AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn’s basketball program was put on two years’ probation on Tuesday, with the NCAA cutting one scholarship but clearing the university of major rules violations.
Auburn was exonerated of accusations involving large sums of money and expensive cars given to high school prospects Chadd Moore and Jackie Butler. But the NCAA found that an AAU coach, Mark Komara, was acting as a representative of Auburn when arranged to wire $3,125 for Butler and get a 1996 Dodge Stratus for Moore.
Komara is believed to be the first summer league basketball coach designated a representative of a school, said Thomas Yeager, chairman of the NCAA’s Division I Committee on Infractions.
The university, which denied the major accusations, already had imposed its own penalties, including the loss of one scholarship for the 2004-05 season. The NCAA cut that scholarship for 2005-06, too, but did not ban postseason play or televised games.
“I think it’s always disappointing to be called to task by any organization in which you have violated established regulations,” Auburn interim President Ed Richardson said. “But I think that it was clearly identified that the sanctions that were provided, we feel were justified.”
Hal Baird, athletics assistant to the president, said the sanctions were severe enough to invoke a clause that adds an eighth year to the contract of new coach Jeff Lebo.
The NCAA cleared Auburn assistant coach Shannon Weaver of offering $50,000 and a car to Moore’s mother. Auburn also was found innocent on charges of offering Butler $70,000 and a car worth more than $40,000.
“The committee found that much of the information associated with these allegations was in conflict and thus was not sufficient to support findings,” Yeager said.
Neither player made official visits to Auburn, and the university had maintained that neither was offered a scholarship. Both were sophomores at the time of the alleged offers.
Auburn provided records to the NCAA that the university maintains show Weaver was actually under the care of a dentist in Scottsboro when he allegedly made the offer to Moore’s mother, Clara Moore.
Coach Cliff Ellis, who was not implicated by the NCAA, was fired March 18 and replaced by former Chattanooga coach Jeff Lebo.
Moore and Butler played summer ball for Komara, who the NCAA alleged was a representative of Auburn and was involved in improper recruitment.
Yeager said there was ample evidence to show Auburn coaches’ contact with Komara surpassed their relationships with others involved in recruiting. Among the examples he cited were telephone records showing Auburn coaches made more than 1,100 calls to Komara and fewer than 200 to others involved with recruiting. Yeager also said Auburn coaches helped make hotel and airline reservations that Komara paid for.
Although the NCAA acknowledges high school and summer league coaches play a special role in college recruiting, Yeager said, Komara’s actions exceeded that role.
Mike Walker, a Mississippi sports agent, made the initial allegations in March 2001.
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