BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. (ABP) — The NCAA placed Gardner-Webb University on probation for three years for multiple violations, including a lack of institutional control.
The penalty, announced March 4, was imposed for violations concerning athletic recruiting, academic eligibility, extra benefits, ethical conduct and institutional control. The infractions committee said the incident was Gardner-Webb's first major infraction.
The NCAA began investigating Gardner-Webb after reports that Carlos Webb, a star basketball player, had his grades changed in 2000 to make him eligible to play. Thomas Yeager, chair of the infractions committee and commissioner of the Colonial Athletic Association, said the NCAA first learned of possible infractions at Gardner-Webb from a confidential source in April 2002.
Chris White, then president of Gardner-Webb, resigned in October 2002 over his part in the controversy. White had ordered the registrar to recalculate the player's grades, saying the player had received bad advice that led him to believe he was eligible to play.
Yeager said White's order amounted to an “extra benefit” for an athlete. The test in such cases is whether such an arrangement would be generally available to other students. “In this case that couldn't be shown,” Yeager said.
Yeager said White's actions showed a lack of institutional control, but didn't seem to be done with the type of malice seen in some of the committee's investigations. “I think the committee felt it wasn't a flaunting of NCAA rules,” he said.
Gardner-Webb has voluntarily given up the National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association championship it won the year Webb was made eligible to play.
Current Gardner-Webb President Frank Campbell said in a written statement that the NCAA report contained no surprises because school officials had been working for more than a year to address operations procedures that surfaced during an internal audit of the athletics department.
“With the guidance of the NCAA and the Atlantic Sun Conference, we had begun taking proactive measures to correct what we considered to be problem areas,” Campbell said. “We are delighted that the NCAA's report mirrored many of the same conclusions we had drawn ourselves. We have been treated fairly by the NCAA and we look forward to working with them on these compliance issues.”
Neal Alexander Jr., chair of Gardner-Webb's trustees, said the 18 months of controversy have been a difficult and challenging time in the life of the school. Gardner-Webb officials are glad the episode is coming to a close, he said.
The NCAA's Yeager said that while the incident involving the basketball player was the most serious, the committee found several other violations that showed that Gardner-Webb was not prepared to move to move to Division I.
The other infractions included: ineligible athletes in five sports receiving financial aid; failing to correctly certify the eligibility of 33 international student-athletes; purchase of an airline ticket from Poland to Charlotte for a former women's basketball prospect; and exceeding the maximum financial aid in baseball, men's soccer and men's tennis.
In addition to the three-year probation, the men's basketball team is not eligible to participate in postseason competition this year and the men's and women's basketball teams will each lose a scholarship for the next two years.