Wichita State was placed on one-year of NCAA probation and must forfeit wins from seasons in which 21 ineligible baseball players played, as a result of impermissible benefits violations from 2011-13, the NCAA announced Thursday.
The punishment also includes a $5,000 fine. The probation does not affect eligibility for championships or scholarships.
Wichita State’s 2013 appearance in the NCAA Tournament will be vacated. Those victories, perhaps as many as 74 from the 2012 and 2013 seasons, will also be wiped away from former coach Gene Stephenson’s career wins total.
The NCAA’s report did not say how many wins were compiled with ineligible players. Wichita State is checking its records to see in which games the ineligible players participated. Only wins are affected by the ruling.
Wichita State’s current coaching staff is not viewed as responsible for the violations, Eleanor Myers, the chief hearing officer for the NCAA Committee on Infractions said on a conference call Thursday.
“Wichita State University did not monitor the activities of a former administrative assistant regarding her use of a VIP account provided by the school’s apparel provider, according to a decision issued by a Division I Committee on Infractions panel,” the NCAA said in a news release. “For nearly two years, 21 baseball players purchased shoes, clothing, hunting gear and other non-athletics items for a total of $7,594.18, using the 50 percent discount. Because the discount provided by the former assistant was not generally available to the full student body, family and friends, the discount is considered an extra benefit to the players.”
Wichita State’s level of violations were categorized as Level II (significant breach of conduct) and Level III (breach of conduct). Level I (severe breach of conduct) is the highest level. Level IV (incidental issues) is the least serious.
Level II is defined as a “failure to monitor” and “systemic violations that do not rise to the level of institutional control.” Level III violations are defined as “isolated or limited in nature.”
The NCAA no longer uses terms “major” and “secondary” to categorize violations.
The saga began in November 2013 when current Wichita State coach Todd Butler discovered that his players received discounts, as much as 50 percent, on Under Armour apparel, through an account administered by Shelley Wombacher, the former baseball administrative assistant. NCAA rules allow athletes to purchase items related to their sport.
Under Armour supplies Wichita State’s baseball uniforms and other apparel. However, athletes purchased hunting gear and other non-baseball clothing. On Feb. 14, four hours before Wichita State’s opening game against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, the NCAA suspended eight players from three to nine games. Eight players who purchased less than $100 worth of clothing paid back the money.
Wombacher also allowed a junior college softball coach, through a junior college baseball coach, to order 20 shirts at a discount through Wichita State’s account.
“While the former assistant had a working knowledge of NCAA rules, the school acknowledged it should have provided her with further rules education and didn’t closely monitor her VIP account activities,” the news release said. “Additionally, the school failed to implement recommended changes to its apparel purchasing system that would have ultimately helped avoid the extra benefit violations. Because of this, the school failed to monitor its baseball program.”
Stephenson and Wombacher did not agree with all of the NCAA’s findings, according to the NCAA. In November, they traveled to NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis to meet with the committee on infractions. A traveling party from Wichita State, including president John Bardo, athletic director Eric Sexton, associate athletic Korey Torgerson and Butler, also attended.
“The former head baseball coach did not agree that he failed to fulfill his responsibilities to monitor the former administrative assistant, which was alleged by the enforcement staff but not concluded by the panel,” the report states. “The former administrative assistant agreed with the facts but disagreed that the facts constituted violations of NCAA legislation.”
The NCAA reduced Wichita State’s player suspensions in half last season because it self-reported the violations, Sexton said in February. The violations occurred from 2011-13.
“We fully complied with everything we have been asked to comply with,” Sexton said in September. “We identified that mistakes were made. We took action. We held ourselves accountable.”
Stephenson coached Wichita State from 1978-2013 and compiled a record of 1,837-675-3. Texas’ Auggie Garrido is Division I’s winningest coach with 1,920 victories, while Florida State’s Mike Martin is third at 1,813 and former Texas Tech coach Larry Hays is fourth at 1,508.