OKLAHOMA CITY - During an NCAA investigation into its football program, Oklahoma officials argued that the university should not be found guilty of a “failure to monitor” the employment of its athletes.
After the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions disagreed and hit the Sooners with major sanctions, Oklahoma will look to continue its argument in front of an appeals panel. As of Thursday, Oklahoma has 14 days remaining to notify the NCAA in writing of any such appeal.
Oklahoma President David Boren said the university's appeal will focus on two elements - the NCAA's “failure to monitor” ruling and one of the harshest punishments levied against the Sooners, that of having to erase its wins from the 2005 season, when Oklahoma finished 8-4.
Boren said the first part of the appeal is “a matter of principle,” as the university maintains it took immediate corrective action when it was determined that two players broke NCAA rules.
The other part of the appeal is a simple matter of fairness, he said.
“We do not believe that erasing the 2005 season from the record books is fair to the over 100 student athletes and coaches who played by the rules and worked their hearts out for a successful season that year,” Boren said.
The penalties stem from a case involving two players, starting quarterback Rhett Bomar and offensive lineman J.D. Quinn, who were kicked off the team last August for being paid for work they had not performed at a Norman car dealership, Big Red Sports and Imports.
Among the penalties, the NCAA said coach Bob Stoops' career record will be amended to reflect the erased wins, dropping it from 86-19 in eight seasons to 78-19.
Oklahoma also will have two years of probation added to an earlier penalty, extending the Sooners' probation to May 23, 2010.
Those sanctions are in addition to those already self-imposed by Oklahoma, which has banned athletes from working at the car dealership until at least the 2008-09 academic year and moved to prevent the athletes' supervisor at the dealership, Brad McRae, from being involved with the university's athletics program until at least August 2011.
Oklahoma also will reduce the number of football coaches who are allowed to recruit off campus this fall. In addition to Bomar and Quinn, the Sooners also dismissed walk-on Jermaine Hardison from the team.
“Although this case centered on a few violations involving three student-athletes, the committee finds this case to be significant and serious for several reasons,” the NCAA report said, noting the length of time of the violations and the fact that Oklahoma had appeared before the committee in April 2006 regarding violations in its men's basketball program.
On Aug. 3 - the day before the Sooners began preseason practice - Stoops dismissed Bomar and Quinn from the team. An NCAA investigation followed, which found that Bomar, Quinn and Hardison had been paid for time they did not work at the car dealership and that Hardison had received payment for time he spent participating in a scrimmage and spring game.
The players and McRae engaged “in a deliberate scheme to deceive both the employer's payroll system and the university's employment monitoring system in an attempt to violate NCAA rules of which they were real aware,” the report stated.
The committee found that Oklahoma “demonstrated a failure to monitor” the employment of several athletes, including some football players who worked during the academic year. The NCAA said that failure led to the university not detecting NCAA rules violations.
During the investigation, the university maintained the NCAA should applaud, not penalize, its efforts to root out violations and noted that NCAA president Myles Brand told one news outlet that the university “acted with integrity in taking swift and decisive action” in the case.
Paul Dee, the athletic director at Miami and the interim chairman of the infractions committee, said Wednesday that Oklahoma should be praised for quickly dismissing the players from the team, calling that action “very influential on the committee.”
Still, the committee said that Oklahoma should have undertaken more extensive efforts to monitor the players' employment, because the dealership apparently was the largest employer of Oklahoma athletes.
Stoops said he “strongly supported” Boren's decision to appeal.
“Our current team is focused on the upcoming season,” Stoops said. “The university is dealing with a matter that relates to the 2005 season. This group of players and those that will join our program later have no reason to be concerned about our goals or the direction of our program. Those things remain unchanged.”
Both Bomar and Quinn lost a season of eligibility. Bomar has been ordered by the NCAA to pay back more than $7,400 in extra benefits to charity, while Quinn was told to pay back more than $8,100. Both players transferred to Division I-AA schools - Bomar to Sam Houston State and Quinn to Montana - where they can resume their careers this season.
Through Sam Houston State athletic department spokesman Paul Ridings, Bomar declined comment Wednesday. Quinn said he did not pay any attention to the infractions committee's ruling on Oklahoma, calling it “dumb” and referring to it with an expletive.
Oklahoma officials also appeared before the infractions committee in April 2006 following an investigation into hundreds of improper recruiting phone calls by former basketball coach Kelvin Sampson's staff.
Oklahoma escaped major sanctions in that case, as the infractions committee also found the university guilty of a “failure to monitor,” a less severe ruling than “lack of institutional control,” which had been recommended by the NCAA's enforcement staff.
The committee mostly accepted the university's self-imposed sanctions, which included reductions in scholarships, recruiting calls and trips and visits to the school by prospective recruits.