Eds: Updates with Mark Morefield’s statement in new 17th paragraph. With AP Photos.
WACO, Texas — The NCAA put Baylor on three years of probation Wednesday after an investigation turned up hundreds of impermissible telephone calls and text messages sent to prep recruits by coaches and assistants on the basketball teams.
The violations were considered to be major infractions, and they were announced less than a week after the Lady Bears won the national championship with the first 40-0 season in NCAA history.
Still, it could have been much worse for Baylor. All of the penalties were proposed by the school and accepted by the NCAA after a review of nearly 900,000 phone and text message records found that 738 texts and 528 calls were against the rules.
The NCAA said men’s coach Scott Drew failed to monitor his program and will be suspended for two Big 12 games next season, in addition to recruiting restrictions. Women’s coach Kim Mulkey also received recruiting restrictions.
“I believe strongly in following NCAA rules and will always try to do so in the future,” Mulkey said in a statement released by the school. “I do nothing without permission from our compliance office and will continue to ask questions to assure that things are done right. Any compliance-related mistakes, even those that are secondary, are disappointing. The majority of mistakes in this matter were errors in sending text messages and failure to accurately document our phone calls.”
The report put a bit of a damper on what has been an extraordinary run of success for Baylor athletics.
Besides Baylor’s win over Notre Dame for the women’s title, Drew’s team won a school-record 30 games and reached the NCAA regional finals, where the Bears lost to eventual national champion Kentucky. And all that came after star quarterback Robert Griffin III became the school’s first Heisman Trophy winner following a football season that included 10 wins for the first time since 1980.
Mulkey was named the AP’s national coach of the year and junior Brittney Griner was its player of the year. How Baylor recruited Griner, one of the most dominant women’s players in college basketball history, was reportedly part of the NCAA probe.
A school report obtained by ESPN.com said Mulkey and her staff committed minor NCAA violations for having impermissible contact with Griner and her family. During a 2007 camp, coaches spoke with the Griners about the basketball program, academic requirements and the school in general both before and after the camp.
Mulkey also reportedly broke NCA rules when she sat next to Griner’s father and discussed what the Baylor experience would be like. Brittney Griner, who is from the Houston area, played on the same AAU team as Mulkey’s daughter, Makenzie Robertson.
The NCAA report did not mention Griner or her family by name, though Mulkey addressed it in her statement.
“The other matters were related to my daughter’s participation in summer basketball,” she said. “While I am and will always be a mother first, I do recognize that there has to be a balance between my role as a mother of a prospect and my role as a head coach. I have always tried to strike that balance and appreciate the opportunity to demonstrate to the NCAA staff such balancing efforts dating back to when Makenzie was in the seventh grade. I am pleased that my efforts to find the appropriate balance between a mother and a coach were recognized.”
Griner said she had “made it clear to the NCAA staff and everyone else” that she had chosen Baylor early in the recruiting process.
Besides keeping Mulkey off the recruiting trail in July, Baylor said one of her assistants has been barred from making recruiting calls from January through April. The school also reduced its women’s basketball scholarships from 15 to 13 in 2011-12.
On the men’s side, Drew will miss the first two Big 12 games of the season, recruiting visits were trimmed and he lost a scholarship this past season and in 2012-13. In addition, a former coach faces a one-year “show cause” order that effectively prevents him from coaching at an NCAA school.
The assistant wasn’t identified, but FOXSports.com reported in October 2010 that the NCAA was investigating the recruitment of Hanner Perea. The report said assistant Mark Morefield sent dozens of texts to Perea’s AAU and high school coaches and urged two of them to provide false and misleading information to the NCAA about a series of text messages. Morefield resigned in July 2011.
“I sincerely apologize to Baylor University and Baylor Nation,” Morefield said in statement released by his lawyer. “I learned a very valuable lesson in this case. In my 13 years of coaching at NCAA institutions, I have not intentionally violated NCAA rules. I will grow from this experience with a better understanding of NCAA rules.”
The NCAA violations come nine years after Baylor basketball player Patrick Dennehy was found shot to death after he had been missing for six weeks. Teammate Carlton Dotson pleaded guilty to murder. The ensuing investigation uncovered NCAA violations, illegal tuition payments and unreported failed drug tests that led to the resignation of coach Dave Bliss, who was secretly recorded by an assistant coach of trying to persuade others to cover up misdeeds by portraying Dennehy as a drug dealer.
Athletic director Ian McCaw said the school has made “significant investments in compliance staffing and infrastructure” since the investigation began.
Drew said he took full responsibility for the violations, saying many were simply the result of improperly logging or failing to log calls to recruits. He noted that the school has a new software tracking system to assist coaches with the logistics.
“I came to Baylor in 2003 to do a job: rebuild a program decimated by very serious NCAA rules violations and tragedy,” he said. “I promised to rebuild the program in a way Baylor could be proud-morally, academically and, finally, athletically, and we continue on that journey today.”