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 Thursday, October 5
Two men, one woman player suspended
 Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin suspended three basketball players Wednesday, including two from its Final Four team, for eight games for receiving unadvertised discounts at a shoe store.

Men's basketball players Maurice Linton and Travon Davis and women's player Krista Bird must sit out the first eight games this season, close their open accounts at the Shoe Box and repay more than $500 in benefits they each received to restore their eligibility, the school said.

Another 37 winter and spring student-athletes who received extra benefits at the store won't miss any games. But they must close out their accounts and repay the amount of the extra benefit to a local charity.

Sixteen of those athletes who received benefits of between $100 and $299 also must perform 24 hours of community service. They include Roy Boone, Andy Kowske and Mark Vershaw, all senior starters on the men's basketball team.

Fellow starter Mike Kelley received extra benefits of less than $100 and will only have to close his account and make a donation to charity.

The university's action Wednesday brings the number of Badgers athletes disciplined for receiving substantial discounts on shoes and clothing at the Shoe Box to 121.

In August, 26 football players received suspensions ranging from one to three games for the discounts they received. Also, a women's soccer player was suspended for two games as part of the investigation that began after a report in the Wisconsin State Journal this summer detailing purchases by eight members of the Badgers' Final Four basketball team and 14 players from the Rose Bowl champion football team.

The newspaper reported players received discounts of 25 percent to 40 percent and interest-free credit.

Linton, who averaged 4.5 points and 2.7 rebounds, is expected to be the team's starting small forward. Davis averaged 2.1 points last season and likely will be the backup point guard.

They must serve their suspensions within the opening eight games, not counting exhibition games. But the university has appealed to the NCAA to allow the suspensions to be staggered over the first half of the season, 13 games.

The NCAA allowed football players to serve their suspensions over the first four games of the season.

Because Bird was the lone suspended women's basketball player, Wisconsin can't appeal to the NCAA for an extension, school officials said. Bird, a 6-foot-3 senior center, was not expected to start this season after averaging 1.8 points last season.

Women's coach Jane Albright declined an interview request Wednesday but released a statement that read: "We will have to deal with the NCAA sanctions as we do with all adversity in life; break it into small amounts that we can handle and spread it over time for the least effect on all concerned."

The school still must complete its self-report to the NCAA. If the violations constitute a major rules violation, it would be the university's third such infraction within the last decade.

The wrestling program was put on probation in 1994 for improper use of booster funds that included impermissible benefits to athletes.

Last year, the NCAA found the athletic department committed a major rules infraction because coaches and staff members received reimbursement for expenses from a boosters fund without approval from the chancellor. That probation was scheduled to end in November.

Still, the NCAA didn't punish the university as a repeat offender, in part, because it self-reported those violations.

Associate athletic director Vince Sweeney said the school hoped the NCAA would take its cooperation in the latest violations into account.

"We're always concerned about institutional control," he said. "We're always concerned about extra benefits issues. It's part of what you live with when you have 750 student-athletes and you have a highly visible athletic program with lots of boosters and season ticket holders."