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Creighton men's basketball program placed on probation for two years, loses scholarship

greg mcdermott creighton
Posted at 10:06 AM, Jun 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-24 14:24:00-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The NCAA has placed the Creighton men's basketball program on probation for two years & a loss of a scholarship for the next two years after the committee on infractions concluded the team's involvement in an alleged bribery scandal in 2017. The ruling also reprimanded CU athletic director Bruce Rasmussen.

According to the Omaha World-Herald, the scandal involved the recruitment of prospect Brian Bowen & former CU assistant Preston Murphy, who was accused of taking a $6,000 bribe to influence players. Murphy was placed on administrative leave for eight months before eventually resigning in November 2019.

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The NCAA released the following statement:

A former Creighton men’s basketball assistant coach violated NCAA ethical conduct rules when he accepted a $6,000 payment from a business management company that intended to use coaches to influence student-athletes to retain the company and when he provided false or misleading information about his actions during the investigation, according to a decision released by the Division I Committee on Infractions. The Creighton athletics director also failed to report the potential violation.

The conduct at issue in this case was related to a broader scheme that involved money and influence at the intersection of college and professional basketball. The scheme resulted in the arrest and prosecution of multiple individuals — including college basketball coaches — on conspiracy and bribery charges, and it led to significant NCAA reforms. No Creighton employees were arrested or prosecuted.

The violations in this case occurred when the former assistant coach attended a July 2017 meeting in Las Vegas with an agent associate, who was a close friend of the assistant coach, and representatives of the agent associate’s management company. During that meeting, representatives from the management company discussed specific Creighton men’s basketball players with professional potential, as well as a “steady” flow of talent through the program. Government recordings from that meeting — which were evidence in federal court and included in the infractions case record — revealed that while the coach did not say much during the meeting, he accepted an envelope with $6,000 at its conclusion.

Although the committee found that the assistant coach did not take any further action following the meeting, the meeting violated NCAA rules because the receipt of money formalized a business relationship between the assistant coach and the management company for the purpose of using the coach for access to student-athletes.

In October 2018, as the federal trials began, the father of a high-profile prospect discussed the assistant coach in his testimony, and the NCAA directed schools to again review their basketball programs. Creighton’s athletics department issued a questionnaire to its men’s basketball staff asking directly whether staff members had accepted anything of value from an agent, financial advisor or apparel representative and whether they accepted anything of value in exchange for steering a student-athlete or a prospect toward that individual’s services. The assistant coach answered “no” on both questions. He did, however, inform the men’s basketball head coach of his Las Vegas meeting, and the head coach informed the athletics director.

The athletics director then conducted his own investigation, without notifying or coordinating with the compliance department. The athletics director spoke with both the assistant coach and the head coach. The assistant coach acknowledged that he had attended the Las Vegas meeting and knew he would receive payment but stated that he gave the money to the agent associate after the meeting was over. The athletics director determined that a violation had not occurred and kept the information to himself until March 2019, when the federal government issued a superseding indictment that specifically identified the assistant coach’s participation in the meeting. Only then did the athletics director inform others of what he learned months earlier. As a result, the athletics director failed to meet his obligation to report a potential NCAA violation.

The committee said in its decision, “The violations largely stem from individuals permitting personal relationships to cloud their judgment and influence their decision-making. Specifically, the assistant coach prioritized loyalty to his friend, the agent associate; and the athletics director looked past alarming conduct based on his trust in the assistant coach.”

The committee classified the case as Level I-mitigated for the school, Level I-aggravated for the former assistant coach and Level II-mitigated for the athletics director. The committee used the Division I membership-approved infractions penalty guidelines to prescribe the following measures:

  • Two years of probation.
  • A $5,000 fine plus 1% of the men’s basketball program budget.
  • A reduction of men’s basketball scholarships by one per year for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 academic years (self-imposed by the university).
  • A reduction of men’s basketball official visits by six during the 2021-22/2022-23 rolling two-year period (self-imposed by the university).
  • A reduction in the number of men’s basketball recruiting person days by 10% from the previous four-year average for the two-year probationary period (self-imposed by the university).
  • The university will prohibit complimentary admission to home games for all prospects and coaches in November 2021 (self-imposed by the university).
  • A two-year show-cause order for the former assistant coach. During that period, any NCAA member school employing him must restrict him from any athletically related duties unless it shows cause why the restrictions should not apply.

University Statement:

Creighton University remains committed to compliance throughout the University, including in our Department of Athletics. For nearly three years, Creighton has worked proactively and cooperatively with the NCAA enforcement staff and Committee on Infractions on a review of the actions of former assistant men’s basketball coach Preston Murphy, who was placed on leave in March 2019, and resigned from Creighton in November 2019. We appreciate the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions’ comprehensive and thorough review of the case and accept their finding of Level I - Mitigated violation against the University. It is noteworthy that within the public infractions report, the Committee stated, “that in the 100-year history of Creighton's participation in Division I athletics, this is Creighton's first Level I, Level II or major infractions case. As it relates to institutions, the absence of an infractions history is rare. As such, the panel affords significant weight to this (mitigating) factor.” There is no postseason penalty imposed on the men’s basketball program, and none of our current or future student-athletes will be impacted. We have used this as an opportunity for self-reflection, assessment, and improvement. As such, the Department of Athletics has enacted a series of reforms to policies and procedures, including an even more robust education and monitoring program, to ensure that our programs continue to adhere to the NCAA’s high ethical standards. Indeed, these actions, and the University’s willingness to cooperate on this matter, have been applauded by the NCAA enforcement staff. We are eager to move forward.

Statement from Director of Athletics Bruce Rasmussen:

I thank the NCAA staff for their thorough investigation. We are anxious to move forward knowing that the series of reforms we have made to our policies and procedures within the Department of Athletics at Creighton ensure ongoing adherence and compliance with the NCAA’s high ethical standards.