NCAA hands down punishment for WSU baseball violations

WSU Shockers Baseball Logo 16:9

WICHITA, Kansas – Wichita State’s baseball program was placed on probation Thursday after the NCAA found that the Shockers used 21 players who received impermissible benefits over a two-year period.

The school self-reported the violations last year, likely resulting in lighter sanctions. Still, the NCAA decided that Wichita State’s storied program would need to vacate wins from 2012-13 — including its 2013 NCAA tournament appearance — in which the players participated. The maximum number of wins that could be vacated are 74, 35 wins from 2012 and 39 wins from 2013.

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The school also will be required to tell recruits and publicize for the next year that the program is on probation, though the sanctions will not disqualify the Shockers from competing in any postseason tournaments. The school must also pay a $5,000 fine.

The violations occurred under the watch of former coach Gene Stephenson, who was fired in June 2013 after 36 seasons. His dismissal was largely criticized by fans who had watched him lead the Shockers to 26 NCAA tournaments and seven trips to the College World Series.

“He was at the school for a very long period of time, had a highly compliant program during that period, never had a major violation,” said Eleanor W. Myers, the chief hearing officer for the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions. “This occurrence … was something that went on over a period of time when he was not in the office as much as he once was.”

Myers said that Stephenson did inquire about the discounts, which included 50 percent off Under Armor gear. Stephenson was assured by a former administrative assistant that the athletes were paying for the apparel and that such purchases were legal. Under Armour supplies the equipment for the Shockers’ baseball program.

NCAA rules prohibit athletes from purchasing gear — in this case clothing, hunting gear and non-athletics items — at discounts not available to the student body, family and friends.

The violations were discovered by current coach Todd Butler, who was hired shortly after Stephenson’s dismissal. The school self-reported the violations, and eight players still with the program were suspended for the first part of last season.

Wichita State University statement on NCAA infractions

WSU President John Bardo said the university will appeal only that part of the panel’s recommendations.

Bardo said:

As the NCAA findings report, Coach Todd Butler uncovered this problem when he took over the program in November 2013. He immediately alerted the leadership of the Athletics Department. The NCAA was then informed, and WSU took steps to accept responsibility and correct past errors.

The violations principally involved an administrative assistant in the Athletics Department and players who didn’t realize they were acting improperly. They received a benefit – discounted merchandise – that wasn’t available to others.

We believe that the penalties of the one-year probation to be served, the $5,000 fine, and the player suspensions that are already completed are appropriate for these infractions. The student-athletes involved acted without guilty knowledge. It seems unfair to permanently tarnish the records they achieved as a team.

The university elected not to self-impose any specific penalties on the baseball program for the following reasons: (1) Because this was a Level II case with significant mitigation, NCAA penalty guidelines provide the option of having no institutional, competitive or recruiting penalties; (2) The primary violation in this case did not relate to financial aid or recruiting, thus a scholarship reduction or a recruiting limitation penalty would not fit this case; and (3) The violations in this case did not result in a competitive advantage.

The Athletics Department has revised its athletics apparel and equipment policies to ensure that no intercollegiate sport is able to interact with an athletics equipment and apparel manufacturer without the oversight of the equipment manager and sport supervisor.

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