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A History Of MAC School NCAA Violations: A Fake Runner, A Punch In The Face, And A Black-Market Textbook Ring


You might have heard about the Penn State scandal. You just might have. Well, they were one of the schools paraded a mere year ago that have never been found of any major violations by the NCAA. Clean programs, if you will.

It's also interesting that, now with Central Florida banned from postseason play this year, that's now three bowl-ineligible football teams (Ohio State vs. Miami, Penn State vs. OHIO, UCF at Akron) that open play against MAC schools.

There are now 16 schools in the FBS ranks which have never been given (sorry, UMass is not one of them). Of the four making the FBS jump, only Texas San-Antonio does not have a search result on the NCAA's major infractions database. The five "clean" MAC schools are Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Kent State, OHIO and Western Michigan. The other FBS programs sans major violations are Air Force, Boston College, Colorado State, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Northwestern, Rice, Stanford, Troy and Alabama-Birmingham.

But I was curious. What did MAC schools get in trouble with in the past? I looked at the database's entire search results of all MAC schools. In all there were 13 reports of violations, and eight of them happened while the school was in the MAC.

1970 — Buffalo football was too generous.

Seven football and men's basketball players received improper financial aid and for that, received a year of probation. Of course, this is right about when Buffalo shitcanned their football program so this just affected their basketball.

1970 — UMass football didn't make the grade.

Not much is known about these old-school violations, but the report does say that 12 football players weren't academically eligible between the years 1966 and 1968 and they still participated. One year probation for football.

1972 — Eastern Michigan's best player ever punched someone during a national championship semifinal

They got in trouble for a few things, but most notably in the 1972 National College Division Basketball Championship (now Division II) semifinal, George Gervin elbowed Roanoke College player Jay Piccola, then decked him unconscious in the face, according to an AP report. This led to Gervin's immediate suspension, and EMU coach Jim Dutcher resigned immediately after the third-place game.

That was not all. The violation report also mentioned that the wrestling coach "acted in place of the institution's regular scholarship awards authority by offering institutional financial assistance to at least one prospective student-athlete, and by threatening members of the institution's 1971-72 wrestling team with gradation of institutional financial aid for failure to meet certain requirements which he set forth." Could not find out more about this, but it sounds like your garden variety authoritarian power-trip.

The penalty of a one-year postseason ban and probation extended to men's basketball, track, baseball and wrestling — but not football. George "The Iceman" Gervin went on to become an NBA Hall of Fame player. He stopped punching people.

1980 — Toledo men's track gets fooled by a con artist

This one's just hilarious. As chronicled in Sports Illustrated, UT track coach John Flaminio was contacted by a young Kenyan man named Daniel Kamaiyo, who had won a gold medal at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in the 400-meter hurdle. He wanted to attend school as an athlete. The coach paid for his transportation to Toledo (a violation), enrolled at the school and began competing, he performed way beyond expectations. As it turns out, he was not Daniel Kimaiyo but someone named Nicholas Mukeka. They withdrew his scholarship and he dropped out of college.

They say the NCAA wasn't too harsh with their penalties, but I have to think they felt sorry for the school for being duped. (Apparently this happened to a couple other schools around that time.) They gave UT one year of probation and gave the indoor and outdoor track teams one year of a postseason ban, and Flaminio resigned.

1984 — Akron men's basketball gave perks and was still bad

Bob Rupert led the Zips to a 37-71 record in the Ohio Valley Conference and never a winning record. And yet his assistants gave his players extra benefits, including access to cars and parking passes, having parking tickets dismissed, spending money, and even college credit for work they didn't do. Rupert retired the year they were given a one-year postseason ban and two years probation. They also cut a few scholarships.

After that, a young man named Bob Huggins pulled the program out of a tailspin, which went from out of the OVC to an independent, the Mid-Continental Conference, and finally the MAC in 1992 — but by then he was long gone to Cincinnati.

1991 — Miami men's basketball legend cooks the gradebook

Jerry Peirson was an excellent player in the 1960s for the Miami then-Redskins. He was even elected to the MU Athletics Hall of Fame. He became a longtime assistant and coach for them, recruiting guys like Ron Harper and then leading MU to a 1986 MAC Championship. He also gave player Karlton Clayborne an "A" in a basketball theory class in 1988 that he taught (the same one that Charlie Coles famously kept teaching until his retirement). The problem was, Clayborne was never enrolled in the class and never did any work for it. This was done to keep him academically eligible. A former player of Peirson's tipped off the NCAA, and one investigation later they ruled that Clayborne's stats and eight wins (all in the spring semester) were vacated in 1989, dropping their record from 13-15 to 5-23. (He is still listed as second team All-MAC for that season, however.) Miami was also placed on two years probation and Peirson was hit with a three-year show-cause. And, yes, Miami fired Peirson.

