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December 8, 1999

SMU DISMISSES COACH, IMPOSES SANCTIONS AFTER INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION OF RULES VIOLATIONS

DALLAS (SMU) -- Southern Methodist University today dismissed assistant football coach Steve Malin, announced self-imposed sanctions on its football program, and submitted a report to the NCAA.

The University's actions are based on the results of an independent investigation commissioned by SMU to examine alleged rules violations discovered through SMU's internal compliance system. A report based on the independent investigation, conducted by the law firm of Bond, Schoeneck and King of Kansas City, was delivered to the NCAA today.

The investigation thoroughly examined information developed through the University's internal compliance system and other information developed by the law firm. The investigation found violations limited to the conduct of one coach -- Steve Malin -- with no booster involvement. According to the investigators' report, Malin violated NCAA rules over a four-year period while he was employed as an assistant coach. He was appointed in 1994 as a graduate assistant by former SMU Head Football Coach Tom Rossley and became a full-time assistant coach in 1995.

The violations involved providing improper inducements to, or contact with, prospective student-athletes, as well as extra benefits to current student-athletes. The inducements and benefits involved amounts ranging from $10 to $60, for an approximate total of about $650 in cash and goods over four years. In addition, according to the investigation, Malin suggested that a prospective student-athlete have someone else take the ACT test in his place and encouraged the same student-athlete to provide false information during the investigation. Malin denies any wrongdoing.

The termination of Malin's employment is effective immediately. He had been on suspension from SMU since August 3.

Most of the allegations came to SMU's attention as a result of spring 1999 exit interviews of student-athletes who completed their eligibility, a function of SMU's internal compliance system. As part of interviews, SMU asks student-athletes if they know of any alleged rules violations in the athletics program. This line of questioning is not required under NCAA regulations for exit interviews, but is an extra step SMU takes in monitoring its athletics program.

"We deeply regret the occurrence of any wrongdoing associated with our football program," says SMU President R. Gerald Turner. "That's why we moved forward with an independent investigation conducted by an outside law firm and are self-imposing sanctions on the program. We want to make clear that SMU will not tolerate rules violations of any type and will hold accountable those who are responsible for them. Our internal compliance system worked in revealing violations by one assistant coach. We're taking action accordingly."

SELF-IMPOSED SANCTIONS

Under self-imposed sanctions, SMU:

  • Operated during the 1999 football season without a coach in Malin's position because he was not replaced after his suspension in August.
  • Will decrease by one the number of assistant coaches allowable under NCAA rules to be involved in recruiting during the spring 2000 season.
  • Will reduce by eight the number of official campus visits from high school recruits each of the next two years, for a total of 16 fewer visits.
  • Will reduce by four the number of football scholarships each of the next two years, for a total of eight fewer scholarships.

"These sanctions demonstrate that SMU is serious about full compliance with NCAA regulations," says Jim Copeland, SMU director of athletics. "Institutionally, we accept responsibility for any problems and remain committed to operating a program based on integrity. Cumulatively, the violations that were found paint the picture of an assistant coach who has violated our commitment to NCAA rules compliance. This will not be tolerated at SMU."

RULES VIOLATIONS

Standardized test impropriety. SMU learned of a possible violation regarding standardized test impropriety in late January 1999. At that time, SMU received notification from ACT, formerly American College Testing, that it had invalidated the June 1998 test score of a student-athlete, a score that had qualified him for first-year eligibility for an athletic scholarship. The testing service questioned the student's score on that test because of inconsistencies with an earlier exam he had taken. ACT informed the student of the invalidation in November 1998, but the student did not inform SMU. He took another ACT exam in December 1998, but failed to earn a score that would qualify him for first-year eligibility for an athletic scholarship.

When SMU officials interviewed the student in January 1999, he told them his poor handwriting had caused his signatures on the exams to be questioned by ACT. SMU officials immediately decided to investigate the situation internally and notified the NCAA of the inquiry. When University officials spoke with the student again in February, however, he told a different story. According to a signed statement by the student, Malin suggested that the student hire someone to take the ACT exam in his place, to ensure that he would receive a qualifying score.

