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Athletics officials worry serious violations to come

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Some University of Hawaii officials fear multiple Level I and II violations — the most severe NCAA infractions — when the school receives a formal Notice of Allegations from the association concerning its men’s basketball program, according to people who say they have been briefed on the subject.

Athletic director Ben Jay said the school has yet to receive the notice from the NCAA and declined to speculate on possible levels of infraction or when the notice will be received. "Under NCAA bylaws, I’m prohibited from commenting at this time," Jay said.

Notice is expected as soon as next month.

Coach Benjy Taylor said, "We’ll keep the guys focused. I mean, whatever comes on the report, we can’t control it. … We just have to move on as a team."

Taylor replaced Gib Arnold as head coach on Oct. 28 after the university fired Arnold and assistant coach Brandyn Akana without cause. Two days later, top returning player Isaac Fotu, who was suspended indefinitely by UH before the start of the season, opted to turn professional and eventually joined a team in Spain.

Meanwhile, UH officials and their Ala­bama-based attorney specializing in NCAA infraction matters have been attempting to gauge what allegations the seven-month inquiry into the men’s basketball program will produce and what self-imposed sanctions might be warranted.

Under the NCAA’s revised four-tier system for classification of infractions implemented in August 2013, violations are classified in Levels I through IV, with I (severe breach of conduct) being the most egregious and Level IV being "incidental issues."

Level I violations include "unethical or dishonest conduct" and a "responsibility violation" on the part of the head coach resulting from an infraction committed by someone within the program.

Level I violations carry the most severe penalties, which, depending upon mitigating or aggravating factors as assessed by the Committee on Infractions, might include postseason bans of one to four years, financial penalties of 3 to 5 percent of the "program budget or postseason money disgorgement," 12.5 to 50 percent in scholarship reductions, 12.5 to 50 percent reductions in recruiting visits, and two to 10 years on probation.

In addition, cited coaches or officials could face two- to 10-year restrictions whereby any school that seeks to employ them would be required to "show cause."

Jonathan Duncan, NCAA vice president of enforcement, has declined to speak about the UH case but has told the Hono­lulu Star-Advertiser that, in general terms, Level III and IV cases "get processed very quickly." As of this spring, Duncan said, "we’re down to about 30 days on those."

Duncan said once the enforcement staff "decides whether to bring allegations, the investigative team makes recommendations to a larger review board," where the allegations are classified before being presented to the school.

Upon receipt of the notice, UH and any individuals named would have 90 days to refute the allegations. Level I and II charges then go to the Committee on Infractions, which is made up of representatives of NCAA members and the public.

The COI may adjust the level of an infraction from that presented by the enforcement staff.

A hearing could be held at which school officials, involved individuals and enforcement staff are called to testify, or there may be resolution through summary disposition when parties agree on the facts of the case.

UH self-reported at least seven possible violations of NCAA rules by its men’s basketball program in 2013 and spring ’14, before an NCAA investigator appeared on campus, according to information obtained by the Star-Advertiser through the state’s open-records law.

The NCAA’s own investigation reportedly turned up several additional possible violations, according to a source.

The NCAA reportedly completed its investigation in mid-October, though attorneys for former coach Gib Arnold and others may have been asked to submit additional information in the interim.

Arnold and assistant coach Brandyn Akana were terminated without cause Oct. 28, UH said.

When allegations do come, Taylor said, "I’m sure for a few days it’ll be a little bit of a circus, we’ll get a lot of speculation going on. We gotta remain locked in, and we’re going to remain playing good basketball."



>> Severe breach of conduct: “Violations that severely undermine or threaten the integrity of the NCAA collegiate model as set forth in the (association’s) constitution and bylaws, including any violation that provides or is intended to provide a substantial or extensive recruiting, competitive or other advantage, or substantial or extensive impermissible benefit.”
>> Examples:
“Lack of institutional control. Academic fraud. Failure to cooperate in an NCAA enforcement investigation. Individual unethical or dishonest conduct. Head coach responsibility violation by a head coach resulting from an underlying Level I violation by an individual within the sport program.”


>> Significant breach of conduct: “Violations that provide or are intended to provide more than a minimal but less than a substantial or extensive recruiting, competitive or other advantage; includes more than a minimal but less than a substantial or extensive impermissible benefit; or involves conduct that may compromise the integrity of the NCAA collegiate model as set forth in the Constitution and bylaws.”
>> Examples: “Violations that do not rise to the level of Level I violations and are more serious than Level III violations. Failure to monitor. Systemic violations that do not amount to a lack of institutional control. Multiple recruiting, financial aid or eligibility violations that do not amount to a lack of institutional control. Collective Level III violations.”


>> Breach of conduct: “Violations that are isolated or limited in nature; provide no more than minimal recruiting, competitive or other advantage; and do not include more than a minimal impermissible benefit.”
>> Note: “Multiple Level IV violations may collectively be considered a breach of conduct.”


>> Incidental issues: “Incidental infractions that are inadvertent and isolated, technical in nature and result in a negligible, if any, competitive advantage. Level IV infractions generally do not affect eligibility for intercollegiate athletics.”

Source: NCAA

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story reported that the NCAA suspended Isaac Fotu. UH suspended Fotu.

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