The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions has found that the Virginia men's basketball program violated NCAA rules during its recruitment of a player in 1996, and has imposed sanctions that include the loss of one scholarship for one season, the association announced today.
Virginia officials also reported two other violations that occurred between 1993 and 1997, the NCAA said. The committee termed the violations secondary rather than major "because the more serious and related violations involved one prospective student-athlete and resulted in a limited recruiting advantage since the violations occurred after the prospect had signed two National Letters of Intent with the university," according to an NCAA statement.
None of the principals involved was identified in the NCAA's statement or in related materials Virginia officials released today, but the facts of the case outlined in those documents match previously reported details about then-coach Jeff Jones's recruitment of power forward Melvin Whitaker and benefits Whitaker reportedly received from Virginia boosters Keith Hume and Cleve Null.
In addition, in a letter to Athletic Director Terry Holland dated Sept. 2, NCAA enforcement staff member Christopher S. Strobel wrote that the violations involved a prospect who "was charged with a felony crime . . . on March 6" 1996 and later told "he could not enroll as a student-athlete at the institution." Whitaker is the only Virginia men's basketball recruit who was charged with a felony on March 6, 1996.
According to the NCAA's statement, Virginia's former men's basketball coach arranged for a booster to rent an apartment to the prospect during early 1996. The arrangement called for a security deposit and monthly rental payments, but no rent was paid, the NCAA said. The booster also provided transportation, occasional meals, long-distance telephone usage and cash totaling $50 to $100, all in violation of NCAA rules, the association said. Another booster gave the prospect legal expenses, transportation, lodging, meals, spending money and other benefits totaling approximately $14,000.
The men's basketball program will lose one scholarship during one academic year and the number of official recruiting visits it can provide during that academic year will be reduced to nine from 12. The sanctions can take effect during the 2000-01 or 2001-02 academic years, said Lynn Mitchell, the Virginia athletic department's compliance director.
"There was no appeal, but the NCAA recognized that there were offers already made to this [men's basketball] recruiting class that might preclude compliance until the following year," Holland said via e-mail.
In a letter to Strobel that was provided by the university, Holland said the university accepted the Committee on Infractions' findings and sanctions. "We acknowledge that serious mistakes were made and that the responsibility for those mistakes rests not merely with our former basketball coaches, but with officials at all levels of the Department of Athletics, myself included," Holland said in the letter.
Pete Gillen, who replaced Jones as coach in 1998, referred questions to Holland. Jones, now an assistant at Rhode Island, declined to comment.
Whitaker, a 6-foot-10 power forward from Raleigh, N.C., was arrested in March 1996 for slashing football player Maurice Anderson's face with a box cutter. While incarcerated, Whitaker wrote to NCAA officials to see if they could help reduce his sentence. The NCAA then began its investigation. Mitchell said the university also opened an internal inquiry in the fall of 1998 that ended with a report March 23.
Whitaker served 2 1/2 years of a 3 1/2-year sentence for felony malicious wounding, and is a sophomore at Mount St. Mary's.
Staff writer Josh Barr, in Washington, contributed to this report.