-09 season.
The NCAA’s Committee on Infractions will meet in Indianapolis on June 10 to review Boise State’s response, including the punitive steps.
“We haven’t been down this road before, so I can’t really speculate on what or how the committee will handle this,” Bleymaier said.