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Oklahoma hopes to avoid postseason ban

NORMAN, Okla. -- The University of Oklahoma, responding to
allegations that it broke NCAA regulations, acknowledges it
violated rules about telephoning basketball recruits but asks the
organization to stop short of a severe finding that could bar the
Sooners from postseason play.

In a 194-page response obtained by The Associated Press, the
university lays out a multifaceted argument against such a finding,
called a "lack of institutional control."

The response, requested by the NCAA, includes the university's
explanation of the circumstances that led to more than 550
impermissible telephone contacts with at least 17 recruits by
basketball coach Kelvin Sampson and three assistant coaches between
April 2000 and September 2004.

The university suggests that a lesser "failure in monitoring"
finding would be more appropriate than an institutional control
finding, which would suggest that Oklahoma's administration was not
committed to complying with NCAA rules. The monitoring finding
would apply only to one part of the program.

"Lack of institutional control applies to systemic failures and
significant/multiple breakdowns and is viewed as one of the most,
if not the most, serious allegation a school can face," Oklahoma
writes in its response.

The finding is one of three criteria that are specifically
mentioned in a portion of the NCAA bylaws regarding major
infractions that can lead to a postseason ban. The others are if
individuals involved in major infractions remain active in the
program and if the violations resulted in a "significant
competitive advantage."

However, the NCAA has a broad range of penalties at its disposal
based on a school's violations, its cooperation in an investigation
and its self-imposed penalties.

Oklahoma has already placed the men's basketball program on
probation for two years, cut its number of scholarships in that
span, implemented limits it expects to eliminate more than 1,000
recruiting calls and reduced off-campus recruiting trips for
Sampson and paid on-campus visits by recruits. The university also
froze Sampson's salary and will issue a reprimand against him after
the investigation is resolved.

The school does not expect significant additional penalties beyond those already self-imposed with the approval of the NCAA's enforcement staff, The Oklahoman reported.

Still, the NCAA has summoned Oklahoma to attend a Committee on
Infractions meeting April 21 in Utah for a final resolution.

Oklahoma's associate athletic director for communications, Kenny
Mossman, said in an e-mail Thursday that the university would make
no further comment while the investigation process is ongoing.

The majority of the allegations from the NCAA's investigation
apply to the telephone calls. The other alleged violations are four
improper in-person meetings and two instances where Sampson gave a
T-shirt to a recruit and to another recruit's mother. Oklahoma has
also self-reported eight other secondary rule violations by the
men's basketball team and infractions for holding too many
mandatory practices for men's and women's gymnastics.

Oklahoma hasn't had a major infraction since December 1988, when
the NCAA determined the football program broke recruiting rules and
provided extra benefits. There were also findings of unethical
conduct and the institutional control violation.

"Attaching a label of lack of institutional control to the
University would not fairly reflect the systems that were engaged
and functioning at the time the violations occurred or the
compliance changes and improvements that have steadily occurred
over the past two decades," Oklahoma claims.

Oklahoma notes that it initially agreed reluctantly to accept a
"limited finding of lack of institutional control" in an attempt
to resolve the current investigation more quickly and avoid
consequences including "extended negative recruiting by other
institutions and protracted publicity regarding violations that
occurred many years ago."

Oklahoma does not argue with the substance of the NCAA's
allegations about the phone calls, although it suggests there are
mitigating circumstances that should be taken into consideration.

The university contends that it would have had fewer
impermissible calls if the NCAA's investigation hadn't taken three
years or if investigators had alerted Oklahoma earlier that its
calling practices were in question.

Oklahoma also believes it has satisfied the Committee on
Infractions' criteria for institutional control and that its
violations don't resemble those in previous cases where
institutional control was deemed lacking.

The response also includes an acknowledgment by Oklahoma that an
internal auditing system failed to detect the hundreds of
impermissible calls.

"During the time period of the violations, the auditors
reviewed recruiting documentation in men's basketball, including
telephone logs," Oklahoma writes. " ... The men's basketball
staff knew that all records were subject to review, and in fact
were being reviewed. The reviews did not report any findings
regarding men's basketball."

The university said the system failed because the written logs
were never compared to telephone bills to see whether all calls had
been logged.

"They were auditing us, and if something was wrong I figured
somebody would say something to me," Sampson said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.