NCAA hands Notre Dame its first major violation
By KATHLEEN O'BRIEN
The storied history of sports beneath the Golden Dome took a major hit as Notre Dame received its first-ever major violation of NCAA regulations.
The Notre Dame football program was placed on probation for two years with the loss of one football scholarship during each of the next two seasons following the NCAA ruling that Notre Dame committed a major violation in regards to gifts to players by a university representative.
"This is not a good day for Notre Dame," University president Father
Edward Malloy said in a prepared statement. "We are embarrassed by these incidents, troubled that they occurred, and we have taken action to deal with the issues involved. Notre Dame has a proud tradition in athletics, not only for doing well but also for doing right."
Notre Dame has decided not to appeal the penalties, resolving instead to look towards the future of the program's integrity.
"A jury of our peers said that it was major and they gave us a penalty," Malloy said to The Observer. "We will accept this and move on."
The Kim Dunbar case
The first set of events considered in the case involved gifts given to football players by a Notre Dame booster, Kim Dunbar, between 1993 and 1998.
Dunbar was convicted of embezzling from her former employer $1.4 million, much of which she used to purchase lavish gifts and trips for various football players.
"The violations were major because of the length of time over which they occurred," the committee report said, "The extravagant nature of gifts and benefits that were provided to the football student-athletes, the competitive advantage gained by the University in as much as the university continued to use student-athletes who were later declared ineligible, and the fact the violations were neither isolated nor inadvertent."
A complaint filed in superior court in South Bend by Dunbar's former employer, Jerry Dominiack, seeks repayment for the money or gifts received by the players from Dunbar, according to ESPN news services. The complaint lists eight players, including Jarvis Edison, whose gifts were permissible because he has a personal relationship and child with Dunbar.
The penalties partly spawns reports that an assistant coach learned in 1996 that Dunbar had paid for a trip to Las Vegas for herself, Edison, another player and his girlfriend. The coach said he did not notify the NCAA because he believed the gifts were acceptable because of the romantic involvement between Dunbar and Edison, according to the NCAA report.
"If he had notified someone," committee chair Jack Friedenthal said in a teleconference on Dec. 17, 1999, "then penalties might well have been averted."
According to the NCAA, Dunbar became a Notre Dame booster on June 22, 1995, when she paid $25 to join the now-disbanded Quarterback Club. Two NCAA groups, however, could not decide whether Dunbar was, in fact, a representative of the University's athletic interests.
It took an overseer's vote in a tiebreaker to determine she was a booster, leaving many to wonder how athletes should have understood Dunbar's representation of Notre Dame and the NCAA.
"I make no claims about the system of the NCAA," Malloy said in an interview with The Observer on Dec. 19, 1999. "It is a bit convoluted, but I presume that the people involved in it are people of integrity and are trying to do what is right."
The Eric Chappell case
In the second series of violations, reserve quarterback Eric Chappell attempted to sell his complimentary game tickets to his girlfriend, a part-time tutor for the University, and her friend.
The tutor was also found to have prepared an academic paper for a student athlete. Darcey Levy, who left the football team before the 1999 season, paid for the paper, a person familiar with the report told the Chicago Tribune.
This second set of violations came to light in September, during the 21 months of investigation of the Dunbar case.
NCAA assess penalties
The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions considered both series of violations when levying penalties. The committee concluded that the violations were major in both cases, despite the recommendation of the University and the NCAA enforcement staff that the violations were secondary.
"Part of our testimony in our hearing revolved around this disagreement between the enforcement staff and the committee," Malloy said. "The NCAA said in the press conference today [Dec. 19] that every case was different, and my impression was that there was no precedent for this kind of incident with the NCAA. We are in uncharted waters in regard to relationships and gift-giving and NCAA violations. All we can do is accept the final judgment in this case."
Secondary violations provide only a limited recruiting or competitive advantage, and are isolated or inadvertent in nature, according to the NCAA. Other violations, particularly those providing an extensive recruiting or competitive advantage, are considered major.
Early hype over the committee's pending decision predicted that Notre Dame would be used as an example, perhaps because of the school's reputation for high moral standards.
Following the decision, some criticized the NCAA for not giving harsher penalties to go with the major violation. Critics thought Notre Dame should have lost more scholarships, had its TV contract with NBC penalized, or even been declared bowl-ineligible.
On the other side of the debate, Notre Dame supporters argued that a dubious connection between Dunbar and the school was not enough to warrant a major violation.
They claimed Notre Dame was singled out for its status as an upper-class private institution, pointing to the fact that virtually all major violations involve a coach in some way.
"This has been a difficult three years for Notre Dame," athletic director Michael Wadsworth wrote in a letter to student athletes obtained by The Observer. "The hard work, dedication, and sacrifices made by several generations of Notre Dame student-athletes has been undermined by the facts of this case, its sensational publicity, and the resulting penalties."
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