The National Collegiate Athletic Association is likely to investigate the University of Maryland's football program because of an incident involving the use of a telephone credit card by nine players during the 1979 and '80 seasons, sources said yesterday.
The incident, in which the players used as assistant football coach's card number to make nearly $6,000 worth of personal phone calls, was first reported Wednesday in The Washington Post.
Maryland Chancellor Robert L. Gluckstern said that the school is beginning to provide the NCAA with information about the incident. Gluckstern said he did not learn of the credit card problem until yesterday's published report.
"I consider this a very serious matter and I have talked with my office out the story and been briefed by Mr. (Jim) Kehoe (the athletic director) about the incident," Gluckstern said when reached in New Mexico. "From the information I have, both Coach (Jerry) Claiborne and Mr. Kehoe took appropriate action as soon as they learned of the problem."
Gluckstern said he had no strong feelings about Kehoe's failure to tell him of the incident when he learned of it.
"I have, however, asked Mr. Kehoe to provide me with a complete report as soon as possible," Gluckstern said. "I will then decide after seeing the report if any further action is necessary."
Gluckstern said he was disturbed by the incident. "I want to make sure that the people responsible in the athletic department make it clear that they will not tolerate anything like this. I'm now convinced again that we must constantly be on the alert for these things and can't afford to ever make assumptions."
An NCAA headquarters in Shawnee Mission, Kan., Hale McMenemin of the enforcement division of the NCAA said that under its procedures the organization could not comment on the reports. "We can't comment on whether a member institution is being investigated or will be investigated," McMenemin said.
He added that if a school is to be investigated, it is informed by a letter sent to the university president. If Maryland were found guilty of a violation, it could be punished by anything from a letter of reprimand to probation, depending on the severity of the violation.
Last week, an NCAA official said that allowing athletes to use a university credit card assigned to a coach could violate the "extra benefits rule." That rule holds that no student athlete may be accorded a privilege not available to all other students.
John S. Toll, the university president, failed to return a reporter's repeated phone calls yesterday. Peter F. O'Malley, chairman of the board of regents said: "I first became aware of this incident through The Washington Post story today (Wednesday). It appears our athletic department discovered this item on its own initiative and took appropriate action.
"I have full confidence in Jim Kehoe and Jerry Claiborne. The are two people whom I know subscribe to the letter and intent of NCAA rules.
"I consider this matter an administrative one and expect it will be handled by Dr. Toll, but I expect to hear more about it. My initial reaction is to feel disappointed for Jerry that these kids apparently let him down, because I know how he feels about following rules."
Sources did report yesterday that Maryland may have unintentionally created a problem for itself by ordering the assistant coach, Thomas Groom, to pay 25 percent of the players' bill. One source familiar with NCAA rules pointed out that by doing so, Maryland had an assistant coach pay for football players' personal phone calls.
"I guess I can't really answer that," Dennis Blumer, the Maryland chancellor's legal counsel, said yesterday when the question of an unintentional rules violation was put to him. "I suppose it depends on where the people who look at this go to try to make a judgment. I would hope they would look beyond the technicality of the matter. But we will just have to see where the chips fall."
The problem apparently started when Groom gave all-ACC tailback Charlie Wysocki and wingback Jan Carinci the number of his university credit card during the 1979 season. Last January, a university official discovered the phone calls on Groom's bill and told Claiborne and Kehoe.
Claiborne ordered the players involved to pay 75 percent of their bills, with Groom paying the rest. As of Wednesday, when The Post story appeared, all but Carinci had repaid the university.