NCAA director of enforcement David Berst said yesterday he has no reason to doubt the accuracy of a newspaper series that alleged corruption in the University of Kentucky basketball program, but that the NCAA was simply unable to build a similar case.
The Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader won a Pulitzer Prize in 1986 for its series alleging NCAA violations in the Kentucky program. But the NCAA announced Thursday that it was unable to substantiate many of the allegations.
Berst said that of 17 people interviewed by the NCAA and eight more interviewed by Kentucky as part of the joint inquiry, only one confirmed his statements quoted by the Herald-Leader.
"I don't have any reason not to have confidence in their claims, and the standards they employed in writing it," Berst said of the newspaper series. "It's more likely that people in the public eye will change their stories. Efforts to get our own case were unsuccessful."
While the NCAA could not prove any wrongdoing occurred within its four-year statute of limitations, its report on the Kentucky program was highly critical. The school was publicly reprimanded for not fully cooperating and ordered to monitor athletic expenditures and report to the NCAA for the next three years. Kentucky's own in-house inquiry did show infractions that occurred before October 1981.
The Herald-Leader had quoted former players saying they received cash, clothing and gifts. John Carroll, editor of the Herald-Leader, said he had no doubts about the veracity of his paper's series. He said the paper declined to turn over its notes and tapes because it did not want to serve as an arm of the NCAA.
"These stories represent a proud moment for the Herald-Leader," Carroll said. "We've taken a lot of heat from boosters, but those who really know the program also know that our series was dead right."
Berst said the NCAA was frustrated in its investigation by Kentucky's lack of full cooperation, and the newspaper's refusal to turn over its material.
"It became apparent that we were not going to get the same story, or the help of the paper, either . . . I just don't know the truth of the matter. What I'm faced with is simply the denials."
Yesterday, the Associated Press said it erroneously reported Thursday that the NCAA Committee on Infractions found no proof of wrongdoing in the Kentucky basketball program.