News9.com Staff and Wire Reports
The NCAA put Oklahoma on three years of probation and fine the school $15,000 on Friday for major violations in its men's basketball program.
The Division I infractions committee also vacated all 13 wins from Oklahoma's 2009-10 season, took away a scholarship and limited recruiting efforts, but did not label the school a "repeat violator" vulnerable to more severe penalties.
Most of the penalties had been proposed by the school, which said former assistant Oronde Taliaferro broke NCAA rules by failing to report that a player had received an impermissible extra benefit and by lying to investigators. The NCAA said its findings included unethical conduct by the former coach, extra benefits, preferential treatment and ineligible participation.
The violations occurred while the Sooners were still on probation for major rules violations involving recruiting phone calls by former coach Kelvin Sampson, a case that ended in 2006, and football players being paid for work they weren't doing at a Norman car dealership in 2007.
Under NCAA bylaws, a repeat violator can face a minimum of having the sport dropped for one or two seasons with no scholarships provided for two seasons.
In reporting the Taliaferro case in July, Oklahoma admitted to two major rules violations but asked the NCAA for leniency despite its second serious infractions case in the last five years. The school conceded it does qualify under the description of repeat violator -- having two major infractions cases within five years in the same sport -- but said previous cases show those penalties "are not appropriate in this case."
"This is an isolated incident involving a single member of the coaching staff, who clearly knew his lack of action to prevent or report the violation was not acceptable," the university said.
The NCAA agreed, saying "the violations in this case were serious, but limited" to one player and Taliaferro. Former center Keith "Tiny" Gallon has said in interviews that he took $3,000 from a Florida financial adviser to pay debts owed to his high school to allow transcripts to be released and clear the way for him to attend college.
Taliaferro's phone records link him to the adviser, Jeffrey Hausinger. Hausinger's name is not included in the school's report but the phone calls are referenced in the transcript of an interview with Taliaferro and the times match up with those released by Oklahoma after previous open records requests.
Taliaferro says in that interview that he had been resisting a financial representative who was hoping to get connected with NFL tight end Antonio Gates -- a friend of Taliaferro -- and perhaps also with Oklahoma's players with NBA potential.
The NCAA confirmed that $3,000 was wired to the player's mother to pay off the debt.
"As a result, the student-athlete competed while ineligible and received travel expenses while representing the institution in competition during the 2009-10 academic year," the NCAA said.
The $15,000 fine represents $500 for each game Gallon played while ineligible, or 30 games. Taliaferro told school investigators he had a "lapse in judgment" made out of compassion. He describes how the case is similar to how his father was murdered in Detroit when he was 6 years old.
"I know all too well about running into walls and watching my own mother fight to help get me to a better place," Taliaferro wrote. "Sometimes good people make a poor decision, and that's what happened with everyone involved in this particular matter.
That does not excuse anything at all." Taliaferro resigned last year. Former head coach Jeff Capel was not implicated in the violations. He was fired in March and replaced by Lon Kruger, who makes his debut with the Sooners on Friday night.
The University of Oklahoma released the following statement in regard to the NCAA's ruling:
"University of Oklahoma officials fully understand that however rules violations may occur, the NCAA requires institutional accountability. As such, even in cases like this - where the violation is isolated to the actions of one former student-athlete and the failure of a former assistant basketball coach to disclose his knowledge of the violation - the NCAA imposes penalties upon the institution in addition to the individuals. In recognition of this institutional landscape, the university previously self-imposed penalties in this case and now accepts the decision by the Committee on Infractions.
"Importantly, this case did not involve any inappropriate action by the university or its staff, other than the cited assistant coach. The case did not constitute lack of institutional control or failure to monitor. The University of Oklahoma has had and continues to have personnel and systems in place to promote and support an atmosphere of NCAA rules compliance within our institution.
"The University of Oklahoma fully cooperated with the NCAA in the investigation of this case. This matter was submitted to the Committee on Infractions through the Summary Disposition Process in which both the NCAA staff and the institution agree on all findings. The University of Oklahoma will implement the Committee's final determinations and appreciates the NCAA's assistance in bringing this matter to a close."
The violations occurred while the Sooners were still on probation for major rules violations involving recruiting phone calls by former coach Kelvin Sampson and football players being paid for work they weren't doing at a Norman car dealership.