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Mississippi State NCAA Penalties Relatively Light

March 8, 1996

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) _ It could have been a lot worse for Mississippi State when the NCAA revealed its sanctions against the school’s football program.

NCAA penalties handed down against the school Thursday didn’t include the dreaded television and postseason bowl bans. Instead, the Bulldogs were placed on one year probation and lost several football scholarships and recruiting visits.

The penalties reduce the number of new scholarships from 25 to 12 next year; total scholarship players from 85 to 80; expense-paid visits by recruits from 56 to 42; and reduces off-campus visits by coaches.

The NCAA penalized the school after determining that a former employee and a booster made improper inducements to potential football recruits.

``I’m both relieved and satisfied with the results,″ Mississippi State athletic director Larry Templeton said at the Southeastern Conference basketball tournament in New Orleans.

Templeton said the sanctions were in line with what the school recommended during its Feb. 1 hearing before the NCAA Infractions Committee.

Alleged violations by recruiting intern Boris Banks during the 1991-93 school years were the most serious of the infractions that prompted the penalties, said David Swank, chairman of the infractions committee.

The committee found that Banks offered money to two potential football signees from south Florida if they would visit the campus. No money was ever given to the recruits, neither of which attended State.

Other infractions included unauthorized benefits from Bulldogs booster Steve Wells to five former football players. The NCAA said Wells gave bonuses, meals and loans to athletes who worked part-time at his publishing firm.

Mississippi State was also charged with ``lack of institutional control.″ Swank said that school athletic officials did not adequately investigate several warnings that people involved with the football program might be breaking NCAA rules.

Swank said, however, that there was no evidence that either football coach Jackie Sherrill or any other university official was aware of the violations.

``I never thought the allegations of this case were serious enough for a television and bowl ban,″ Templeton said. ``No current athlete or staff member is mentioned in the final allegations. From where we stand today, we accept those findings and we’re going to move forward.″

As far as the scholarships, State was only going to be able to sign 17 or 18 players next year anyway because of current numbers. It loses a net of six scholarships, but will not be able to replace any scholarship players who fail to qualify academically or leave the team for any reason.

The NCAA had initially leveled 21 allegations in an official letter of inquiry last year, and the school admitted to eight them, all related to Banks and Wells. The NCAA later dropped five charges involving allegations that associate athletic director Wesley Reed loaned money to players.

``All along I thought the facts would speak for themselves,″ Templeton said. ``I knew from the very beginning of this case that some of the allegations that were in the official letter were off base.″

Templeton said when the charges were dropped against Reed, it ``became an entirely different case.″

Swank told reporters during a teleconference that the sanctions are in line with recent NCAA decisions to lean more heavily on scholarship cuts and ease up on TV and bowl game bans.

``Television penalties actually affect a lot of other people rather than just the school itself,″ including other schools that would play the banned team, Swank said. ``It actually penalizes everybody else. That doesn’t mean in the appropriate case we will not impose a TV ban.″

Templeton said a television and bowl ban could have cost Mississippi State about $3 million.

School president Donald Zacharias, in a news conference on the Starkville campus, said, ``We’re glad this day is finally here. We’re happy that the waiting is over and that we know the results of the process.″

Mississippi State was given a break in part because the university already took some actions considered by the NCAA as corrective measures, Swank said. These included the creation of a full-time compliance officer and the assignment of an internal auditor to monitor the athletic department and to investigate potential violations.

The university also reduced for two months in 1994 the number of coaches who could recruit off campus and disassociated itself from two boosters _ one of whom was a fired staff member _ for at least three years.

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