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Howard University placed on probation

In its latest reminder to colleges that covering up rules violations can be
just as damning as actually committing them, the NCAA on Tuesday cited Howard University with major infractions in five sports, including men's
basketball, and lectured the school on the need to monitor its programs.

"We nearly lost a president over the same issue," said Tom Yeager, chair of
the Division I NCAA Committee on Infractions.

Yeager's reference to former President Clinton is appropriate.

In men's basketball, the primary violation occurred when the head coach paid
for airfare from Los Angeles for a junior college coach who accompanied a
player of his on an official recruiting visit. But the Howard coach dug
himself a deeper hole with the NCAA by insisting to a school lawyer that the
person who made that visit was not the junior college coach, but a player at
the junior college who happened to have the same name.

In women's basketball, the violations also stemmed from a recruiting trip.
The coach bought a plane ticket for a North Carolina prospect with her own
money, and allowed her to visit even though Howard had not yet received her
required academic papers. The infractions committee said it didn't believe
the coach's explanation that she didn't know how the tickets were purchased.

In men's and women's swimming, five athletes competed while ineligible. The
coach allowed them to participate in meets even after the school's
compliance coordinator had explained to him that the players lacked the
necessary academic requirements.

"The recruiting and extra benefit violations are not as significant as those
in other highly publicized cases," said Yeager, whose committee in the
coming weeks will be issuing rulings of major infractions cases involving
Alabama and Kentucky football.

At the same time, he emphasized, some of the violations were serious. He
cited some of those involving the baseball team, in which one player was
enrolled in six hours of summer classes even though he had returned to his
home in another state for the summer. The cost of those courses was paid
through a loan deposited in his account.

The infractions committee found a "lack of institutional control" at Howard,
a charge that can prompt considerable penalties because the NCAA places a
premium on schools policing themselves. The most significant penalty handed
out by the NCAA in this case went to the baseball team, which was banned
from postseason competition next spring.

That penalty is on top of other sanction already imposed by Howard: minor
scholarship cuts in baseball, men's basketball and women's basketball. The
university also fired or declined to renew the contracts of other coaches
involved, leading to the departure of at least a dozen head and assistant
coaches.

Yeager suggested that even if the coaches had not tried to hide rules
violations, the infractions committee would have been concerned about the
violations.

"I don't want to (create the impression) that as long as you come clean,
it's no harm, no foul," he said.

The NCAA gave a Howard five years probation, during which time the school
will have to continue to develop rules education programs and submit
periodic reports to the NCAA.

The violations occurred between the mid-1990s and the 1999-2000 school year.

In a statement, the university said it is "operating and clean and
competitive athletics program." The school also expressed disappointment
that "the NCAA's penalties fail to recognize the university's candor" and
its "dedication of substantial resources to investigate the matter." Howard officials told the Washington Post on Tuesday that they would appeal the ruling.

It was fourth NCAA sanction for Howard, a historically black college located
in Washington, D.C. The football team received a two-year probation in 1991,
and a one-year postseason and TV ban in 1978. The men's soccer team had a
one-year probation and postseason ban in 1973.

Tom Farrey is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at
tom.farrey@espn.com.