Larry Brown suspended by NCAA, SMU gets postseason ban
DALLAS (AP) — Every stop in college for Larry Brown has meant more wins. A national title at Kansas. A runner-up finish at UCLA.
There has also been NCAA scrutiny, and now SMU has been banned from postseason play next season and Brown was suspended for nine games after the NCAA issued a scathing report Tuesday that placed the blame on the veteran coach for multiple infractions tied to academic fraud — including lying to NCAA investigators.
It is the nation-leading 10th major infractions case for SMU, the only school ever given the so-called death penalty that shut the football program down for two seasons in the late 1980s.
Brown insisted that he never lied, and instead quickly corrected a statement after being “blindsided” by a question during an interview with investigators.
“When I found out about what happened, I told the parties involved to do the right thing,” Brown told reporters. “In hindsight, I wish I would have done more. So when the question was proposed to me, I was kind of surprised.”
Noting that NCAA rules dictate that the head coach is responsible for the entire program, Brown said he accepted that responsibility, but did “not accept the appropriateness of the punishment.”
In its 60-page report, the NCAA repeatedly suggested that Brown deliberately ignored warning signs and did nothing when he had the chance, choosing instead to make “choices against his better judgment when it came to compliance issues” at SMU.
“These choices included not reporting possible violations in his program, initially lying to the enforcement staff during the investigation and providing no specific guidance to his staff on rules compliance,” the NCAA said, adding that Brown waited more than a month to report it after learning of misconduct in 2014.
While quoting Brown in its report saying, “I don’t know why I lied,” the NCAA said the coach acknowledged “his failed judgment” during a hearing on the case.
The school said it was studying the report and had 15 days to decide whether to appeal penalties against Brown’s team and the men’s golf program, including scholarship and recruiting reductions.
SMU President Gerald Turner and athletic director Rick Hart lauded the school’s compliance program as one of the strongest in the nation.
“As this particular case certainly underlines, however, individuals, if they chose to violate rules, can chose to do so,” Turner said. “We as an institution have to accept responsibility for all violations, whether or not they’re done by ignorance or done by intention.”
Turner said he was disturbed by the penalties against student-athletes who had “no involvement whatsoever with any of the issues that resulted in violations.”
That would include the basketball team, which last season went to the NCAA Tournament for the first since 1993, not having a chance to repeat.
Or NCAA champion golfer Bryson DeChambeau from being able to defend his title as a senior next spring. This summer, he became only the fifth player ever to win the U.S. Amateur and NCAA individual titles in the same year.
The basketball team could have some or all of its 2013-14 season vacated, a season in which it went 27-10 and lost in the NIT championship game.
Brown, the only coach to win both NCAA and NBA titles, is also subject to a show-cause order over the next two years.
SMU acknowledged the NCAA investigation in January, days after assistant coach Ulric Maligi, who recruited star Keith Frazier out of Kimball High in Dallas, took an indefinite leave of absence for personal reasons. Maligi is no longer on staff.
While no names were revealed in its report, the NCAA said a former assistant men’s basketball coach encouraged an athlete to enroll in an online course to meet NCAA initial eligibility standards and be admitted to the university. The NCAA also said a former men’s basketball administrative assistant hired by Brown then completed the coursework; she then provided false information to NCAA investigators and attempted to influence the player to provide false information.
Frazier missed the second half of last season because of academic probation, but Turner emphasized that was for his grades during the fall semester and not related in any way to the NCAA investigation. Hart and Brown said Frazier is in good standing academically and eligible to play as a junior this season.
Turner said Brown has his “full support going forward.” And the 75-year-old coach said he had no thoughts of resigning or leaving the program.
Brown led Kansas to the 1988 national championship with Danny Manning leading the way before returning to the NBA as San Antonio’s coach. But the Jayhawks were banned from postseason play the next season and placed on probation for recruiting violations during Brown’s tenure.
UCLA was 42-17 in Brown’s two seasons, but the Bruins’ runner-up finish in the 1980 NCAA Tournament was later vacated by the NCAA after two players were determined to be ineligible.
“Based on SMU’s past history, I don’t think they would have ever considered hiring me if they didn’t have complete faith in me in running the type of program they could be proud of,” Brown said. “I have nothing to be ashamed of in any of those cases. I’m proud of the things we achieved and I’m proud of the program we ran, I’m proud of the kids that played for me.”
Brown said he feels exactly the same way about SMU, “except for the fact I’m really disappointed in what happened to our kids, they had nothing to do with it.”
Michael Adams, the Pepperdine chancellor who was the chief hearing officer, said SMU’s past transgressions were taken into account this time. He said Brown’s past, and leaving Kansas and UCLA before sanctions hit those programs, were not factors.
“The committee’s responsibility is to look at this institution and to look at what may or may not have been done improperly in this case,” Adams said. “I don’t remember any online or offline discussion about any previous activities of the basketball coach, and it probably would be improper for us to have done so.”
Among the infractions cited by the NCAA against the men’s golf program were the former head coach and an assistant coach making 64 impermissible recruiting contacts with 10 men’s golf prospects and seven parents over a nearly 11-month period ending in October 2013.