The Clemson University football program will lose 10 scholarships each of the next two years as part of sanctions in a two-year probation announced by the NCAA last night. The university will take disciplinary actions against two assistant football coaches and four boosters, as well as being banned by the NCAA from bowl and televisions appearances for the next two years.
The 10 scholarships represent one-third of of the maximum allowed by the NCAA in a given year. The forfeiture of 10 scholarships per year for a two-year period is unprecedented in NCAA punishments against a football program.
The penalties against Clemson, college football's defending national champion, are the most serious handed down by the NCAA Committee on Infractions since it imposed three years probation with sanctions on the Michigan State University football program in 1976.
Although the NCAA did not ask the university to take disciplinary action against them, Clemson Coach Danny Ford, Athletic Director Bill McLellan and the dean of student affairs were found by the NCAA Committee on Infractions to have arranged for the university to pay a player's dental bill in April 1980.
There was no immediate figure available on the total number of infractions because some were lumped together, according to David Berst, NCAA director of enforcement. But he said that Clemson had been charged with more than 150 allegations, confirming a report by The Washington Post on Nov. 11 that the NCAA would impose two years probation with sanctions.
The infractions cover the period from 1977 to 1982. Ford became coach in December 1978 when Charlie Pell resigned to move to the University of Florida.
The infractions mainly occurred in the recruiting area, according to Berst, but also included limited extra benefits and unethical conduct by a former assistant coach who asked the father of a prospective student-athlete to provide false information to the NCAA. The Committee on Infractions cited a large number of serious recruiting infractions.
Among the recruiting infractions were giving prospective players automobiles, television sets, clothing, "substantial" sums of cash and other gifts. In addition, the NCAA said said Clemson had awarded scholarships to friends and relatives of recruits and paid telephone bills of recruits' families.
"Due to the large number and serious nature of the violations in this case, the committee believed that institutional sanctions related to appearances on television and in postseason football games were appropriate," Charles Alan Wright, a law professor at the University of Texas and chairman of the Committee on Infractions, said in a release by the NCAA.
"In addition, because the violations indicated a pattern of improper recruiting activities, the committee determined that a two-year limitation on financial aid to new recruits should be imposed to offset any recruiting advantage that was gained improperly by the university."
The football team, 8-1-1 and ranked 10th in the country, will leave today for Japan, where it will play its final game of the season against Wake Forest.
The school announced last week it would not participate in a bowl this season. Because the probation takes effect immediately, though Clemson will not be eligible for regular-season television appearances during the 1984 season, it would be eligible for a bowl.
"We just want to phase out football and move on to basketball," Ford said yesterday before the penalties were announced, according to the Associated Press.
Bill Lee Atchley, Clemson's president who has been the university's only spokesman on this matter since the NCAA began its investigation in January 1981, will not comment until a 2 p.m. press conference at Clemson today, according to a spokesman. At that time, the spokesman said, Atchley also will detail sanctions imposed in a two-year probation by the Atlantic Coast Conference. On Nov. 9, The Washington Post reported that the ACC's two-year probation would include the loss of Clemson's share of conference television revenues for both years. That penalty could cost the university at least $1 million, depending on its success.
Bob James, commissioner of the ACC, told the Associated Press: "I feel the penalties they enacted were what they deemed necessary for the allegations placed against the institution. I don't believe they made Clemson a scapegoat."
None of the Clemson players, recruits or coaches and boosters involved was identified as a matter of policy by the NCAA. In its confidential report to Clemson, the NCAA asked the university to show cause why the NCAA should not take additional penalties against Clemson unless it took appropriate action against the two coaches and the four boosters.
Clemson placed one assistant football coach on a three-year probation and prohibited him from taking part in the school's summer football camps and from receiving salary increases during the period. The second assistant was placed on a two-year probation, banned from off-campus recruiting and the summer football camps, and from receiving a pay raise for one year. The university also has banned the boosters from recruiting for it for the two years.
The loss of 10 scholarships each in successive years is unprecedented. Michigan State lost 10 during its first year of probation, five the second year and none in the third. Both Oklahoma State, in 1975, and Miami, Fla., in 1980, lost 10 scholarships over a two-year period, according to the NCAA.
This is the second major probation for a Clemson program since 1975. In that year, three years probation with sanctions was imposed against the basketball program. The football program was issued a public reprimand at the time.