National Collegiate Athletic Association officials handed down their final decision in the Shoe Box scandal Wednesday afternoon, to the disappointment of UW-Madison officials.
Adding to a list of self-imposed sanctions UW Chancellor John Wiley presented to the NCAA in August, the Division I Committee on Infractions added their own punishments for an extra-benefits case involving 157 athletes in 14 sports.
The punishment includes:
-Public reprimand and censure
-Five years of probation, beginning Oct. 2, 2001
-A reduction of initial football scholarships by five for the 2002-03 and 2003-04 academic years
-A reduction by one of grants-in-aid available to the men’s basketball team for the same two years
-A letter of reprimand to be included in the permanent record of UW football head coach Barry Alvarez
According to Thomas Yeager, chair of the NCAA’s Division I Committee on Infractions, the committee was fair in its judgment.
“This is the third major case in eight years for the University of Wisconsin,” Yeager said. He noted, however, that all three cases were distinct in nature.
“There is no doubt that had there been a common thread … the outcome would have been significantly different and much more serious to the university.”
Yeager said the university’s self-imposed sanctions, which included only a three-year probation, a fine of $150,000 and general scholarship reductions, were not enough.
“We think at the starting point the university did a very good job in imposing their own corrective actions,” Yeager said. “We just felt it just needed to go one step further.”
A Wisconsin State Journal investigation last year found student athletes and their family and friends were receiving discounts from 12 to 50 percent, higher than non-athlete students, at The Shoe Box, a shoe store in Black Earth, for a seven-year period beginning in 1993. Yeager said the final tally against UW also included the illegal housing of football players in The Regent, 1402 Regent St., for cheaper rent and the failure of the UW athletic administration to control a booster, in this case Steve Schmitt, the owner of the Shoe Box.
Yeager said he was also concerned about students who may have been receiving shoes for free. Thirty-nine student athletes were found to owe $11,500 in merchandise to the store upon the investigation, and 49 more student athletes who had already left the campus owed the store more than $22,000.
“There’s good deals and there’s really good deals,” Yeager said. “These were hundreds of kids involving thousands of dollars.”
Yeager said the NCAA decided against erasing the UW basketball team’s participation in the 1999 Final Four Tournament or any other post-season appearances and records because the ineligibility of some students who participated was discovered after the fact.
He also said these appearances and records were not stripped because of the way UW is handling the situation.
“The very strong corrective actions Chancellor Wiley imposed carried a great deal of weight with the committee,” Yeager said. “Had there been an element of benefits [which gave UW a competitive advantage] … it might have been a different extreme. Maybe this should have been detected earlier, but once it was detected the university moved very swiftly … [to] correct the problem.”
Yeager said the committee moved to cut more scholarships than UW originally wanted, including the initial scholarships reserved for walk-on and first-year athletes, because these scholarships punish the program more adequately in the long run.
“Time will have to tell,” Yeager said. “Scholarship cuts traditionally have been some of the most successful penalties that have been imposed by the committee. It starts to translate into performance. When you have smaller numbers, every injury [or short-handedness] has a greater impact.”
In a press conference following Yeager’s statements, Wiley, Alvarez, UW Athletic Director Pat Richter and men’s basketball coach Bo Ryan expressed both disappointment and relief.
“I’m relieved that there’s some finality to it,” Alvarez said. “[But] any time you have restrictions and limitations that are over and above those of your opponents, it’s going to hurt your program. How much, I don’t know, but we’ll accept those and deal with it the best we can.”
Wiley said he will accept the NCAA ruling, but thought it was too much.
“I am very disappointed by the NCAA’s additional reductions in the number of athletic scholarships for our football and basketball programs,” Wiley said. “While it is true that these judgments are within the NCAA legislation, they are, in the end, subjective in nature. We obviously believed that the loss of scholarships that we imposed was sufficient.”