St. Mary's Head Coach Randy Bennett, in action last year. (AP/Only A Game)
St. Mary’s Head Coach Randy Bennett, in action last year. (AP/Only A Game)

Update 9:15 a.m.: St. Mary’s College men’s basketball program–enjoying another dominating season under Coach Randy Bennett–has been hit with sanctions by the NCAA for failing to monitor recruiting for the team. Penalties, which focus on the team’s recruiting of overseas players–the team has established a now semi-legendary pipeline to Australian hoops talent–include four years of probation, a five-game suspension for Bennett, and a reduced number of scholarships. St. Mary’s says it’s accepting the findings of the report–but will consider appealing the penalties (detailed below).

In a statement, Bennett said, “I am disappointed. I cooperated fully with the investigation and accepted responsibility where I came up short. The penalties are clearly excessive and although I’m still reviewing the report and trying to understand it, I know already that the report fails to include important mitigating information and tells only part of the story. I’ll continue to review the report and consider my options.”

The Gaels are 25-5 this season, have locked up the second-seed in the West Coast Conference tournament, and may be on the way to another appearance in the NCAA Tournament later this month. Today’s sanctions won’t block St. Mary’s from making post-season appearances.

But the NCAA report on recruitment at St. Mary’s says Bennett failed to monitor recruiting activities and failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance with recruiting rules. He’ll be suspended for five games next season, and the NCAA will cut the number of scholarships St. Mary’s can offer for men’s basketball for two upcoming seasons. The team will also be banned from preseason and in-season tournaments through 2015-16, and the entire program will be on probation through Feb. 28, 2017.

And for a little extra background on St. Mary’s, here’s a piece I did last year for NPR’s Only A Game, from WBUR in Boston: “Australian Connections Pushes St. Mary’s Into Top 25.”

The NCAA’s press release on the St. Mary’s sanctions:

Saint Mary’s (California) failed to monitor its men’s basketball program

Saint Mary’s College of California failed to monitor its men’s basketball program and a former assistant men’s basketball coach acted unethically in his recruitment of international prospects, according to a decision announced today by the Division I Committee on Infractions. The case also includes a failure to monitor and a failure to promote an atmosphere for compliance by the head men’s basketball coach as well as impermissible training and coaching sessions.

Penalties in the case include four years of probation, a reduction in men’s basketball scholarships during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 academic years, a five-game suspension for the head coach during the 2013-14 season, recruiting restrictions and a two-year show cause for the former assistant coach. If the former assistant coach seeks employment at an NCAA member school during that two-year period, he and the school must appear before the Committee on Infractions to determine if the school should be subject to the show-cause procedures.

The former assistant coach knowingly committed violations during the recruitment of three prospects. When warned by the California Interscholastic Federation twice about the activities of the former assistant coach, the college did not proactively investigate the recruiting activities. Additionally, the men’s basketball team received impermissible training and coaching sessions from trainers not employed by the school.

According to the committee, the former assistant coach acted unethically when he knowingly committed recruiting violations for three prospects. The majority of the recruiting activity by the former assistant coach centered on an international prospect and included impermissible travel, local transportation and the arrangement of host family accommodations. He also attempted to assist a second international prospect by providing personal financial information as part of the prospect’s efforts in obtaining a student visa. The impermissible activity occurred both while the former assistant coach was employed by the college and as an athletics representative after he was no longer employed with the college.

During the recruitment of the international prospect, the head coach failed to monitor the activities of the former assistant coach. The head coach was aware of the former assistant coach’s previous employment with a professional sports agency and his termination from a two-year college due to improprieties. The head coach was also aware of the former assistant coach’s recruiting activity with the international prospect for whom the former assistant coach arranged travel to the United States and lodging with a local family. The committee notes that these were “red flags” and should have alerted the head coach to the need for heightened vigilance with regard to the former assistant coach’s recruiting activity. Additionally, the head coach knew that impermissible conditioning and practice sessions were conducted by two individuals not employed by the college, resulting in failure to monitor and promote an atmosphere for compliance.

Saint Mary’s (California) failed to monitor its men’s basketball program when it failed to conduct an adequate investigation of information provided by the state high school athletics governing body as it related to the recruitment of an international prospect. Additionally, the college failed to monitor the conditioning and practice sessions with outside basketball trainers and conditioning coaches.

Penalties in this case include:

    • Public reprimand and censure.
    • Four years probation from March 1, 2013 through February 28, 2017.
    • The head coach must serve a five-game suspension during the 2013-14 season.
    • The head coach may not recruit off-campus during the 2013-14 academic year.
    • A two-year show-cause order for the former assistant coach. The public report contains further details.
    • Reduction of men’s basketball scholarships from 13 to 11 for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.
    • Elimination of foreign tours by the men’s basketball team until the start of the 2017-18 season.
    • The men’s basketball team may not participate in a multiple-team event until the 2015-16 season.
    • The men’s basketball team may not receive skill instruction during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons.

The members of the Division I Committee on Infractions who reviewed this case include Britton Banowsky, chair of the Committee on Infractions and commissioner of Conference USA; John S. Black, attorney; Greg Christopher, athletics director at Bowling Green State University; Melissa Conboy, deputy director of athletics at the University of Notre Dame; Christopher L. Griffin, coordinator of appeals and attorney; Roscoe Howard Jr., attorney; Eleanor W. Myers, faculty athletics representative and law professor at Temple University; James O’Fallon, law professor and faculty athletics representative at the University of Oregon; Greg Sankey, executive associate commissioner and chief operating officer for the Southeastern Conference; and Rodney J. Uphoff, coordinator of appeals and law professor at the University of Missouri, Columbia.

St. Mary’s College Basketball Hit With Penalties for Recruiting Violations 1 March,2013Dan Brekke


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke is a blogger, reporter and editor for KQED News, responsible for online breaking news coverage of topics ranging from California water issues to the Bay Area’s transportation challenges. In a newsroom career that began in Chicago in 1972, Dan has worked as a city and foreign/national editor for The San Francisco Examiner, editor at Wired News, deputy editor at Wired magazine, managing editor at TechTV as well as for several Web startups.

Since joining KQED in 2007, Dan has reported, edited and produced both radio and online features and breaking news pieces. He has shared in two Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Excellence in Journalism awards — for his 2012 reporting on a KQED Science series on water and power in California, and in 2014, for KQED’s comprehensive reporting on the south Napa earthquake.

In addition to his 44 years of on-the-job education, Dan is a lifelong student of history and is still pursuing an undergraduate degree.

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