A University of Washington athletic department spokesman confirmed that the UW, along with USC, is investigating an alleged NCAA recruiting violation committed this year by an assistant football coach on Steve Sarkisian’s UW staff.
The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday evening that Tosh Lupoi, UW’s defensive line coach, allegedly paid $4,500 in cash for private tutoring and online classes for a Lynnwood High School player. Lupoi, in a text message to the Los Angeles Times, denied any wrongdoing.
The report says the allegations surround the recruitment of Andrew Basham, a former defensive lineman at Lynnwood High School, who signed a letter of intent with the Huskies last February but did not qualify academically to enroll.
Basham was also a standout track and field athlete, winning a state shot put title. His throws coach at Lynnwood High was Mike Davis, who told The Seattle Times on Wednesday night that he contacted the NCAA last week about Lupoi’s alleged payments.
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Davis said he had received the cash payments from Lupoi on two occasions, first in February and then in May at the UW football offices. He verified the payments to the L.A. Times with bank records.
Davis said Wednesday night that he plans to bring those documents to a scheduled meeting with the NCAA, UW and USC on Friday at the UW campus.
Davis said he wasn’t the whistle blower that tipped off the L.A. Times about the alleged recruiting violations, and he doesn’t know who was. But when contacted by the newspaper, Davis said: “I just couldn’t lie about it. Who am I if I lie about it, you know what I’m saying? I just felt like I had to tell the truth. … It’s like I’ve been run over by the bus, and I’m just trying to be honest with the whole thing.”
Lupoi, 32, joined Sarkisian’s UW staff in 2012 after spending the previous four years at California, his alma mater, where he built a reputation as one of the top recruiters in the Pac-12 Conference. Washington wooed him away from Cal by making him one of the highest-paid coaches in the Pac-12, earning about $350,000 annually.
Shondell Reed, a senior associate athletic director at Washington who oversees compliance, told the L.A. Times that Lupoi “denies any wrongdoing or violations of NCAA rules. He said he doesn’t know why he would be accused of this and vehemently denies doing anything wrong.”
Sources have told The Seattle Times that Lupoi was among the coaches Sarkisian had hoped to bring with him to USC after Sarkisian accepted the Trojans’ head-coaching job on Dec. 2.
Lupoi’s chances of landing at USC are now “less than zero,” a USC source told the L.A. Times.
Sarkisian told the L.A Times that he first learned of the situation when contacted by USC’s compliance office.
“When I was at Washington I did everything within my power to make sure we were 100 percent compliant in all NCAA and Pac-12 rules, and I’m going to operate the exact same way here at USC,” Sarkisian told the L.A Times. “You do everything in your power to be proactive, to promote a compliant atmosphere. … I don’t have the power to see everything, hear everything and know everything, but … I do take responsibility for that, to promote that atmosphere.”
Davis said he was “flabbergasted” when Lupoi first approached him about paying for Basham’s tutoring. That initial conversation took place during a track meet at UW’s Dempsey Indoor Center on Feb. 10, 2013. On Feb. 25, during a meeting at the Ram Restaurant & Brewery at the Northgate Mall, Lupoi left $3,000 in cash for Davis to pay for a private tutoring class for Basham.
Then, on May 18, Davis said Lupoi invited him and Basham to the UW football offices, where Lupoi gave Davis $1,500 inside a covered coffee cup to pay for online classes they hoped would improve Basham’s grade-point average.
Davis corroborated those details to The Seattle Times Wednesday night.
“I was just trying to help Andrew,” Davis told The Seattle Times. “That’s all I was trying to do. And after the first money was exchanged, I felt super uncomfortable.”
It’s unclear how the alleged violations could affect Washington and new head coach Chris Petersen.
John Infante of athleticscholarships.net, an authority on NCAA rules, wrote on Wednesday night that the alleged payments, if proved, would be a violation of NCAA Bylaw 13.15.1. He wrote that any potential sanctions would be processed under the NCAA’s new four-tier penalty structure adopted in October 2012.
Even at USC, Sarkisian could also face potential sanctions under the NCAA’s new “head coach responsibility bylaws,” Infante wrote.
• Petersen is adding another Boise State assistant to his new UW staff. Former Oregon State quarterback Jonathan Smith will join the Huskies after the bowl season, a source confirmed to The Seattle Times. Smith, 34, will be UW’s quarterback coach after spending the past two years in that role at Boise State.
It’s unclear who Petersen has pegged as UW’s offensive coordinator, but Smith has experience as a coordinator at Montana from 2010-11. He spent six seasons before that as the Idaho quarterbacks coach.
The other coaches from Boise State expected to join UW are defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski, running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Keith Bhonapha, offensive line coach Chris Strausser and secondary coach Jimmy Lake. Brent Pease, a former Boise State assistant, will join the UW staff as wide receivers coach, the site footballscoop.com reported. The site also reported that Fresno State director of operations Mike McHugh will come to UW in the same role.
Petersen is not expected to formally announce his staff until after UW plays BYU in the Dec. 27 Fight Hunger Bowl. Petersen will not attend the bowl game.
Adam Jude: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @a_jude.