Eastern Washington, WSU's Paul Wulff hit with sanctions
Eastern Washington University has been slapped with NCAA probation and sanctions committed during the tenure of former football coach Paul Wulff, and Wulff has been forbidden from contact with his current team at Washington State for the first three days of practice in August.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The NCAA belted Eastern Washington University's football program with probation and significant sanctions Wednesday, and the fallout stretched 60 miles south to Washington State.
WSU coach Paul Wulff, who headed Eastern's program during the 2003-07 period when the violations occurred, is forbidden to have contact with his team for the first three days of workouts next fall and must attend regional NCAA rules seminars for three years.
• Improper practice-related activities by ineligible players;
• Excessive coaches above the NCAA limit of 11;
• Room and board for two players who weren't eligible to get it before classes began.
The NCAA whacked Eastern with a three-year probation; banned the Eagles from postseason play in 2009; reduced the scholarship limit from 63 to 61 for three years; trimmed the allowable number of football coaches from 11 to 10; and set a limit of three non-qualifiers (players who lack the freshman-eligibility threshold in either core classes or standardized test) to three per year for three years. The NCAA report said Eastern had averaged seven a year.
Defending his Eastern tenure late last night on a teleconference, Wulff said, "You have to understand, this has been going on at Eastern for two, three decades. This is the reality. I admitted it."
Wulff said EWU athletic-department staffers wear "not one, but two, three, four and five hats."
Of the improprieties, he said, "We're not talking about recruiting violations, not talking about violations that are truly a competitive advantage."
Wulff was tagged with a failure-to-monitor finding and Eastern with lack of institutional control. In its report, the committee on infractions wrote that it "is most concerned that as [Wulff] learned of various violations ... [he] did not report them to the institutional compliance office."
In a conference call Wednesday, WSU athletic director Jim Sterk said, "I don't think there was an environment or culture" of strict compliance at Eastern because of understaffing.
The NCAA committee on infractions made it clear there was lax oversight in Eastern's athletic department during the academic four-year period, writing that the school "had five athletic directors and three presidents, making it difficult to implement a comprehensive compliance system or establish long-term continuity."
It also noted that one overworked staffer was the compliance coordinator and faculty athletic representative and had teaching responsibilities.
"Along with that," Sterk said, "Paul didn't have a secretary and a strength coach part of the time. Yeah, there were mistakes made and Paul's sorry. He was trying to do the best he could at the time."
The report cited 13 players who improperly took part in "practice-related activities" such as conditioning, away from the general practice sessions.
Because several student-assistant coaches — some not enrolled as full-time students, as required — helped with the duties of full-time coaches, they counted against the program limit of 11 and caused Eastern to exceed it.
Wulff insisted no more than 11 coaches were ever actually involved in coaching football, and contended the practice-related excesses were away from the football field and happened "four or five times" with "maybe 90" football practices in a season.
Sterk said when he hired Wulff in December 2007, he was already aware of an investigation into improprieties at Eastern, and said the issue was vetted both with Eastern and NCAA officials. But Sterk expressed surprise at the heavy institutional-control finding and Wulff expressed disappointment with the postseason ban, saying, "Eastern Washington is a little easier to kick around, I guess."
Sterk said WSU and Pac-10 compliance officers met with Wulff when he was hired to discuss rules differences at the Div. I-A level, and Sterk said he believes more compliance and academic staff provide additional controls.
Acting EWU president John Mason said he believes stronger controls are now in place at the school, and expressed disappointment at the postseason ban, saying, "We will be assessing our appeal options."
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or email@example.com
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