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Wulff’s thoughts on NCAA violations


COUGARS, EAGLES

Let’s change gears. As you probably know, the NCAA handed down its sanctions against Eastern Washington’s football program Wednesday for violations that occurred while current WSU coach Paul Wulff was in charge. Wulff was also hit with two penalties: missing the first three days of this fall’s practice and having to attend compliance seminars for the next three years. The news was well covered throughout the state. Read on.

••••••••••

• Our end of this story was covered by John Blanchette, who wrote the news piece and a column. … But of course that’s not all. The Seattle Times’ Bud Withers had this story while freelancer Howie Stalwick wrote this piece for the P-I. The Associated Press story can be found in the News Tribune. ESPN.com’s Ted Miller was on the Wulff conference call last night and he filed this blog post. The News Tribune Dave Boling adds this column.

• So that’s about it. Wulff had a lot to say last night and we thought you might want to know what it was. So we transcribed the tape and offer some of his more pertinent comments.

• Wulff on the athletic culture at Eastern Washington: “Anybody that’s aware of Eastern Washington and its athletic history would understand the financial limitations it has to work under. … They’ve done it with the smallest budget in the conference, year in and year out, and with everyone in the athletic department wearing not one but two, three, four, five hats.” Wulff went on to explain the academic advisor was a business professor, Frank Nelson, who also was the compliance officer. Wulff did say the one good thing to come out of this is the school now has an academic advisor and a compliance officer.

• His regrets: “My part that I have a regret is the things that slipped through the cracks under my watch. But that’s just the reality. It did and I admitted it and I addressed it over two years ago. Unfortunately, there are so many rules that things slipped through the cracks.”

• The NCAA sanctions: “My biggest problem with all of this is just the ban for next season on postseason for them. I think that’s probably too much. I don’t think that’s probably fair. I don’t agree with that one. … The rest of them are probably OK and warranted. I think that went just a little far, but Eastern Washington is a little easier to kick around, I guess.”

• The lack of compliance help and how that hurt: “There are compliance people that are hired to help coaches, that’s their job. A lot of universities have three full-time employees to do that. … Those are the resources as coaches you use. … People wouldn’t spend a hundred plus thousand dollars or more, $200,000 on a compliance department in all athletic departments without the idea they are there to help. … We at Eastern Washington didn’t have those kinds of resources to have anyone do that. You have to understand at Eastern Washington this has gone on for two, three decades. This isn’t anything new.”

• The violations in the grand scheme of EWU athletics: “That’s what people aren’t looking at, that we’ve done thousands and thousands of things right with limited resources. I’m pretty proud of that to be honest with you. We’re not talking recruiting violations, we’re not talking the types of violations that are truly the competitive advantage. But they are still violations. They’re secondary violations, all of them, but when you put them together over multiple years, it becomes a major infractions case. … They’re still very important and they shouldn’t have happened. But that’s how we did it.”

• In the press release about the violations, the NCAA said: “The committee found that the violations in this case were the result of the former head coach’s inattention to certain aspects of his program. The committee stated it was most concerned that the former head coach did not report various violations to the compliance office once he learned of them.” Wulff was asked if this indicated the NCAA felt he was indifferent to violations: “I totally disagree because there have been other secondary violations over the years I did report. These ones I actually did report. I didn’t do it in a timely manner. In fact, I reported them to the NCAA in my interview, that’s how they found out about them. If I didn’t report them, they probably wouldn’t even have known about them. But I reported them through them. I didn’t do it in the timely manner they thought I should do and that’s true.”

• Taking responsibility: “It is the coach’s responsibility. It is. I can’t deny that. I’m taking responsibility. I’ve accepted the penalty of going to compliance seminars to learn to be a compliance officer now. I’ll miss three days of practice and I am accepting it. But I do know a lot of rules. And I beg to differ. I think I know as much or more than any coach out there because I have to. But if you see the rule book, there are so many rules in the book you can’t help but break them. There hasn’t been a coach out there that is coaching right now that hasn’t broke some rules. Ours got exposed because the NCAA came on campus and found them. … But I’m very proud to say recruiting violations, academic fraud, any of those things that are truly competitive advantages, did not occur. I thought we have done some great things there. I know a lot of the rules extremely well, and I don’t know rules to figure out how I can walk the gray line like a lot of people do. I know the rules and I abide by the rules I know. I’m not that type of person, never have been and I won’t be.”

• The NCAA said “during the 2006-07 academic years, 13 football student-athletes were allowed to participate in practice activities.” Wulff’s explanation: “If you’re a non-qualifier, and I didn’t know this rule, you’re not allowed to even view practice.” He went on to explain Eastern’s fields are wide open and occasional one of the non-qualifiers would be doing some activity where they could view practice, whether it was working out, playing intramurals or whatever. “Several times players who were ineligible would be out there.” “I never paid attention to them because we never dealt with those kids. … But come to find out, them being out there, which had gone on for a number of years, long before I was the head coach, that was something we always did there. No one knew any different.”

• The extra coaches were, according to Wulff, not on the field coaches but kids who worked around the office: “Those kids were not enrolled in 12 units. You have to be a full-time student to be considered a student (assistant). Plus, you have to be still within your five years of eligibility. Primarily the issues were the kids weren’t in 12 units. I didn’t have a way to monitor that. That’s something our administration should be able to obviously do. But you know, I didn’t have a secretary and, my first two years, I didn’t have a strength coach, so I was monitoring all those things as I was going through the process as I was handling all the clearinghouse stuff. So I wore four or five hats, but those things occurred and that’s the facts. But we never had more than 11 coaches that truly coached football.”

• Whether this came up while he was interviewing at WSU: “Within the committee it was asked if there was something going on at Eastern, could I just give them some details of what was going on. Then I relayed all the information that I was aware of in terms of the investigation, the types of things we were talking about. They were all secondary violations but they had extended over multiple years. … And I explained the types of violations that had occurred, the non-qualifier rule and the coaching limitations were the primary two things that occurred over that time and that occurred prior to that time as well.”

• How these violations came to the attention of the NCAA: “We reported a couple things, then we had the athletic director (Darren Hamilton) that was there was fired. When he was fired I think he called the NCAA and told them they had to do all this investigation. I think there was a bitter dispute on that deal. The NCAA told me, they said 50 percent of all the deals that they go and do are always disgruntled employees. That’s how they get most of their information whenever they want to go do any kind of investigation. That’s what I was told.”

•••

• That’s it on the NCAA front. We will be back this evening with our usual pregame post. Till then …


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Jim Allen Sports reporter Jim Allen's primary coverage areas are Eastern Washington University football and men's basketball, and college and high school soccer. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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