Postscripts: Peirson then spent 11 years in sales with Jostens before taking a job with Ball State in 2001 as director of athletics development: he also did radio analyst work for BSU basketball. He retired in 2010. Clayborne is now the head men's basketball coach for Clark State Community College in Springfield, Ohio.

1993 — Buffalo men's basketball players ride for free

In August of 1989, when they were still in Division II, UB assistant coach Nick Moore gave player Fred Leggin an airline ticket so he could fly home to Chicago for Christmas, then back to Boston so he could meet up with his team. Another student also received free airline transportation to Buffalo from the assistant coach so he could enroll at the school in the fall. Moore also gave two players some free NBA tickets. Nothing huge, but the school got a year of probation and Moore was hit with a three-year show-cause penalty.

1994 — Ball State men's basketball is extra-boostered

Dick Hunsaker, who engineered the 1990 Ball State team to the Sweet 16 and a near-upset of Jerry Tarkanian's eventual-champion UNLV team, saw his team guilty of a "lack of institutional control" situation. A few things were going on here. Ball State boosters gave money and gifts to players over the course of five years. One of the players was 1993 MAC Basketball Tournament MVP Steve Payne. Some also helped pay for summer school, which was a recruiting violation. Hunsaker also arranged employment for ineligible players to boosters, gave sports apparel to players, and a few other little things. But the big picture was: stuff was happening, man.

Hunsaker resigned because of all this — while maintaining innocence — and Payne was suspended for three weeks and did graduate. BSU suggested many penalties, including a postseason ban, but the NCAA did not accept it, instead imposing a reduction on financial aid, cutting one scholarship, limiting the number of official visits and coaches who can recruit off-campus, and two years probation. Hunsaker was given a show-cause penalty for two years.

Hunsaker coached around in the former CBA for a while. Eventually he became one of Rick Majerus's assistants at Utah, then stepped in as interim coach when Majerus took a leave of absence. He returned to permanent D-I head coaching at Utah Valley University in 2002, helping them transition to Division I. As luck would have it, Payne is now one of his assistant coaches.

2001 — Buffalo's coach scouted improperly, or did he?

This one's a tad bizarre. Head coach Tim Cohane, who helped the Bulls usher basketball into a new era in the MAC, resigned midway through the 1999 season (replaced by Reggie Witherspoon) after allegations that Cohane watched recruits play pick-up basketball, made long-distance recruiting calls from the school and broke rules regarding preseason workouts and scouting opponents. The NCAA gave the school two years of probation, reduced the number of allowed official visits and gave Cohane a three-year show cause. Pretty cut and dry, right?

Here's where it gets weird. Cohane maintained his innocence and formally appealed the penalties. The NCAA did remove his show-cause penalty and although Cohane produced affidavits of statements which said the penalties did not happen, the NCAA didn't budge. This led Cohane to sue the UB and NCAA, accusing them of conspiring to defame his career. An appellate court ruled that this, in fact, did happen. The NCAA then tried to go to the Supreme Court, who chose not to review the case. As of now the lawsuit remains open. Cohane currently coaches as an assistant for Division III Roger Williams University.

2006 — Northern Illinois women's basketball player got extra stuff from a faculty member

Nothing too malicious here. Best I can tell, a former NIU assistant coach introduced a player to a member of the faculty, who served as a mentor of sports to the player. The faculty member than paid for some of her stuff: room and board, a $500 phone bill, transportation to home and back over Christmas to see her family, and money for a replacement Social Security card. Eventually the NIU player transferred away (I cannot figure out who it was) and the program got a year probation.

2007 — Ball State's harrowing textbook scandal

I remember this one because one of the football players involved graduated with me in high school, and another one from elementary school. But essentially each student was given up to $1,000 dollars as part of their scholarship per semester for textbooks. This part was fine. However, several athletes discovered a loophole by purchasing books for their friends with the excess money. In all the NCAA found that 89 players on 10 different teams, but mostly football, were doing this. There was no system in place to check that the books they bought were actually needed for their classes until the school did a routine audit and noticed something fishy. They self-reported this, the football team suspended 16 players for a game against a ranked opponent (which they lost 38-0). The program got two years probation. They also got a reduction of financial aid because, thanks to this loophole, the amount of financial aid they used exceeded the limit.

Oh, and also the women's softball team exceeded the number of allowed practice hours, and were given a reduction of practice hours. C'est la vie.

2010 — Ball State AGAIN?

Yes, again. This time, women's tennis. Head coach Kathy Bull did not properly document practice hours, which sometimes exceeded 20 per week. She was hit with a three-year show-cause and the program suffered three years probation. Bull sued the school for wrongful termination and this summer settled on $710,000.

Ongoing — Eastern Michigan women's basketball can't count practice hours correctly

This one isn't in the database yet because the investigation hasn't concluded. EMU women's basketball self-reported major violations including practicing too much per week back in 2009 and even having to study film for long sessions after a loss. Head coach AnnMarie Gilbert was suspended a month at the time, then resigned earlier this year on the heels of a MAC Championship.