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By John Brown
Arizona Daily Wildcat
January 14, 1998

12 students violated NCAA rules in book scam

Twelve UA student-athletes received textbooks in violation of NCAA rules last year, infractions that could have been avoided if the university's policies had been properly monitored, according to a report released last week.

A five-month investigation by Tucson attorney Cary Sandman revealed that nine student-athletes were given textbooks listed as "optional" by their professors, and three others received textbooks not related to their classes during the 1996-97 academic year - both NCAA violations.

Of the three students who received books not related to their course work, two obtained books totaling more than $200 and gave them to other people. The third student received $204.45 worth of non-related textbooks.

The books were purchased with University of Arizona Athletic Department book vouchers, which will no longer be used in order to prevent future violations. The vouchers were given to athletes when they added a class after the beginning of the semester and needed to get a book after the initial distribution period.

At the start of each school term, books are distributed to each eligible student-athlete based on their official class schedule. A student must be on an athletic scholarship to be eligible.

According to Sandman's report, Ruben Berry, coordinator of the Athletic Department book loan program, and his staff failed to ensure that NCAA rules and UA policies were properly followed.

"The investigation confirmed that ICA (Intercollegiate Athletics) academic office staff routinely neglected to review student athletes' official course registration schedules, prior to issuing student-athletes cash book vouchers," Sandman's report states.

"The book loan coordinator and his staff stated that they did not understand, that under NCAA rules, 'optional' course-related books were not to be distributed to student athletes," the reports states.

Mike Fisher, director of academics and Barry's direct supervisor, left the Athletic Department this summer. Lynne Wood, of the University Attorneys' Office, would not disclose the reason for Fisher's departure, citing employee confidentiality laws. Sandman states in his report that he was unable to interview Fisher prior to his leaving the university.

The university's book loan program was transferred to the Intercollegiate Athletics' Compliance Office this semester, and books will no longer be distributed or stored at McKale Center.

Students now get their books at the UA Associated Students Bookstore from an Athletic Department employee.

Athletic Director Jim Livengood has been in Atlanta and could not be reached for comment. Sharon Kha,university spokeswoman, said yesterday that UA president Peter Likins has stressed his desire to permanently resolve the issue.

"We've had two book loan problems. We won't have a third," Kha said. "The department has a good policy, but it wasn't being enforced."

The probe into the University of Arizona student-athlete book loan program was sparked by this summer's arrest of two then-UA football players involved in an alleged book scam. Former starting safety Mikal Smith, 21, and reserve cornerback Leland Gayles, 20, were arrested June 11 outside an off-campus bookstore. The University of Arizona Police Department later discovered 60 books in the trunk of Gayles' car. Both men were charged with a single count of fraud.

Police allege the players stole books from book bins at the Athletic Department and also used stolen book vouchers to buy books and later sell them for cash.

The UA hired Sandman to conduct an independent audit of the book loan program following the arrests.

All 12 of the student-athletes uncovered in the investigation were declared ineligible until they paid for the books, and then they were reinstated, Kha said. UA officials denied a written request by the Arizona Daily Wildcat for the names of the athletes involved, saying the names are educational records protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

Sandman's report has been forwarded to Pacific 10 Conference Associate Commissioner David Price for review. None of the students have been referred to the Dean of Students' code of conduct board, Kha said.

Price could not be reached for comment this week.

Smith and Gayles are trying to enter a diversion program, which would result in probation and the dismissal of their criminal charges. The players' arrests also prompted a nine-week investigation by UAPD into the Athletic Department, in which Detective Cpl. Larry Forchione discovered a list of 33 non-scholarship athletics who reportedly received textbooks. Further investigation revealed they had not received the books.

The investigation also showed that $6,850 books had been ordered for non-scholarship athletes.

Sandman's probe was unable to explain why this occurred.

"The error in the Athletic Department's records has not been conclusively explained," the report stated.

University police do not plan to pursue criminal charges against the 12 athletes who received books improperly, UAPD Police Chief Harry Hueston said in a press conference last week.

Sandman declined further comment regarding the investigation.

Highlights of the independent investigation:

  • Nine student-athletes received "optional" course-related books, a violation of NCAA regulations. The books were recommended by their course instructors, but not required. The books ranged in value from $1.75 to $104.79.
  • Three student-athletes received non-required books not related to their courses, a violation of NCAA regulations. Two of the students gave books totaling $204.21 to third parties. The third student-athlete received $204.45 worth of books not related to the student's course work.
  • The Department of Intercollegiate Athletics accepted responsibility for the violations and failure to adhere to university policy.
  • The report was forwarded to Pacific 10 Conference officials for review.


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