MOSCOW, Idaho – The future of University of Idaho basketball was celebrated Thursday in a groundbreaking ceremony for a new arena that has been on a wish list for half a century.
But the present remains roiled in uncertainty. Vandals coach Don Verlin was placed on paid administrative leave on May 24 following a university-commissioned review of men’s basketball by the law firm Ice Miller that disclosed three potential NCAA violations UI self-reported to the NCAA.
An update on Verlin’s situation was scheduled no later than Saturday, when players return to Moscow for the summer program, UI athletics spokesman Mike Walsh said last week.
In the heavily redacted Ice Miller report obtained from UI by The Spokesman-Review, one of the possible violations involved a noncoaching basketball staff member. Brooks Malm, a basketball team manager between 2015-17 when he was an undergraduate, and director of player development in 2017-19, took part in on-court practices and sideline activities during games, which violates NCAA rules governing basketball staff in noncoaching positions.
According to then-UI compliance director Jordan Hall, who left the school in January for a similar position at Oregon State, the university had provided Verlin information on permitted activities for noncoaching staff in 2016, but Verlin said he did not read the email containing that guidance.
Another possible violation centered on Idaho coaches observing a pair of players in pickup games.
One was a prospective recruit. Eric Mireri, a junior college player, was on an official visit to UI, but unknown to coaches, he had not completed a required medical test or signed a waiver making the test unnecessary prior to his official visit.
The second player was identified in the Ice Miller report as Jake Wells, a Pullman High School student who participated in pickup games with Mireri. Coaches told Ice Miller that because Wells was a regular presence around Moscow, who attended UI basketball camps and played in pickup games with Vandals players, they did not consider his participation in games with Mireri as a player evaluation.
Ice Miller suggested Malm’s actions were a Level II NCAA violation and the coaches’ impermissible player evaluations was a Level III offense. The NCAA classifies violations as I to IV, with I being the most serious and IV the least.
In its report, Ice Miller pointed out Idaho has already imposed penalties on itself. The head coach is suspended for one regular-season game at the start of next season. Malm is prohibited from attending preseason skills and regular-season practices this fall.
Coaches’ weekly contact hours with players (Countable Athletically Related Activities) will be reduced from an NCAA-permitted 20 hours to 19 for the 2019-2020 season. UI has imposed a $5,000 fine, and basketball staff will attend a regional NCAA rules seminar.
Also related to the possible on-campus player evaluation violation, UI will claim it has used four official visits in the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 cycles. It will impose a three-week ban on arranged unofficial visits this fall. It will trim 16 recruiting-person days from the 2019-2020 academic year, and it will reduce permitted CARA coach contact with players by 16 hours during this summer and the preseason this fall.
The third potential violation, heavily redacted in the Ice Miller report made available to The Spokesman-Review, may have been procedural in nature, based on the university’s self-imposed penalty. It requires rules education for athletics department coaches and staff members, including athletics business office personnel, as well as the registrar and financial aid office.
The potential violations came to light last October when compliance director Hall saw on the men’s basketball Twitter account a photo of Malm on court wearing a coaching whistle. Following conversations with basketball coaches about the extent of possible violations, the university hired Ice Miller to do the program review in February.
In a notification to athletics personnel on May 23 informing them of Verlin’s suspension, interim athletics director Pete Isakson wrote, “I cannot comment further on the subject of administrative leave, so this is all the information I have for you at this time. This is an athletic department matter, it would be best if we kept this information within the department. … As we are able to share more information, I promise I will keep you in the loop and get that info to you all immediately.”
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