In spring 1999 the progress of SMU's internal investigation was slowed because a key witness was unavailable for health reasons to be interviewed by University officials until April. When the interview occurred, the witness implicated Malin in the test-taking allegation. At that time, SMU decided to hire a private investigator because of the expanding nature of the investigation. During the private investigator's questioning of the student-athlete, he recanted his claim of Malin's involvement in the test-taking arrangements, saying he acted alone.

In May, as the investigator was continuing his inquiry, and as SMU was preparing its report on the entrance exam issue to the NCAA, SMU conducted exit interviews with students completing their eligibility, a routine part of its internal compliance review system. During these interviews, two students completing their eligibility identified other possible violations linked to Malin.

"We immediately became concerned about the pattern that seemed to be emerging," Copeland says. "Not only had we been receiving conflicting information about the test-taking allegation that needed clarification and resolution, but now we were hearing two other students implicate Coach Malin in other possible violations. We decided we needed a broader investigation by a third party to get to the bottom of the matter."

To conduct the inquiry, SMU in July 1999 engaged the law firm of Bond, Schoeneck and King, which specializes in issues related to athletics and the NCAA. SMU also notified the NCAA of the University's plan to investigate new allegations and to continue the investigation into the test-taking allegation.

During the ensuing investigation by Bond, Schoeneck, and King, the student-athlete was reinterviewed in detail and was questioned in particular about his change of testimony concerning the test-taking arrangements. He reported that prior to his second interview, Malin had influenced him to recant his earlier implication of the assistant coach. He then confirmed that his original statement was truthful and that Malin had been involved.

The student-athlete left SMU at the end of the spring 1999 semester.

Improper inducements, benefits, and contacts. Under NCAA regulations, only members of an institution's coaching staff are permitted to have off-campus contact with prospective student-athletes, contact is not permitted during the prospect's high school football season, and there are strict limitations on what can be spent on hosting prospects who visit campus. SMU's internal compliance system revealed allegations of improper inducements, benefits, and contacts with prospective student-athletes. As a result of the investigation, there is evidence that Malin:

  • Gave a total of $80 directly to two prospective student-athletes during their recruitment;
  • Involved the father of an enrolled student-athlete in meeting with two prospects in the father's home.
  • Involved two enrolled student-athletes in contacting two prospects after a high school football game.
  • Permitted a prospective student-athlete to receive Dallas Cowboy hats and t-shirts and money to purchase used CDs and a used sweatsuit. The total amount involved was approximately $160.
  • Allowed a prospective student from out of town to spend the night at the assistant coach's home.
  • Took part in a pick-up basketball game with a prospective student while visiting the prospect's hometown, an activity that constitutes an impermissible athletic "tryout" of the prospect.

With regard to improper benefits to enrolled student-athletes, the investigation found evidence that Malin:

  • Provided one student-athlete with $20 for a performance reward.
  • Provided one student-athlete with up to $30 cash on six occasions when he asked Malin for money to help him "get by."
  • Provided local transportation, meals, and entertainment for two student-athletes following an out-of-town game.

In accordance with NCAA rules regarding prospective student-athletes who receive improper inducements and later attend the institution, SMU in the fall declared two students ineligible, the students made financial restitution, and SMU self-reported the incidents to the NCAA. Eligibility was immediately restored.

In addition to outlining results of the independent investigation, the report by Bond, Schoeneck and King cited SMU's "proactive efforts" in its compliance program and in pursuing the facts as soon as possible problems came to light. During the course of the investigation, representatives of the law firm interviewed more than 35 witnesses, many on multiple occasions. The SMU report now will be reviewed by the NCAA. Final action by the NCAA could be several months away.

"We will redouble our program's efforts to uphold the spirit and the letter of the law with regard to NCAA rules compliance," says SMU Head Football Coach Mike Cavan. "It must be clear to everyone involved with our program that we are serious about this commitment. It is unfortunate that the improper actions of even one individual can harm an institution's efforts to run a program in compliance with NCAA regulations. We will play by the rules, and we're building our program to win by the rules."


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