WVU waving goodbye to probation
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia University athletic director Oliver Luck said corks did not pop this past Sunday.
The day did, however, put the cap on WVU's NCAA-ordered probationary period in regard to football.
Perhaps you've long forgotten the sanctions. It would be easy to do, considering the penalties.
But back in July of 2011, the NCAA accepted WVU's self-imposed sanctions for major rules violations under ex-football coaches Rich Rodriguez and the late Bill Stewart.
There were three failure-to-monitor violations involving out-of-season coaching as well as the use of non-coaching staff to work with players.
In addition to a two-year probation, WVU reduced the total number of football scholarships by two for 2010-11 and one for 2011-12. It reduced the amount of hours for football activities by 23 percent. It eliminated two non-coaching graduate assistant positions and banned such assistants from attending or observing any coaching or athletically related activities, including meetings.
There wasn't, however, a bowl ban or harsher penalties.
"I think if you talked to most of our fans," Luck said, "they'd say they didn't even notice what was happening because it was so private. We could still go to bowls. Coaches weren't suspended.
"It was a substantial hit, but not publicly."
Luck took the WVU job on July 1, 2010, and had the problem tossed on his desk a couple of weeks later.
"We received the notice [from the NCAA]," he said. "All within the [athletic] department knew something was coming. It spurred me to improve our compliance department. We brought [compliance director] Keli Cunningham home from Maryland and she's been excellent. We're being as diligent as possible."
Luck said for the matter to be completely over, the NCAA must approve the school's last report. Two were required over the probation period.
"Technically the probation ended Sunday," he said. "But the NCAA has to review our final report. Theoretically, that could take another month or two. We're not going to celebrate until we're issued a clean bill of health."
When that happens, though, it might be time to hoist a glass. In case you've forgotten (again), WVU's men's soccer program was hit with sanctions for major and minor violations back in 2007 under former coach Mike Seabolt, who was subsequently fired by then-AD Ed Pastilong. There was a two-year probation served.
"It's been six or seven years since we haven't been on probation," Luck said.
The athletic director was asked specifically about the lapsing football penalties.
"I'm not sure [the reduction in football scholarships] hurt," he said. "Even this year we're not at our full scholarship count. We're two or three short of our 80 allotment. Part of that is because of sanctions, but sometimes you just can't find that last player or two that can help you. I don't think we were really affected there."
He said the 23 percent reduction for football activities was served mostly during spring ball.
"We might have knocked off a couple hours in season," Luck said. "Spring ball is important, but when you have a senior-laden team like we did last year with Geno [Smith] and Tavon [Austin], it probably didn't hurt as much as it could have."
One could certainly argue it didn't help WVU's 2012 defense. But one can't argue the loss of a couple of grad assistants hurt.
"To me those positions have always been for young coaches to learn," Luck said. "It's for them to gain experience to move on and become a college or high school coach. Did that hurt us? It's hard to say it did."
Luck said, though, he does expect WVU to have a "full complement" of grad assistants this coming season.
The athletic director again praised Cunningham for doing "a great job with coaches, boosters and athletes."
The champagne, though, will wait.
"We're not going to pop the cork," he said, "until we get the final report."
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.