UPDATED: Thursday, 2:53 p.m. ET.
The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions issued its report Wednesday on major and secondary violations within Arizona State's baseball program and assessed penalties, including a ban on 2011 postseason play.
The Sun Devils also will be placed on probation for three years and will forfeit two scholarships for one year "at the first opportunity, but no later than 2011-12," according to the report. ASU faces self-imposed recruiting restrictions—its coaches will not be allowed to make recruiting phone calls during the July 2011 recruiting period, and it will be limited to nine paid official visits for the 2010-11 recruiting year. And 44 of ASU's 49 wins from its 2007 College World Series team have been vacated—another self-imposed penalty.
Virgil Renzulli, vice president in ASU's office of public affairs, said the university is considering appealing the postseason ban. Renzulli told Baseball America that the school has about 15 days to make its appeal—which is based on existing evidence and testimony—and that it would "probably take a minimum of 120 days before we get an answer."
"The university agrees it could have monitored—and now does monitor—the program more closely and for that reason it self-imposed significant sanctions, including vacating all wins during the 2007 baseball season, including a conference championship and College World Series games," ASU said in a statement sent out by Renzulli. "However, many of the record keeping related violations were highly technical (some are not even violations under current NCAA rules) and one of the NCAA’s added sanctions is unduly harsh under the circumstances.
"Thus, ASU intends to appeal the NCAA report because the university disagrees with some of the findings of fact and the characterization of some infractions as major rather than secondary. The university also intends to appeal the additional sanction of banning post-season baseball play in 2011, which punishes many student athletes and coaches who were not involved in the rules violations."
But in a teleconference with reporters, infractions committee chairman Paul Dee emphasized that this is the ninth major violation for the Arizona State athletics department, which is the most of any NCAA institution. That track record works against ASU's chances to win any appeal.
"They participated (in the postseason) when they shouldn't have in 2007, and we think a postseason ban is appropriate when you have a lack of institutional control," Dee said.
The committee found ASU guilty of a series of violations that occurred over more than five years under former head coach Pat Murphy, consisting primarily of recruiting infractions, including the use of an impermissible recruiter and excessive phone calls. There were also violations involving coaching staff limits and paying 20 student-athletes a total of $5,889.34 for work not performed at Murphy's own nonprofit organization.
“While the institution always has a duty to monitor student-athlete employment, a head coach, when employing his own student-athletes, has his own duty to ensure the employment arrangement is permissible," the committee's report said.
The report also said Murphy requested four student-athletes to decrease all or a portion of their athletic scholarship during the academic year so that it could be provided to new or incoming student-athletes. And the committee specifically singled out several violations regarding the recruitment of catcher/DH Kiel Roling in the fall of 2006, including the impermissible involvement of former team manager Mikel Moreno—who accused ASU of recruiting violations in January of 2009 shortly after Murphy fired him. The university had started an internal investigation into the program in 2008, eventually leading to Murphy's ouster last November and the school's self-imposed sanctions in April.
"The committee determined there was a lack of institutional control and a failure by the former head coach to promote an atmosphere for compliance," the NCAA said in a release.
Renzulli disputed the lack of institutional control charge, citing the Pacific-10 Conference's 2009 compliance review report, which said, "In every key area, the vital components of an effective compliance program are in place (at ASU), and they are functioning properly."
The committee's report says the school did not self-detect any of the violations in the case, but Renzulli disputed that, as well. "We did self-report, we did investigate this, we did impose most of the sanctions on ourselves," he said. "We're not completely exonerating ourselves, there could have been tighter controls, there are tighter controls now . . . but some of these violations are secondary, and some of the violations are no longer violations. Take all those things into consideration, we were surprised and concerned by the postseason ban."
Specifically, Renzuli said restrictions on student managers throwing batting practices have been eliminated, and schools are now allowed to make more than one phone call per week. "Obviously, it wasn't a law of nature, if you can change it," Renzulli said.
Murphy himself was barred from participating in any recruiting phone calls for a one-year period, ending next Dec. 14. He also was assessed a one-year show-cause penalty, which means, in the words of the committee's report, "any institution employing the former head coach during this one-year period shall be required to contact the office of the Committees on Infractions to review these penalties. Any employing institution shall also be required to send a report to the committee during the year of the show-cause period. This report shall document the institution's monitoring of the former head coach and confirm that he has complied with the provisions of the show-cause penalty."
Essentially, any school that hires Murphy in the next year just has to make sure he does not participate in any recruiting calls. Murphy has expressed his desire to return to college coaching; he currently works in the Padres organization and is slated to manage short-season Eugene in 2011.
Murphy's on-field track record is superb. During his 16-year tenure at Arizona State, he was named Pac-10 coach of the year four times. He led the Sun Devils to three straight Pac-10 titles and two CWS berths (including the vacated 2007 season). From 2000-2009, no other Pac-10 school won as many games as Arizona State. And since 1995, Murphy coached more players that were drafted than any other coach in the nation. Some of the notable future big league stars he coached were Dustin Pedroia, Andre Ethier and Mike Leake.
It's also worth noting that the unethical conduct charges against Murphy, three former assistant coaches and the former director of baseball operations were dismissed.
The Sun Devils replaced Murphy with former ASU assistant Tim Esmay on an interim basis last December, and he was named full-time coach in June, shortly before leading Arizona State back to Omaha. The infractions committee specifically commended Esmay for "discontinuing the program where student-athletes were asked to relinquish all or portions of their financial aid for incoming student-athletes. The committee requires the university to cease this practice on a permanent basis."
Esmay's 2011 team returns a number of star players from last year's Omaha team and would certainly have been capable of getting back to the CWS. But NCAA rule 14.8.2 would allow ASU's seniors to transfer this winter without having to sit out a year because the school is ineligible for the postseason. Of course, there remains a chance that Arizona State could win its appeal in April or May, so the seniors will have to weigh the possibility that the Devils could regain their postseason eligibility—among other factors—against the opportunity to compete for a postseason berth elsewhere.
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