University of Maryland, NCAA and ACC officials have received statements that the men's basketball coaching staff held practice at least six times before the NCAA-mandated Oct. 15 starting date last season.
Maryland, sources said, disputes the veracity of the statements.
George Jones said he and Wayne Smith, former student employees in the athletic department, told investigators Wednesday they observed organized practices with coaches present in early September in the auxiliary gymnasium at Cole Field House. Jones said assistant coach Billy Hahn and part-time assistant Adam Preyer were present; Smith told the (Baltimore) Evening Sun that only Preyer was present at the practice he observed.
Jones said head coach Gary Williams was not present at the practices he and Smith observed. Tim Burton, a former athletic department employee, gave a statement to university officials over the winter alleging Williams and two other coaches were present at another preseason practice; and Kim Adkins, wife of a former assistant, told the NCAA in December she saw Williams and Athletic Director Lew Perkins watching from a railing on the field house concourse as the team practiced with two assistant coaches standing on the court.
Williams has admitted to observing two pickup games but has denied any other violation of the preseason practice rules, which forbid organizing or observing workouts before Oct. 15. One athletic department source yesterday predicted that the allegations by Jones, Smith, Burton and Adkins are "going to unravel."
In a statement issued by the sports information office yesterday, Preyer said, "These allegations are completely false."
Hahn, a former Maryland player, denied in the statement that he "conducted preseason workouts at Maryland in violation of NCAA rules. Anyone who says that I had a hand in coaching a preseason practice is being untruthful."
Former assistant coach Roger McCready, who resigned Monday to pursue private business opportunities, earlier denied any involvement. Williams, who vehemently has denied the organized practice allegations, could not be reached yesterday.
Both Perkins and compliance officer Gerald Gurney, for whom Smith and Jones have worked, declined to comment yesterday, citing the ongoing investigation.
University president William E. Kirwan declined to comment on specific aspects of the latest investigation but said: "I've learned by experience that some of the allegations that get reported in the newspapers turn out to be false. I wish people would not jump to any conclusions before the inquiry is completed."
In March the NCAA Committee on Infractions placed Maryland on three years' probation, including a two-year postseason tournament ban and no appearances on live television this season. The basketball program was cited for 27 violations in 13 categories, mainly occurring under former coach Bob Wade.
At a hearing a month earlier, the Committee on Infractions reserved the right to decide whether Maryland's confession, made Jan. 31 and stating that Williams and members of his staff observed preseason workouts, would be treated as a major or secondary violation. The NCAA's visit here this week will add information for the committee to make its decision at its Aug. 11-14 meeting. Maryland is appealing the severity of the first sanctions to the Division I steering committee Aug. 1-3.
In an interview, Jones said he told NCAA representative Randy Reuckert, ACC assistant commissioner David Thompson and university attorney Terry Roach that he was in the basement of Cole Field House Sept. 8 when he heard noise from the auxiliary gym.
Jones said he went to the gym, opened the door and saw the team split into two groups that were scrimmaging. Jones said Preyer, standing in the left corner, was blowing a whistle and making substitutions and Hahn was leaning against a wall watching, but not blowing his whistle. Jones said that he left after five or 10 minutes.
He also said a team trainer and a manager were present that day.
Smith could not be reached for comment, but Jones said Smith observed another practice session. According to the Evening Sun, Smith alleges he saw Preyer "directing the game" that day. "I heard a game in process in the small gym," Smith told the paper. "I heard whistles and balls . . . I saw the men's basketball team playing a scrimmage game . . . . Coach Preyer was standing at midcourt, directing the game. He was sending players in and out."
In a statement to Gurney obtained by The Washington Post, Burton said he discussed the practice he saw with university counsel Dennis Blumer on Dec. 8. According to the memo, Burton said he observed -- "I think it was within the first couple of days of classes" -- through a window from outside the auxiliary gym Williams, Hahn and "someone who looked like" McCready conducting a practice.
Burton, a basketball manager under Lefty Driesell and Wade and most recently a ticket office employee, also described seeing players stop to talk to one of the coaches. Burton said he confirmed what he saw with members of the team before approaching Gurney.
Burton declined to comment.