|« MEAC vs. SWAC: ESPN ‘Strongly Considering’ SCSU-Grambling Matchup||Montana Head Coach signs one-year contract »|
Wulff: Eastern Washington 'Culture' at Fault
But coach takes responsibility for infractions.
Washington State football coach Paul Wulff said he accepts responsibility for his role in NCAA rules violations that took place when he coached at Eastern Washington, but he said the “culture” of the EWU athletic department was partly to blame.
Speaking in general terms about violations that took place under his watch, Wulff said, “You have to understand, at Eastern Washington, this has gone on for two to three decades. You have to understand this is nothing new.
“Things that slipped through the cracks are things that slipped through the cracks for 15 to 20-plus years. That’s just the way it was.”
Wulff conducted a teleconference late Wednesday after arriving at Sea-Tac Airport from Hawaii. He had attended the NFL Pro Bowl on Sunday in Honolulu as a guest of Tennessee Titans offensive lineman Michael Roos, who played for Wulff at Eastern.
Wulff said the lack of NCAA compliance assistance available at Eastern during the 2003-07 period in question factored heavily into rules violations. That sentiment was supported by the NCAA, current Eastern athletic director Bill Chaves (who was hired in the fall of 2007) and Beau Baldwin, the former Eastern assistant who replaced Wulff as head coach when Wulff left to coach the Cougars last season.
Wulff, whose entire 15-year coaching career was spent at Eastern until last season, said some of the violations cited by the NCAA were committed when Wulff served as an assistant coach under Dick Zornes and Mike Kramer. The NCAA’s five-year window for investigations has expired in the cases of Zornes and Kramer.
“I just kind of followed what Mike Kramer had done and Dick Zornes had done, kind of the culture of Eastern Washington,” Wulff said.
Wulff added, “It is the coach’s responsibility (to know the rules). … I can’t deny that, and I’m taking responsibility.”
Wulff said Eastern Washington is a “great school” with athletic department personnel who have done a “great job” dealing with a lack of funding and manpower.
Wulff said “the biggest problem” he had with the NCAA sanctions on Eastern’s football program was the ban on postseason play this year.
Chaves and Baldwin said Eastern is strongly considering an appeal on that ruling.
“I think that just went a little far,” Wulff said. “Eastern Washington’s a little easier to kick around, I guess.”
Wulff objected to a statement in an NCAA news release that said Wulff “did not report various violations to the (EWU) compliance office once he learned of them.”
“I totally disagree … (but) I didn’t do it in a timely manner,” Wulff said.
Later, Wulff said, “The thing people aren’t looking at is we did thousands and thousands of things right with limited resources in that area (compliance). I’m pretty proud of that, to be honest.
“We’re not talking recruiting violations. We’re not talking the types of violations that are truly competitive (advantage) violations.
“But they’re still violations. They’re secondary violations, all of them, but when you put them in multiple years, it becomes a major infractions case.”
Wulff and WSU athletic director Jim Sterk expressed confidence Wulff and his staff can avoid most NCAA rules violations because the Cougars have a superior compliance staff to that of Eastern.
Steve Robertello, WSU’s compliance director, said the Cougars football coaching staff committed two secondary violations during the just-completed recruiting period.
“There are so many rules in the book you can’t help but break them,” Wulff said. “There isn’t a coach out there who hasn’t broken rules.”
Wulff said he did not know Eastern was violating a rule when non-academic qualifiers engaged in “running hills” and other fitness-related activities separate from the team when the Eagles were practicing.
Regarding the ineligible player who played in a 28-21 loss to Portland State in 2007, Wulff said current compliance director Don Ross “didn’t get the memo” from the NCAA that declared the player ineligible.
Wulff said the Eagles would have been forced to forfeit the game if they had not lost.
Wulff said he “didn’t have a way to monitor” student and graduate assistant coaches who failed to take enough academic credits to qualify for their positions. Wulff stressed that none of them was directly involved in coaching in a manner that violated NCAA rules.
Wulff: EWU ‘culture’ at fault
By Howie Stalwick, The Seattle Post-Intelligencier