As the University of Maryland awaits today's decision on its appeal to the NCAA to reduce sanctions imposed on the basketball program, the issue of alleged improper practice sessions last season will not be resolved for at least two more months.
The Committee on Infractions had been expected to rule at its Aug. 11-14 meeting in Colorado Springs whether the allegations of improper practices prior to the NCAA-mandated Oct. 15 starting date would be treated as a secondary or a major violation.
"That issue will not be on the agenda next weekend," said David Berst, NCAA assistant executive director for enforcement. A Maryland source said the university needs more time to complete its investigation, since its legal department has focused on the appeal heard Wednesday in Monterey, Calif.
The next meeting of the Committee on Infractions is scheduled for Sept. 28-30.
Maryland basketball Coach Gary Williams has admitted observing portions of pickup games on two occasions, but has denied he organized or conducted formal practices. Assistant coach Billy Hahn and graduate assistant Adam Preyer also have denied conducting or organizing practices. The NCAA has allegations from at least four people that Maryland practiced before Oct. 15 with coaches present.
Maryland officials have not commented about the allegations, other than a statement by campus president William E. Kirwan that no conclusions should be made until all the facts are in.
The basis of Maryland's appeal was procedural. The university claimed that the infractions committee erred when it added citations for lack of institutional control to its final report, based on testimony at the infractions hearing. The university contends it should have been given notice or a hearing before sanctions were imposed, as is required by one NCAA rule.
But another rule, cited by the infractions committeee, allows additional violations uncovered during an infractions hearing to be added to the final report without notice. Maryland officials contend the two rules contradict each other and the rule cited by the committee creates a situation in which fair play is not ensured.
Berst said he could not recall another appeal questioning the compatibility of those two rules, saying they have been in place "for a long time." If it is successful today, Maryland would be the first institution to win an appeal since NCAA members approved more stringent penalties for cheaters in 1985. Only two other schools in 44 infractions cases have even tried since then, Marist losing in 1987 and Cleveland State in 1988. Each claimed it did not commit the alleged violations.
The second part of Maryland's strategy hinges on its claim that once the joint investigation into Wade's program started, it should not be liable for false statements that Wade and members of his staff made to investigators and to the infractions committee. The university also contends that the severity of the sanctions was based on false statements by university employees, including Wade.