|Monday, March 10
Brand: 'I think the system is working'
INDIANAPOLIS -- New president Myles Brand does not think the NCAA is getting a black eye from the recent wave of college basketball violations.
Players have been suspended, games forfeited, and on Monday, Georgia (No. 22 ESPN/USA Today, No. 21 Associated Press) withdrew from the Southeastern Conference and NCAA tournaments. To some, it may appear collegiate athletics are out of control, particularly in the high-profile sports such as men's basketball.
"I think the system is working," Brand told The Associated Press on Monday, shortly after Georgia's decision was announced. "In each of the situations you just named, I think the appropriate actions were taken."
Brand took over as the NCAA's president in January as a reformer, hoping to place a greater emphasis on academic achievements than national championships. But since being hired as president in October, Brand and the NCAA have dealt with what seems like one scandal after another.
It began in November when the University of Michigan notified the NCAA it was putting a postseason ban on its men's basketball team after a booster acknowledged lending money to athletes during the 1990s.
The most recent round started in late February, and the blots are beginning to have an impact on the NCAA's marquee event, the men's basketball tournament, just as it prepares to get underway next week.
Fresno State president John D. Welty announced March 3 the Bulldogs would not play in the postseason this year after school officials confirmed instances of academic fraud. The Western Athletic Conference also banned Fresno State from its postseason tournament.
On the same day, St. Bonaventure was forced to forfeit six Atlantic 10 Conference victories and barred from the league's postseason tournament for using an ineligible player. The team then decided to forfeit its last two regular-season games. President Robert Wickenheiser resigned Sunday and coach Jan van Breda Kolff was placed on administrative leave.
On Saturday, Villanova suspended 12 basketball players, including leading scorers Gary Buchanan and Ricky Wright, for allegedly making unauthorized telephone calls.
Then Monday, Georgia suspended coach Jim Harrick and pulled out of the postseason tournament after an internal investigation showed three players took a phony class taught by Harrick's son.
"This is probably an unusual string of events, and I'm not sure there's precedent for the number of institutions in this position," NCAA spokesman Wally Renfro said.
Brand believes it's an indication university presidents are taking the issues seriously. Brand was the president of Indiana University until taking over the NCAA and is the first university president ever to head the college sports governing body.
Brand credited three presidents _ Georgia's Michael Adams, Michigan's Mary Sue Coleman and Welty _ for helping take the lead in the reform movement by imposing what he called ``appropriate'' punishments.
"I figured that once he got the facts, he would take the appropriate action, and he has," Brand said of Adams. "But I think we are starting to see a very important trend. I think the system is working."