Thursday, September 19, 2002

NCAA upholds Kentucky's bowl ban

AP Sports Writer

        LEXINGTON, Ky. — — Kentucky coach Guy Morriss knew chances were slim that the NCAA would reverse field and allow the Wildcats to play in a bowl game this season.

        Still, it took him several hours to get over the disappointment when the news officially was delivered on Monday.

        “I was pretty numb for a while, but you deal with it,” he said Tuesday, shortly after the NCAA's decision was made public. “It's over, it's out of your control and you move on.

        “Going into two-a-days, we knew that we weren't going to a bowl, so really nothing's changed. The kids were a little disappointed, but as soon as we got out onto the field for practice that all dissipated.”

        An NCAA committee upheld a one-year bowl ban against Kentucky, a penalty levied along with several others in January after internal and NCAA investigations turned up dozens of recruiting violations.

        Now the Wildcats, off to their best start in four years, will have to play out the rest of the season with other goals to motivate them.

        “We've still got a chance to have a great season,” senior punter Glenn Pakulak said. “There's plenty to shoot for, like the best record in the Southeastern Conference and getting into the top 25.

        “I don't think you'll see any drop in our energy level. If anything, I think we'll play even harder.”

        The NCAA on Tuesday also rejected Alabama's appeal of multiple sanctions against its football program.

        Alabama sought restoration of six scholarships and its bowl eligibility, but the appeals committee upheld all the penalties imposed after the program was cited for illegal recruiting by boosters and other infractions.

        Kentucky appealed its ban in February, arguing that the penalty was too harsh because the violations did not give the school a clear competitive advantage.

        Terry Don Phillips, chairman of the NCAA's Division I Infractions Appeals Committee, said the case was one of widespread abuse by employees of the university.”

        “It is about institutional responsibility for the conduct and control of its employees and the duty and care an institution must exercise in the administration of its athletic program,” Phillips said.

        The infractions appeals committee stated in its report that the penalty was based primarily on Kentucky having obtained a “significant and protracted recruiting advantage” as a result of the violations.

        In its report, the committee said, “'Recruiting advantage' also encompasses obtaining an enhanced reputation for the institution based on favorable communications between recruited prospects and future recruits.

        “We conclude Kentucky construes the term 'recruiting advantage' too narrowly in its argument.”

        At the time, the bowl ban did not seem to matter much as Kentucky was coming off consecutive 2-9 seasons with little chance of a dramatic turnaround this year.

        But a surprising 3-0 start, including a season-opening victory over then-No. 17 Louisville, made the possibility of a bowl berth more realistic.

        “It is extremely difficult to express the disappointment that our football players and coaching staff are feeling after this decision,” Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said. “They now have to pay the price for the infractions that others have created.

        “This team has displayed great heart and courage in the face of adversity, and I truly believe that it will remain focused on the upcoming schedule and continue what could be a storybook season for Kentucky football.”

        In addition to the postseason ban, the school was placed on three years' probation, forced to reduce its total number of football scholarships to 80 instead of the permitted 85 over the same period and cited for a lack of institutional control over the program.

        The violations were committed during the four-year tenure of former coach Hal Mumme, who resigned in the wake of the NCAA's investigation.

        Mumme was not personally sanctioned by the NCAA and was hired in June as the coach of Southeastern Louisiana's newly restored football program, which will begin play in 2003.

        President Lee Todd said the NCAA's denial of the appeal penalized a group of players that had nothing to do with the violations.

        “I have a real problem with programs that get a sanction of 'lack of institutional control' and the head coach of that program walks away free and clear and moves on to coach at another school while the students are left to pay the price,” Todd said.

        “I believe it is prudent for us — and I include in that us UK and every other university, every athletic conference and the NCAA itself — to now look beyond any single case and reassess how full accountability of a college athletic program can be attained.” be attained.”


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