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NCAA upholds its decision to impose penalty vacating two seasons of BYU men’s basketball victories

BYU basketball players stand during player introductions prior to game against Saint Mary’s.
BYU basketball players stand during player introductions prior to game against Saint Mary’s.
Nate Edwards, BYU Photo

PROVO — For 14 seasons as BYU’s head basketball coach, Dave Rose tried to do everything he could to ensure the program was successful and adhered to the rules.

Last November, the NCAA announced that program must vacate 47 wins accrued during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons that former guard Nick Emery participated in while ineligible due to accepting extra benefits from four boosters.

According to the NCAA, Emery received $12,000 in complimentary gifts, including vacations, cash, meals, golf and use of a car.

At the time, BYU affirmed that the university, athletic department and coaching staff had no knowledge of the infractions and appealed the vacating of games penalty.

Wednesday, BYU’s appeal was denied.

The NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee announced it is upholding its decision to impose a penalty vacating the 47 victories, even though the NCAA acknowledges that Rose and the athletic department had no knowledge of the improprieties.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” Rose, who retired last March, told the Deseret News Wednesday.

As a result, Rose’s career wins falls from 348 to 301. He remains No. 2 in school history in all-time victories behind Stan Watts’ 371 wins.

“I just feel bad for the university. I just do,” Rose said. “It’s a situation that I feel bad that the university had to deal with something like that.”

In response to the NCAA’s decision, the school issued a strong statement Wednesday.

“We are disappointed with the decision announced today by the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee, upholding the decision to impose a penalty vacating two seasons of BYU men’s basketball records. This penalty is truly unprecedented for a case in which the institution had no knowledge of or involvement in the infractions. The NCAA wrongly suggests that case precedent supports this decision, but the undisputed fact is that this is the first time ever that the NCAA Committee on Infractions (COI) has vacated team records where the institution itself was not aware of and had no involvement in the violations.

“Neither of the cases cited by the NCAA supports a vacation of team records in a case that included no institutional knowledge of or involvement in the violations. Princeton involved vacation of an individual tennis student-athlete’s records (not team records), and Memphis involved both a failure to monitor and improper benefits provided directly by the institution itself.

“Despite undisputed findings that BYU and former head coach Dave Rose properly monitored and controlled the program and promoted an atmosphere of compliance, the NCAA still determined to punish the university, Coach Rose and the entire men’s basketball team, who did not participate in or know about the violations of one student-athlete.

“BYU is concerned about the harmful precedent that this case sets and the message it sends to NCAA membership, who may now be punished with a vacation of records, regardless of whether the institution knew about or participated in the violations. BYU strongly disagrees with the NCAA imposing this penalty in a case that included clear findings that there was no lack of institutional control, no failure to monitor and no head coach responsibility for the violations.

“A key mission of the NCAA’s infractions program is ‘to prescribe fair and appropriate penalties.’ Today’s decision is unprecedented and unfair to BYU and other institutions committed to compliance.”

Why did the NCAA come down so hard on BYU? Rose doesn’t know.

“That’s not for me to speculate. I have no idea,” he said. “You’d probably have to call the NCAA and ask them. If you could get someone to actually answer their phone, that would be interesting to ask them that question. From the NCAA’s statement, they are comparing two cases with BYU’s but there’s no comparison. They don’t really relate to each other.”

The NCAA explained its reasoning behind the vacation of wins in its statement.

“The prescription of a vacation of records penalty does not require an institution’s administration or staff to have knowledge of or involvement in the violation. … We recognize the impact the vacation of records penalty has on uninvolved staff and student-athletes, especially in the context of a team sport. However, under the facts and circumstances in this case and existing standards, this committee does not find the panel’s prescription of the vacation of records penalty to be arbitrary, capricious or irrational.”

In addition to the vacation of records at BYU, the COI recommended two years probation from Nov. 9, 2018 through Nov. 9, 2020; reduction of one men’s scholarship served during the earliest possible academic year (self-imposed by the university); recruiting restrictions detailed in the public report; dissociation of one of the boosters (self-imposed by the university); and a $5,000 fine (self-imposed by the university).

Emery withdrew from school for the 2017-18 season and was suspended for the first nine games last season. In July, he announced his decision to retire from basketball, forgoing his senior year.

Rose hopes that this situation can be a learning experience.

“Everybody in the business understands that these student-athletes, there’s a lot of pressure on these guys to make sure they do the right thing,” he said. “We’ve got 700 athletes at BYU and every one of them are under pretty strict rules of what they need to do to keep themselves eligible to participate. Hopefully it will be a lesson learned and they’ll realize the severity of not following the rules and the athletic program can move on and the athletes can learn from this.”

In August, the NCAA ruled that forward Yoeli Childs must sit out the first nine games of the season because he was not in compliance with new rules instituted regarding players declaring early for the draft before he decided to return for his senior season.

As in the Emery case, BYU self-reported and worked with the NCAA in an attempt to be forthcoming and correct mistakes.

“It’s interesting,” Rose said, “the people who get favorable rulings from the NCAA probably take a different approach than BYU does.”