Auburn Cleared of Most Serious Major Rules Violations
Birmingham, Alabama (April 27, 2004) – After a two-year investigation into the Auburn University men’s basketball program, the National Collegiate Athletics Association (“NCAA”) Committee on Infractions cleared Auburn of the most serious allegations of offers of thousands of dollars and cars to two prospects, and imposed relatively minor penalties for the violations it determined did occur. Auburn has decided not to appeal the Committee’s decision.
Auburn was represented in the investigation by Lightfoot, Franklin & White lawyers Sam Franklin, William King and Drew Kelly. Auburn President Ed Richardson was complimentary of the LF&W team during his press conference following the decision.
“During our February trip to Arizona to stand before the Committee on Infractions, we found that meeting to be most productive and I’d like to offer a special commendation to our lead attorney William King who handled himself in a very professional way. In fact, he was commended by the NCAA staff although they disagreed on many items,” Richardson said.
After an exhaustive investigation in which LF&W worked closely with NCAA investigators, the NCAA Enforcement Staff accused Auburn and two assistant coaches of offering thousands of dollars and new cars to two prospects if they would agree to play for Auburn. In an unprecedented move, the Enforcement Staff also claimed that a summer/AAU basketball sponsor acted as a representative of Auburn’s athletic interests, or “booster,” and in the process violated NCAA rules when he allegedly provided benefits such as cash, electronic equipment and a car to two prospects who played on his summer team. The Auburn case represented the first time the NCAA Enforcement Staff claimed that a summer/AAU sponsor or coach acted as a booster or representative of a university.
After receiving the formal charges, Lightfoot, Franklin & White advised Auburn to contest the allegations against it. Several people with extensive experience in NCAA compliance matters informed LF&W attorneys that they could not recall a prior case where a university contested all allegations as Auburn was doing in this case. As part of its written response to the NCAA, Auburn self-reported several rules violations discovered during the investigation, none of which was as serious as the charges leveled by the Enforcement Staff. In addition to self-reporting these violations, Auburn also self-imposed a set of penalties and corrective measures, including loss of one scholarship.
The NCAA Committee on Infractions held a hearing on February 13, 2004, during which Sam Franklin and William King responded to each charge on Auburn’s behalf. The Committee on Infractions cleared Auburn of the most serious allegations of offers of cash and cars. While the Committee found Auburn guilty of rules violations in connection with the summer/AAU sponsor, it imposed relatively minor penalties – the loss of one scholarship and two years probation in addition to the penalties Auburn had already self-imposed.
Auburn has decided not to appeal the NCAA’s decision.