Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

NCAA penalties against Idaho men’s basketball include fine, postseason probation

Former Idaho coach Don Verlin leaves the court during a basketball game against Eastern Washington on Jan. 31, 2015, in Cheney.  (TYLER TJOMSLAND/The Spokesman-Review)
By Peter Harriman For The Spokesman-Review

MOSCOW, Idaho – A two-year probation, a $5,000 fine, a two-week ban on communicating with recruits this fall and an official reprimand and censure were among penalties handed out by the NCAA on Thursday to the University of Idaho for violations in the men’s basketball program.

In addition, all men’s basketball staff members must participate in an NCAA Regional Rules Seminar by 2021.

These were in addition to self-imposed penalties on recruiting and contact with players UI carried out during the past season.

The decision concludes a tumultuous era in Vandals basketball that saw former coach Don Verlin first suspended by outgoing university president Chuck Staben then fired in one of Staben’s last official acts as the chief administrator a year ago.

One of Verlin’s assistants, Zac Claus, was appointed interim coach following Verlin’s dismissal. Claus was subsequently hired as head coach by athletic director Terry Gawlik, who herself was hired after the violations took place and while the NCAA investigation was ongoing.

Gawlik, in a statement, said the university did not dispute the NCAA findings Idaho had committed Level II violations, and UI officials look to the investigation as a guidepost to improve Idaho’s adherence to NCAA regulations.

“Vandal Athletics has cooperated fully with the NCAA through its investigation. As the recently appointed athletic director at Idaho, I continue to look for improved processes across our department,” Gawlik said. “I appreciate the NCAA’s fair and thorough report regarding the men’s basketball program which identified several areas for improvement. We began implementing changes in the fall and Coach Claus was involved in those adjustments. I fully support and look forward to watching him build the men’s basketball program with integrity. We continue to look for ways to advance our programs and provide the best experience possible for our student-athletes.”

The Vandals finished 8-24, 4-16 in the Big Sky Conference in Claus’ interim season as Idaho fielded a team with one returning senior starter in Trevon Allen and a dramatically reshaped roster after seven players left the program following Verlin’s firing.

In its report on the violations, the NCAA said Verlin instructed noncoaching staff members, including two former directors of basketball operations and a former men’s basketball manager to engage in impermissible coaching activities. According to UI’s self-report, these consisted of the staff members running drills on court and participating in practice walkthroughs, as well as displaying signs from the bench during games that contained dummy play calls.

The NCAA also said Idaho was lax in accurately recording the amount of time athletes spent on basketball weekly and exceeded NCAA limits on such activities.

UI coaches also allowed a recruit to play in a scrimmage with Vandals players on an official recruiting visit after coaches erroneously thought the recruit had completed a required medical exam. The NCAA also considered the fact coaches watched two minimally recruited local prospects play in offseason scrimmages when additional players were needed to be impermissible tryouts.

After it self-reported violations, Idaho, in a preemptive move, limited unofficial recruiting visits for three weeks last fall. It reduced by four the maximum number of official visits in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 academic years. It reduced the maximum number of recruiting person days by 16 in 2019-20, and it cut back athletically related activity by 16 hours in the summer and fall of 2019 and by one hour per week during the 2019-2020 regular season. Idaho also eliminated the director of men’s basketball operations position for 2019-20.

Further, the NCAA issued a one-year show cause order. It requires that if Verlin is hired by an NCAA school he must attend a Regional Rules Seminar no later than 2021, and he will be suspended for the first two regular season games of the 2020-21 season.

The NCAA investigation was conducted by a three-member panel of the organization’s Committee on Infractions. They were Joel Maturi, former University of Minnesota athletics director, Kay Norton, chief hearing officer for the case and president emeritus of Northern Colorado University, and Larry Parkinson, director of enforcement for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.