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NCAA Places New Mexico State on Probation, Cuts JC Scholarships

July 17, 1996

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ The NCAA put New Mexico State’s basketball program on three years’ probation Tuesday and eliminated junior college scholarships for two seasons.

The NCAA announced the sanctions after an investigation into allegations of violations into academic fraud, ethical conduct, recruiting, transfer eligibility and institutional control.

The investigation centered on two former assistant coaches accused of providing test answers and papers for players to gain fraudulent eligibility through correspondence courses at Southeastern College of the Assemblies of God in Lakeland, Fla.

An internal investigation of coach Neil McCarthy’s program resulted in self-imposed sanctions in September. Many of those sanctions were accepted by the NCAA, but they did not include the junior college restrictions and only called for two years’ probation. The NCAA Committee on Infractions said the quick response saved the school from further penalties.

McCarthy has built a 229-114 record in 11 seasons with the Aggies _ including five NCAA tournament appearances _ largely by using junior college transfers. Over the last six seasons, he has brought 34 junior college players to the Las Cruces school on scholarships.

University president J. Michael Orenduff, who said he would not appeal the sanctions, tried to put a positive spin on the sanctions, saying: ``We will not be barred from television. We will not be barred from postseason play. Aggie basketball is again alive and well.″

McCarthy did not return telephone messages left by The Associated Press at his home and office Tuesday.

The infractions committee’s report blamed McCarthy and former full-time assistant Gar Forman for not exercising institutional control over the program. But the report placed most of the blame on restricted-earnings coach Chris Nordquist, ``who assumed he was expected to establish eligibility without regard for NCAA or institutional rules.″

Nordquist, who teaches and coaches girls basketball at Channel Islands High School in Oxnard, Calif., could not be reached for comment Tuesday. He was at New Mexico State from 1989 through the 1994-95 season.

The committee report outlines a series of events in which Nordquist completed course work, took tests and wrote papers for six players who needed credits from the Florida school to become eligible at New Mexico State. The violations began in 1991 and continued through 1993, the report said.

The committee found that, in one instance, Nordquist got other staff members to sign papers, or forged their signatures, saying they had proctored tests. Then, Nordquist would fill out the answers and send the tests back to the school.

The NCAA also reduced New Mexico State’s overall scholarships from 13 to 11 for the next two years. That was one more year than the school docked itself under self-imposed sanctions.

And the NCAA voided the Aggies’ record from appearances in the 1992, ’93 and ’94 NCAA tournaments, but did not ask the school to return revenue it reaped from the tourneys.

Under the sanctions, McCarthy will have to attend rules seminars and hold them for his assistants, or the school could face additional penalties.

The NCAA approved several penalties the school imposed against itself, included eliminating off-campus recruiting from Oct. 1, 1995, until the end of the 1995-96 school year and limiting official campus recruiting visits.

The NCAA also accepted the school’s decision to declare itself ineligible for the postseason last season and to decline revenue from televised games.

Last season was the first of two years of self-imposed probation. Under the NCAA sanctions, the Aggies have two more years of probation _ 1996-97 and 1997-98 _ in which the school must file compliance reports with the NCAA.

Although the committee said ``there is no more serious violation of NCAA legislation″ than academic fraud, there was no push for additional restrictions from TV money or postseason play, acting committee chairman Roy Kramer said from NCAA headquarters in Overland Park, Kan.

The report also places blame on McCarthy and Forman, now at Iowa State, even though they weren’t directly implicated in the academic fraud. The sanctions recommend Forman be banished from off-campus recruiting through Aug. 1, 1998. Iowa State can appeal the decision.

Forman’s attorney, Jim Darnell, said he was pleased that fraud allegations against Forman, which had been similar to those against Nordquist, were not confirmed by the NCAA committee.

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