Cincinnati Loses Three Scholarships
CINCINNATI (AP) _ Coach Bob Huggins was surprised by the extent of the penalties that the NCAA imposed Thursday for wide-ranging violations in his basketball program.
The NCAA stuck to its conclusion that there was a lack of institutional control over Huggins’ program, which has been under scrutiny for nearly two years and had put itself on a one-year probation.
Cincinnati avoided the most major penalty _ loss of postseason play _ but will lose three scholarships over a two-year period and have its recruiting limited. The school also received two years’ probation from the NCAA.
Assistant coach John Loyer, who was Huggins’ right-hand man, was cleared by the NCAA to resume coaching. University president Joseph Steger said Loyer will remain on paid leave while the school decides whether he has violated its code of conduct through his actions as an assistant.
Huggins, who had generally declined to talk about the investigation, lamented that reputations have been damaged by the fallout.
Although Huggins was not implicated in any violations, he has accepted general responsibility for what he called inadvertent mistakes in his program.
``Yeah, it hurts. Sure it hurts,″ Huggins said haltingly. ``You have to understand, this is my life. I grew up watching my father coach. Coaching to me is something to be very proud of. It’s not something you disgrace.″
The investigation began 22 months ago, when the university was asked to check the eligibility of point guard Charles Williams. It quickly expanded and uncovered myriad violations, some of them major.
Williams was suspended essentially one year for receiving improper academic and financial assistance. Forward Ruben Patterson was suspended for the first 14 games last season for accepting improper assistance from a booster. Other players received lesser suspensions, Loyer was placed on paid leave and a manager was fired.
Last June, the university imposed a one-year suspension on itself that amounted to a limit on recruiting. Huggins figured the NCAA would not add much punishment.
``I was surprised,″ Huggins said. ``I thought a lot of the things that happened we had already paid for.″
The NCAA thought the scope of the violations warranted more.
``This is a significant penalty for the program,″ said Yvonne Slatton, head of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions.
Steger and athletic director Bob Goin said the university will not challenge the findings or the punishment.
``I want to bring this to closure,″ Goin said. ``We want to move on.″
The only remaining question is the status of Loyer. The NCAA accused Loyer of unethical conduct for initially providing misleading information to investigators.
Loyer also arranged for Williams to be enrolled in a summer course on the next-to-last day of the session to meet academic requirements so he could play immediately on the 1996-97 team, which was ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll.
The NCAA could have fired Loyer, but decided he can return to coaching as long as he does not recruit off campus for one year. Steger said a decision on his reinstatement will be made in a week or so.
``I’m hopeful that after all of this, the university won’t be harsher on John than the NCAA is,″ said Steve Owens, who is Loyer’s lawyer.
Cincinnati is the second Conference USA school to face NCAA punishment in the last three months. Louisville’s basketball team was banned from postseason play for one year as a repeat offender and the university received three years’ probation last September.
Huggins defended his staff and suggested that the violations uncovered in his program were the result of bad advice or oversights by compliance officers or former athletic department officials.
He became defensive when asked about the stain left on his program’s reputation.
``I’m going to tell you what _ and I maybe shouldn’t say this _ you take those people (investigators) that we brought in here and you turn them loose for 20 months the way they were turned loose in here and in any program in America, they’re going to find something there,″ Huggins said.