NCAA bans SMU from 2016 postseason, Larry Brown for nine games

ESPN logo
Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The NCAA has sanctioned the SMU men's basketball program for multiple violations, including academic fraud and unethical conduct, a Division I Committee on Infractions panel has ruled.

The penalties will keep SMU from the 2016 postseason. In addition, Larry Brown, who was cited for a lack of head coach control, has been suspended for nine games during the upcoming season.

The penalties were revealed Tuesday, more than eight months after the school acknowledged an NCAA investigation. It is SMU's 10th major infractions case, more than that of any other program.

The basketball team also will lose nine scholarships over the next three years, although it was two below the limit this past season, so it can count those toward the nine. SMU also was placed on three years' probation.

The school said it still is reviewing the NCAA's report and then will determine if it should appeal the findings.

"While we accept responsibility for violations, the individuals responsible for the infractions have been held accountable both by the University and by the Committee on Infractions," the school said in a statement. "To punish the student-athletes in the men's basketball [program] by prohibiting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete in the postseason is simply wrong. It is not what our system of governance should be about and we are considering our response."

Brown, a Hall of Famer, took over at SMU in 2012. This marks the third time a Brown-coached program has been sanctioned by the NCAA, with the others being Kansas and UCLA.

"Leading the SMU men's basketball program is an honor and a responsibility that I take very seriously," Brown, 75, said in a statement released by the school. "That duty includes helping our young men develop into people of character and to ensuring that we pursue our goals with integrity. I am saddened and disappointed that the Committee on Infractions believes that I did not fully fulfill my duties and I will consider my options to challenge that assertion in the coming days. I truly believe that our program has dedicated itself unwaveringly to the ideals of academic integrity and NCAA compliance. Still, there was a violation in our program and I take responsibility for that and offer my sincere apologies to the University community."

Part of the investigation at SMU stemmed from whether former basketball administrator and ex-assistant coach Ulric Maligi helped Keith Frazier to become eligible to play there, a source previously told ESPN.

The NCAA did not reveal any names when announcing the sanctions but did say 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 also attempted to influence the player to also provide false information.

"The student-athlete received fraudulent credit for the course and, as a result, competed while ineligible during his freshman season," the NCAA said.

Maligi, who took a leave of absence in the middle of last season, was not found to be involved after the NCAA investigation. A source said the former basketball administrator did not agree to speak with the NCAA.

"During this entire NCAA investigation I was confident that I would be exonerated of any wrongdoing," Maligi said in a statement. "As a coach, one of my responsibilities is to act as an advisor and an advocate for student-athletes. I am proud about how I have always carried out my responsibilities and I am eager to continue my coaching career. However, I am unhappy for the current student-athletes who are being deprived of the opportunity to play in post-season tournaments this year and disappointed in the ruling on the SMU program, particularly for Coach Larry Brown."

The administrative assistant resigned in September 2014, SMU said.

Brown, who met with NCAA officials in late June, did not have knowledge of any violation while it was going on, the organization said. He learned about the violation after it occurred, but he did not promptly report the issue and was not clear about the violation with the NCAA's enforcement staff when he was first interviewed, leading to his punishment.

"The head basketball coach failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within his program," the NCAA said. "He failed to report the violations when the former administrative assistant committed academic fraud on behalf of the student-athlete and he initially lied to enforcement staff about his knowledge of the potential violations."

The NCAA said Brown had acknowledged "his failed judgment'' during a hearing on the case and that it found him "reflective and remorseful.''

"But I realize, you know, in hindsight, that was a terrible mistake on my part,'' Brown said, according to the NCAA report. "I wish I could have changed all that. But we had that interview with the NCAA; I don't know why I lied. You know, dealing with people that I really care about, and I used terrible judgment, and I tried to acknowledge that as quickly as I could, but it doesn't seem to make a difference. I realize that.''

In addition to the major penalties, others sanctions levied against SMU included: off-campus recruiting was cut by 20 days, along with a reduction in permissible phone calls and communications with recruits; the school will not be allowed any unofficial visits during the summer of 2016; a vacation of wins during which Frazier played while ineligible.

SMU has 15 days to notify the NCAA if it plans to appeal.

"When these allegations first came to light, the University cooperated fully with the NCAA, accepted responsibility, imposed corrective measures and took strong action when it believed that our employees failed to live up to the core values of SMU," school president Gerald Turner said. "Our compliance program is among the best in the nation, but we acknowledge that even the strongest compliance programs can fall short when individuals act in an unethical manner. SMU has a proud history of academic and athletic excellence, and we are committed to full compliance with NCAA bylaws and with our ethical standards. Moving forward, we know that we can -- and will -- do better."

The Mustangs are expected to be a preseason Top 25 team and a contender for the American Athletic Conference title. An official at the AAC said the league would have no comment on the matter Tuesday.

Frazier, a guard, averaged 10.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 2014-15, and 5.4 points, 1.8 rebounds and 0.9 assists in 2013-14.

In 2014, the NCAA revised a rule, ensuring coaches have more accountability for what goes on in their programs and can no longer say that had no clue what had happened.

"An institution's head coach is presumed to be responsible for the actions of all institutional staff members who report, directly or indirectly, to the head coach," the rule states. "An institution's head coach shall promote an atmosphere of compliance within his or her program and shall monitor the activities of all institutional staff members involved with the program who report, directly or indirectly, to the coach."

In March, the NCAA hit Syracuse's Jim Boeheim with a nine-game ACC regular-season suspension after an investigation found that the school and longtime coach did not control and monitor its athletic programs.

Brown led Kansas to the 1988 national championship 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.

Brown has coached the Denver Nuggets, New Jersey Nets, Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks and Charlotte Bobcats in the NBA. He also coached the Nuggets and Carolina Cougars in the ABA.

Brown won the NBA title in 2004 with the Pistons.

There were also scholarship and recruiting reductions issued for the SMU men's golf team. Among the infractions cited by the NCAA were that between Dec. 6, 2012, and Oct. 23, 2013, the former head golf coach and an assistant coach engaged in 64 impermissible recruiting contacts with 10 men's golf prospects and seven parents.

Information from ESPN's Jeff Goodman and Andy Katz and The Associated Press was used in this report.

Related Video