The investigation into alleged recruiting violations against one of its assistant football coaches appears to put Washington in uncharted territory under the NCAA’s new enforcement policies.
“There is not really precedent for this case because of the new enforcement program,” said John Infante, a former compliance director at Colorado State and Loyola Marymount.
There are still many more questions than answers regarding the $4,500 in cash payments UW assistant coach Tosh Lupoi is alleged to have handed out for a Lynnwood recruit’s tutoring services and online classes. Lupoi has denied the allegations, and the recruit’s mother told The Seattle Times on Thursday that Lupoi had “nothing to do” with her son’s tutoring sessions.
“The allegations are detailed, include supporting documentation, and the third party sounds willing to talk to the NCAA,” Infante said. “That means at the very least it has to be taken seriously by everyone involved.”
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The NCAA was scheduled to be on the UW campus Friday to meet with Mike Davis, a former assistant track coach at Lynnwood High who mentored the UW football recruit, Andrew Basham. Davis had described in detail — first to The Los Angeles Times, and then to The Seattle Times — how he allegedly received the cash payments from Lupoi for Basham’s tutoring.
A Washington official would not confirm a meeting took place, and Davis did not return telephone calls from The Seattle Times.
Thursday, Davis told The Seattle Times he would cooperate with the NCAA, and he said he has bank records to support his claims.
Complicating the investigation further are the NCAA bylaws enacted in October 2012, but it’s unclear how the NCAA enforcement process has, or will, change because of those new bylaws.
If the allegations are proved to be true, they would violate NCAA Bylaw 13.15.1, which states that “an institution or a representative of its athletics interests shall not offer, provide or arrange financial assistance, directly or indirectly, to pay (in whole or in part) the costs of the prospective student-athlete’s educational or other expenses for any period prior to his or her enrollment.”
The NCAA’s new violation structure includes four tiers. Level I is the most severe, with Level II considered a “significant breach of conduct.” Level III is a “minimal” infraction and Level IV involves “incidental” issues.
Infante said it’s “especially hard to say right now” what the potential ramifications for UW and Lupoi might be.
“Is this a Level I or II infraction?” he said. “Are there mitigating or exacerbating circumstances? How will (an NCAA) panel drawn from a more diverse committee approach the case?”
USC also is involved in the investigation because Lupoi worked under USC’s new head coach, Steve Sarkisian, who left UW on Dec. 2. The new NCAA bylaws are intended to make a head coach more responsible for the actions of his staff, so it’s possible any sanctions — including a potential suspension — could follow Sarkisian to Los Angeles.
“We know the intent of the new enforcement program, but not how it will be executed,” Infante said. “This will be a good test of the new system to see if the case is handled quickly, if the new committee brings a different perspective, and whether the penalties are properly apportioned between school and any involved individuals.”
Meanwhile, at the Las Vegas Bowl, Sarkisian met with parents of Trojans players and told them he has always promoted an atmosphere of compliance and he was confident he could prove that if questioned by the NCAA, several parents told the Los Angeles Times.
Sarkisian said that if asked, he would produce emails and a personal journal to show he always has promoted compliance. NCAA bylaws state that a head coach is presumed to be responsible for violations occurring within his program, unless he can prove he has promoted an atmosphere of compliance and monitored his staff.
USC spoke with Davis by phone last week. USC compliance officials were not scheduled to be present at any meetings in Seattle.
The Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.
Adam Jude: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.