DALLAS » The NCAA banned the SMU men’s basketball team from postseason play Tuesday and suspended veteran coach Larry Brown for nine games after concluding that he lied to investigators, ignored academic fraud and fell far short of expectations in leading his staff when it came to compliance.
In a scathing report, the NCAA noted that Brown had previously coached at Kansas and UCLA yet made "choices against his better judgment when it came to compliance issues" at SMU, where he is preparing for his fourth season.
"These choices included not reporting possible violations in his program, initially lying to the enforcement staff during the investigation and providing no specific guidance to his staff on rules compliance," the NCAA said in punishing SMU for its 10th major infractions case over the years.
SMU did not immediately comment on the findings, which it can appeal.
The NCAA said Brown had acknowledged "his failed judgment" during a hearing on the case and that it found him "reflective and remorseful."
"But I realize, you know, in hindsight that was a terrible mistake on my part," Brown said, according to the NCAA report. "I wish I could have changed all that. But we had that interview with the NCAA, I don’t know why I lied. You know, dealing with people that I really care about, and I used terrible judgment, and I tried to acknowledge that as quickly as I could, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference. I realize that."
Brown led Kansas to the 1988 national championship before returning to the NBA as San Antonio’s coach. But the Jayhawks were banned from postseason play the next season and placed on probation for recruiting violations during Brown’s tenure. UCLA was 42-17 in Brown’s two seasons, but the Bruins’ runner-up finish in the 1980 NCAA tournament was later vacated by the NCAA after two players were determined to be ineligible.
The SMU infractions were revealed more than eight months after the school acknowledged an NCAA investigation and months before the Mustangs went to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1993. The basketball team will also lose nine scholarships over the next three seasons.
SMU’s acknowledgement of an investigation in January came after an appeal of an academic suspension that sidelined sophomore guard Keith Frazier the rest of the season. That was also days after assistant coach Ulric Maligi, who recruited Frazier out of Kimball High in Dallas, took an indefinite leave of absence for personal reasons. Maligi is no longer on staff.
While no names were revealed in its report, the NCAA said a former assistant men’s basketball coach encouraged an athlete to enroll in an online course to meet NCAA initial eligibility standards and be admitted to the university. The NCAA also said a former men’s basketball administrative assistant hired by Brown then completed the coursework; she then provided false information to NCAA investigators and also attempted to influence the player to also provide false information.
According to the report, Brown learned of the misconduct in 2014 and didn’t report it to anyone for more than a month.
When asked by the NCAA enforcement staff about the potential violations, he initially denied having any information about conversations with the former administrative assistant and player. He later explained why.
"Now, this might sound so silly, when all these allegations are read, and when (enforcement staff) was basically taking the position I didn’t do the right thing, I can’t argue with that," Brown said, according to the NCAA. "There is no excuse for not going to (the athletic director) when (the student-athlete) told me he didn’t do this online the course. That’s all he said to me. There is no excuse for that, there is no excuse to go before the committee and not tell the truth when a question is directed at you. I have no excuse for that. I did not do that promptly."