NCAA says WVU guilty of rules violations

Published 1:29 am Friday, August 6, 2010

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia student managers, graduate assistants and other non-coaching staff worked with football players on their skills and techniques in violation of NCAA limits during the Rich Rodriguez era and under current coach Bill Stewart, according to NCAA allegations released Thursday.

The NCAA said this week that there were five major and one secondary rules violations committed by the Mountaineer football program from 2005 to 2009.

The NCAA said both Rodriguez and Stewart failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance. Similar allegations were leveled against Rodriguez during an earlier, separate investigation at Michigan, which in May admitted it had committed a series of violations related to practice time and coaching activities.

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Rodriguez led West Virginia, his alma mater, to two Bowl Championship Series berths and a 60-26 record in seven seasons before taking over at Michigan in December 2007. He left West Virginia two weeks after the Mountaineers lost to Pittsburgh in the 2007 regular-season finale and failed to secure a spot in the national championship game.

Rodriguez said in a statement that he has always taken compliance seriously and have “sincerely felt our program was open and transparent.”

“I regret any mistakes that were made or rules that were misinterpreted. Any errors certainly weren’t made intentionally. I openly discussed my past practices with NCAA investigators and will continue to cooperate fully during this process.”

“I have redoubled efforts with my staff and our compliance team to improve several processes, strengthen communications, and work to ensure these mistakes wont happen in the future.”

Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said there will be no change in Rodriguez’s job status as a result of Thursday’s NCAA announcements.

“We’re not part of the inquiry at WVU and we have limited access to the information pertaining to this investigation,” Brandon said. “We’re certainly paying close attention to the situation, but we all need to let the process and the facts unfold before we draw any conclusions. I’m not going to speculate about any aspect of the outcome.

“I’ve already said Rich is our coach this fall and WVU’s announcement does not change that fact.”

Stewart became West Virginia’s head coach after leading the Mountaineers to a Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma as interim coach in January 2008.

According to the NCAA, during the summers of 2005 to 2009, West Virginia allowed graduate assistants, student managers or others to monitor or conduct voluntary football players’ summer workouts.

Graduate assistants were allowed to analyze video with football players and some staff monitored and conducted skill development with players during the spring and summer, the NCAA said.

The NCAA noted Stewart knew or should have known that the involvement of non-coaching, sports-specific staff members was not permissible.

WVU football spokesman Mike Montoro said Stewart isn’t allowed to comment on the NCAA investigation.

West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck said WVU has fully cooperated for the past nine months with the NCAA in the identification of potential rules violations and more than 80 people were interviewed.

WVU has since reduced its graduate assistant and non-coaching staff and restructured the student manager program, Luck said.

“Because of our strong commitment to compliance, we implemented significant changes intended to ensure that those mistakes did not continue, and that they will not happen again,” he said.

Luck said among the changes include employment agreements that clearly detail allowable and unacceptable activities for graduate assistants and other sport-specific personnel. Rules education and monitoring programs have been expanded.

Luck said the allegations are being reviewed and the university will respond to each one.

“We are eager to resolve this and move forward,” Luck said. “West Virginia University has always prided itself on its commitment to compliance. We take this responsibility very seriously. I know that our coaches and staff are fully supportive of these obligations.”

West Virginia opens preseason football camp on Saturday.