New self-imposed sanctions jeopardize team’s future

by Mike Wereschagin

Dan Monson, men’s basketball head coach, will readily admit that no one said his job was going to be easy.
Then again, no one said it was going to be this hard, either.
The University’s latest wave of self-imposed sanctions on the men’s basketball program landed squarely on the team’s future, with six of the seven restrictions limiting his recruiting ability.
The seventh will take at least $350,000 from the men’s athletics department — playoff revenues earned between 1993 and 1997 — giving Monson that much less breathing room.
The first sanction dictates the elimination of six scholarships during the next four years. For the 2000-01 season, only 11 of 13 total scholarships will be awarded, and just 11 or 12 will be allowed each year for the following three seasons.
Also, in-person recruiting interviews for prospective players have been reduced from five to four per year, for the next three years.
In addition, only two coaches — instead of three — are now allowed to conduct summer off-campus evaluations, and they have five fewer days to carry them out. Both sanctions are also in effect for the next three years.
But when the sanctions were announced at Monday’s press conference, Monson was less concerned with his team’s future playoff hopes and more worried about the effects on the players themselves.
“Whatever the penalty is, we want to make sure that we’re punishing the school and punishing the program, but leaving these innocent players alone,” Monson said, referring to the fact that players currently on the team were not around when the academic fraud within the program took place.
“This year, they were punished” by the self-imposed playoff suspension announced just before the November release of the University’s private investigation into the misconduct, he said.
But Monson had no delusions about what these sanctions mean to the program’s future.
“I’m realistic enough to know that these sanctions put us at a disadvantage,” Monson said. “But I signed up for this.”
The latest salvo of sanctions might stave off harsher penalties from the NCAA, but their effects on the team’s future prospects leave little room for attracting star players.
Still, last season’s playoff ban was not extended, keeping at least the possibility of postseason play alive for current players.
And Tom Moe, interim men’s athletics director, said he has heard nothing to indicate the NCAA will levy such a ban when the organization releases its own report sometime this summer.
Tonya Moten Brown, vice president for administration, said this is in part why the punishments were so stiff.
“We didn’t want another ban on postseason play,” she said.
But while the postseason opportunity is there on paper, the reality of it presents much more of a challenge for Monson.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Monson said.

Mike Wereschagin welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (512) 627-4070 x3226.