After two years of investigations, accusations, resignations, firings and lawsuits, Virginia Tech's basketball program was placed on two years probation by the NCAA and the Hokies' scholarships were reduced in football for the next two years.
The basketball sanctions will keep the Hokies out of postseason play this season and next. The football team will be allowed to carry only 85 players on scholarship -- 10 below the NCAA limit -- in 1988 and 1989. Only 17 of those scholarships can go to recruits next year -- 13 under the normal limit -- and 25 can go to them in 1989.
The NCAA also announced that Virginia Tech could face further penalties if it does not take "appropriate disciplinary action" against a "representative of the institution's athletic interest" for his involvement in the violations. That representative was identified yesterday as former associate athletic director William (Moose) Matthews.
Interim athletic director Raymond Smoot said he would discuss with the NCAA what actions the school had to take regarding Matthews' violations.
The basketball program, under recently resigned coach Charlie Moir, was found guilty of 13 violations, including charges that a booster helped a player's wife obtain financing for a car. The football program, under former coach Bill Dooley, had awarded too many scholarships for several years.
At one point, Virginia Tech had 114 players on scholarships -- 19 over the NCAA limit. During that time, even though the football and basketball teams enjoyed success on the field and the court, the athletic department ran up huge deficits, leaving it with a debt now reportedly approaching $4 million.
"These sanctions are harsh, in keeping with the serious nature of the violations," Smoot said yesterday in a statement. "I am heartened, however, by the fact that the NCAA recognized the good faith shown by Virginia Tech in initiating the investigation and reporting the results to the NCAA. These actions demonstrate that the university is committed to strict observance of the rules."
Smoot is the third man to sit in the athletic director's chair in the last 12 months. The first to do so was Dooley, who was told during last season that he would not be retained as both football coach and athletic director at the end of the football season. He quit, citing breach of contract, and sued Virginia Tech, eventually winning a $1 million out-of-court settlement.
He was replaced as athletic director by Dale (Dutch) Baughman, who lasted six months and then quit, citing disagreements with university president William E. Lavery. Earlier this month, Lavery resigned in the wake of the impending NCAA sanctions. Last summer, Virginia Gov. Gerald Baliles blasted the school's athletic department during Virginia Tech's commencement ceremony.
Since then, Lavery had taken steps to bring the athletic program under control of the university administration. Before then, it had been under the jurisdiction of the Virginia Tech Athletic Association, a group that technically operated under university guidance but was for all intents and purposes independent. In its report, the NCAA lauded Lavery for "firm and immediate actions to thoroughly investigate the violations." For that reason, the NCAA suspended a third year of scholarship limitations it had initially planned for the football program.
Dooley, now coach at Wake Forest, was succeeded by Frank Beamer this fall. Yesterday, Dooley told the Associated Press, "How can I comment on something I don't know about? I have never knowingly or willingly violated NCAA rules. If I did, which I told the NCAA, it was an honest misunderstanding."
The school is now without a successor to Lavery and has an interim athletic director and an interim basketball coach, Frankie Allen. One of Allen's first acts after taking over for Moir was to fire the other full-time assistant, Bobby Stevens. That, as much as any act, illustrated the deep divisions in the basketball program and athletic department. Stevens was the hero in Virginia Tech's greatest moment in basketball, the 1973 National Invitation Tournament, sinking an off-balance jump shot at the buzzer to beat Notre Dame in overtime and win the title.
It was hoped when he returned to the school that he would help rekindle that kind of glory. Instead, he was accused of undermining Moir by those loyal to him and fired by Allen soon after Moir had left.