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« MIAC Men's Basketball Week Nine: Heading Down to the WireCSN MEAC Review: 2008 Season in Review »

Permalink 02/13/09 , CSN West, CSN Columns

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CSN West: Eagles’ Soaring in the Wrong Direction

floated rightBy Kent Schmidt, CSN West Columnist

The NCAA struck Eastern Washington football with a probation and significant sanctions last Wednesday.

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The following were the sanctions against the Cheney, Wash., school:
• Improper practice-related activities by ineligible players.
• Excessive coaches above the NCAA limit of 11.
• Room and board for two players who weren’t eligible to receive it before classes began.These actions all occurred under the watch of Coach Paul Wulff, who guided the Eagles from 2003 to 2007.

While I believe that if a crime occurred, a penalty is needed. However, I don’t believe EWU with Coach Beau Baldwin, who spent his first season with the Eagles in 2008, should have to serve this for incidents his predecessor committed. This is something that the NCAA has always conducted as a penalty against the school and most cases are after the leaders have left their positions. I believe that the crime should fit to the committer.

What are the penalties that EWU will face from these sanctions?

The NCAA hammered EWU with the following punishments, some of which had been self-imposed:
• Public reprimand and censure.
• Three years of probation, from Feb. 11, 2009 to Feb. 10, 2012.• Cutting the number of football scholarships from 63 to 61 for the 2008-09 through 2010-11 academic years.
• Reducing the number of full-time coaches from 11 to 10 for the 2008-09 through 2010-11 academic years.
• Limiting the incoming freshmen who are academic nonqualifiers to no more than three per year for all three years of probation. The university previously averaged seven incoming freshman nonqualifiers per year over a four-year period.
• Not allowing Eastern to recruit nonqualifiers from junior colleges for three years.
• Prohibiting incoming athletes who have not been certified by the NCAA Eligibility Center from attending preseason football camp for two academic years, in 2009-10 and 2010-11.
• Barring the team from playoffs this coming season.

The NCAA committee on infractions made it clear there was lax oversight in the Eagles’ athletic department during the academic four-year period, writing that the school “had five athletic directors and three presidents, making it difficult to implement a comprehensive compliance system or establish long-term continuity.”

Former Coach Wulff, meanwhile, basically just received a slap on the wrist and his current school, Washington State (BCS), suffered little in terms of a penalty. Wulff is forbidden to have contact with his WSU team for the first three days of workouts next fall and must attend regional NCAA rules seminars for three years.

While at EWU, Wulff was tagged with a failure-to-monitor finding and EWU officials with lack of institutional control. In its report, the committee on infractions wrote that it is most concerned with his reaction when he learned of various violations. Wulff did not report them to the institutional compliance office.

In Wulff’s defense, many of the penalties stem from the fact that the Cheney school had coaches and administrators doing multiple jobs, where many were overworked.

Wulff said “You have to understand, this has been going on at Eastern for two, three decades. This is the reality. I admitted it.”

Wulff stated EWU athletic department members wear “not one, but two, three, four and five hats.”

Because several student-assistant coaches — some not enrolled as full-time students, as required — helped with the duties of full-time coaches, they counted against the program limit of 11 and caused Eastern to exceed it.

Wulff insisted no more than 11 coaches were ever involved in coaching football and contended the practice-related excesses were away from the football field and happened “four or five times” with “maybe 90” football practices in a season.

What will be Eastern Washington’s position on these penalties?

EWU acting president John Mason stated that he understood the penalties but likely will appeal the postseason ban.

“We have taken significant compliance measures to ensure we do not find ourselves in this situation again, and we were pleased to see the NCAA acknowledged that fact in its report,” said Mason in statement. “Those measures will allow us to confidently move forward from this experience believing Eastern athletics are now best-poised to provide a meaningful experience for our student athletes, while remaining competitive on the field.

“We accept the NCAA’s findings and want to show, through our actions, that we embrace a culture of compliance,” Mason continued. “We are, however, disappointed with the decision to levy a postseason ban and will be assessing our appeal options.”

I think the biggest penalty that I hope they can overturn is the 2009 playoff ban. EWU has a strong team returning after a disappointing 6-5 season last year. Seniors in quarterback Matt Nichols and wide receiver Aaron Boyce likely will lead a team that could be FCS playoff and Big Sky championship caliber.

What is my take on the penalties?

As mentioned above, I don’t believe EWU should be punished for something that happened under a previous administration. Also, I think Wulff’s penalty is much lighter than having his former team lose its postseason chances.

I realize that someone needs to pay for actions such as this, and I believe EWU administrators were somewhat at fault but the ones that really get hurt are the innocent players on the team. It seems every situation with these types of situations the people hurt worst are the most innocent. I think the NCAA needs to move toward reprimanding the coaches in situations like this and not the players. Most times, the NCAA will learn of an infraction after the coaching staff that had the incident has moved on. I think it’s time that those folks pay for their mistakes and not the players.

I think the Eagles players deserve that chance and would like to see Matt Nichols and Aaron Boyce compete in the FCS postseason, should their team be one of the best 16 next fall. We shall see if EWU’s appeals are heard in this way of thinking. I hope so.

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CSN West News & Notes 
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* Weber State has hired Inoke Breckterfield as its new defensive line coach. Former BYU quarterback Jason Beck will be the new quarterbacks coach, and former University of Utah player Andre Dyson will be the cornerbacks coach. Already on Coach Ron McBride’s staff, Don Eck will take over the duties of assistant head coach as well as the offensive coordinator and Jake Cookus and Colton Swan will serve as co-defensive coordinators. 
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* Anthony Parker has been hired as Sacramento State’s defensive backs coach to be under Hornet head coach Marshall Sperbeck. Parker assisted Boise State for the past four seasons. He began his tenure with the Broncos as a student manager during the 2005 and 2006 seasons. Parker was then named a graduate assistant in 2007 and 2008 where he worked with the defensive line and also nickel backs. 
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* Mel Kaufman, a linebacker on the Cal Poly’s NCAA Division II national championship team in 1980 and an eight-year veteran of the Washington Redskins of the NFL, died in his home last week. An autopsy performed Wednesday by the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office revealed the cause of death as an intra-abdominal hemorrhage due to a hemorrhagic pancreatitis. 

* Illinois State head football coach Brock Spack announced that Jim Williams, who had been serving as the Redbirds’ director of football operations and recruiting coordinator, will coach the Redbirds’ special teams, tight ends and H-backs during the 2009 season. Williams also will continue to serve as the Redbird football team’s recruiting coordinator and director of football operations. 
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* North Dakota State Coach Craig Bohl announced Scott Fuchs has been named offensive line coach. Fuchs replaces Pat Perles, who resigned to become the offensive line coach at Ball State University. A former All-American offensive guard for the Bison, Fuchs was the offensive line coach at Southern Illinois during the 2008 season. 
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* Rex Ryan, who spent four seasons as defensive coordinator (1989-1993) at Morehead State University, has been named head coach of the New York Jets. Ryan, the son of former NFL head coach Buddy Ryan, has most recently served as defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens.