Oregon women’s basketball coach Kelly Graves received a two-game suspension and the school was placed on probation through 2020 as a result of the NCAA’s findings on self-reported rules violations released Wednesday.
The findings came nearly a year after Oregon received a notice of allegations from the NCAA regarding violations in men’s basketball, women’s basketball, track and field, and football. The NCAA ruled that both basketball programs allowed non-coaching personnel to conduct impermissible activities but reserved its stiffest punishment for Graves, saying he failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance.
The NCAA found that men’s coach Dana Altman promoted an atmosphere of compliance but failed to monitor the activities of Josh Jamieson, his director of basketball operations. The NCAA ordered Jamieson to attend rules seminars and imposed a fine of $5,000 plus 1 percent of the men’s and women’s basketball budgets. (The combined budget of the two programs for fiscal year 2019 is nearly $11 million, and 1 percent is about $110,000.) The NCAA also accepted Oregon’s self-imposed punishment of restricting practice hours for assistant coaches.
In track and field, the NCAA upheld a finding of academic misconduct involving former sprinter and long jumper Jasmine Todd, who was the subject of a grade-changing allegation involving an adjunct instructor in 2016. Oregon must vacate records from any events in which Todd competed while ineligible, though no NCAA championships are believed to be affected.
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In a statement, the university said it would consider appealing aspects of the NCAA’s ruling, especially the academic misconduct finding.
“While the university respects the hearings panel’s findings and associated sanctions, the UO disagrees with its conclusions,” the statement read. “The institution believes there was no academic misconduct in the UO’s track and field program and that the decision of the hearings panel is unreasonable and inconsistent with conclusions reached by the NCAA in similar situations.”
The penalties stemmed from violations reported by Oregon to the NCAA in 2016. Oregon didn’t dispute facts of the case but contested the severity of the violations in a hearing with the NCAA infractions panel last summer.
The men's basketball violations came to Oregon’s attention in summer 2016 when an athletic department staffer observed Jamieson participating in workouts with student-athletes outside of regular practice hours, according to the NCAA report. Oregon reviewed security footage and identified numerous instances of non-coaching personnel participating in impermissible drills or workouts.
The school discovered Jamieson participated or observed individual voluntary workouts on at least 64 occasions. After discovering these violations, Altman suspended Jamieson for a month and restricted him from attending practices for another month, according to the NCAA report.
While the matter was under investigation, Jamieson was found to have observed additional workouts involving a student-athlete at a local high school track, which the NCAA described as “especially concerning” since it occurred after his suspension and involved one of the same student athletes.
The NCAA issued a show-cause order requiring Jamieson to attend two NCAA regional rules seminars but stipulated no other restrictions on his activities. If Jamieson were to leave the UO, any future employer would have to show that he fulfilled his seminar obligations.
In women’s basketball, the school found that an assistant strength and conditioning coach — believed to be Xavi Lopez, now a full-fledged assistant on Graves’ staff — participated in drills or on-court activities on 31 occasions, sometimes at Graves’ direction.
Graves took responsibility for allowing Lopez to participate in impermissible activities, telling the infractions panel, “I think the rest of my staff was taking my lead. So this was on me.”
While the NCAA applauded Graves’ candor, it upheld the Level II violation associated with his two-game suspension. Graves did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
“In the women’s basketball case, the coach actually participated in the violation and acknowledged that to us,” said Eleanor Myers, chief hearing officer for the infractions panel. “We thought it warranted more of a penalty than the men’s coach.”
Oregon has 15 days to appeal the NCAA’s findings, including Graves’ suspension. If the school chooses not to appeal, it’s likely the suspension would take effect immediately.
In its statement, the school said it is “inclined to abide by the findings and sanctions outlined by the NCAA” in the men’s and women’s basketball cases but wanted to evaluate the rulings further before making a final decision.
The school indicated it does plan to appeal the academic misconduct finding involving track and field. In that case, an adjunct instructor changed Todd’s grade from an F to a B-minus, which allowed her to earn her degree and remain eligible for the 2016 outdoor track season
According to the NCAA report, Todd — identified as student-athlete 2 — was struggling to complete coursework on time because of her competition schedule. The instructor offered to change Todd’s grade from an F to a B-minus on the condition that she re-take the course over the summer.
Oregon’s faculty athletics representative discovered the grade change and the school revoked Todd’s diploma. She was pulled from competition at the NCAA regional meet and did not participate in the NCAA championships.
Oregon argued against an academic misconduct ruling on the basis that Todd had not acted fraudulently or deceitfully. The NCAA’s Academic and Membership Affairs staff determined the academic misconduct ruling was warranted because the professor violated institutional grading policies, and his grade was used to establish Todd’s eligibility to compete.
“In this case, Oregon said the grade change violated the university’s grading policy,” Myers said. “It rescinded the student-athlete’s grade and revoked her diploma. Accordingly, we found a violation.”
The football violation involved the use of an electronic reader board to display names and statistics for 36 recruits under coach Mark Helfrich in fall 2016. Oregon’s compliance office approved this practice until advised otherwise by the Pac-12 and self-reported the violation. The NCAA did not impose any specific penalties on the football program.
During the probationary period, Oregon will be required to create comprehensive compliance training programs, submit annual compliance reports and provide written notice of the violations to prospective student-athletes.
The NCAA’s findings come amid upheaval in college basketball regarding the role of shoe companies and a recent federal fraud case. Attorney statements in that case implicated Oregon in a pay-for-play scandal involving the family of basketball recruit Brian Bowen Jr., who considered the Ducks before committing to Louisville.
Altman has denied those allegations, and they were not included in the NCAA’s infractions review. NCAA president Mark Emmert said Wednesday that any NCAA investigations tied to information uncovered in the federal trial are unlikely to be completed before the end of the 2018-19 season.
“This case was begun before the revelations in the federal case,” Myers said. “There was no reference to any of the information in the ongoing federal investigation as we processed this case.”