BERKELEY, Calif. — The NCAA placed the California men’s basketball program on two years probation Friday for making more than 300 impermissible recruiting phone calls.
The Division I Committee on Infractions added only a few small penalties on top of what the school had already self-imposed after quickly reporting the 365 calls made shortly after coach Mike Montgomery and his staff were hired in April 2008.
“I believe deeply in following NCAA rules and have always promoted an atmosphere of compliance within our program,” said Montgomery, a former chair of the NABC Ethics Committee. “It is gratifying to know that during our NCAA hearing in Indianapolis that there was agreement among all parties that these violations were unintentional. However, that does not excuse them, and we need to remain diligent in our efforts to remain compliant. We strive to maintain a very high standard and take this situation very seriously.”
Montgomery, two assistants and other members of the athletic department met with the NCAA in December as part of the committee’s investigation.
MEAC Commissioner Dennis Thomas, the chairman of the infractions committee, said the investigation determined the violations were a case of neglect more than “an intentional effort to circumvent the rules.”
He added that it is incumbent on coaches to know and follow the rules and praised Cal for the way it handled the situation.
“Cal self-reported this violation and they caught it,” Thomas said. “That’s a good thing. When they caught it, then they took the appropriate action of investigating it and determining what violations had occurred.”
One unidentified assistant coach made 212 impermissible calls and another made 107. Montgomery and a third assistant made a minimal amount of banned calls.
The school said about 300 of the calls were “documentation violations,” meaning they could have been allowed had they been logged correctly in a timely matter. The remaining calls violated rules about when and how often potential recruits can be contacted.
Montgomery and the three assistants were already sanctioned by the school. Athletic director Sandy Barbour said she believes the discovery by the school of the violations shows that the compliance monitoring process works as intended.
“When Mike Montgomery joined our program in April 2008, we knew we were hiring a coach known for his integrity who cares deeply about this student-athletes’ college experience,” Barbour said. “He expects the same ethical behavior from every member of his staff. The manner in which Coach Montgomery and his assistant coaches have responded to and engaged in this process has only confirmed our initial beliefs.”
Montgomery was banned by Cal from making recruiting calls for one week in October 2009. The only other additional penalty he received Friday was a requirement that he and two assistants must attend a NCAA rules seminar. The NCAA did not rule that he failed to monitor his staff adequately.
The only other additional penalties handed out Friday were the probation that runs through Feb. 24, 2013, a public reprimand and censure, and a limit of five official paid visits for each of the next two academic years. The report said Cal paid for an average of 5 3/4 visits over the four-year period from 2006-07 through 2009-10.
The first assistant had been banned from off-campus recruiting for nearly 10 months from 2008-09, was unable to evaluate potential recruits off campus for two months and was not allowed to place or receive recruiting calls for one year. No further penalties were added by the NCAA.
Details in the infractions report make clear that the first assistant is Jay John, who acknowledged that he had not made many recruiting calls when he was head coach at Oregon State and that the rules regarding phone calls were different than when he was last an assistant in 2002.
The other two assistants are Travis DeCuire and Gregg Gottlieb.
One was not allowed to make phone calls to recruits for two weeks before the early signing period in November 2009. The NCAA ruled he will also not be allowed to make calls for 90 days, beginning March 12.
The other was not allowed to make recruiting calls for two weeks in November 2009 and no further sanctions were imposed.
“The committee was very pleased with the self-imposed penalties by the institution because we did only impose a limited amount of additional penalties,” Thomas said. “We did feel the university was forthcoming and heading in the right direction in self-imposing penalties upon itself.”