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The Reason Mike Holder and Oklahoma State are So Angry at the NCAA

This is why you should be very, very angry at the NCAA.



There were many, many words said on a one-hour conference call with Mike Boynton, Mike Holder and Chuck Smrt, who is president of The Compliance Group and helped guide Oklahoma State through the Sports Illustrated mess back in 2013 and will again try and help out with the lingering case of Lamont Evans.

The terms that get thrown around when it comes to NCAA issues and compliance are enough to make your head spin, and I think sometimes we use them without thinking about (or knowing) what they actually mean.

For example, Oklahoma State received a Level 1 violation from the NCAA because of what happened with Lamont Evans. This means the loss of three scholarships over the next three years and a postseason ban in 2020-21. But before we look at the definition of what a Level 1 violation actually is, let’s first look at what exactly Lamont Evans did during his time at Oklahoma State.

This is from the NCAA’s website (which is important!) today.

[Lamont Evans] violated NCAA ethical conduct rules when he accepted between $18,150 and $22,000 in bribes from two financial advisors to influence student-athletes, according to a decision released by the Division I Committee on Infractions. [NCAA]

Again, as you read through the sections I drop in here, remember that the NCAA — which is also the organization that levied punishment on OSU — is the one that published these findings. This is not speculation or hearsay or my opinion. This is literally from the NCAA on what it found.

This case originated Sept. 26, 2017, when FBI agents arrested [Evans] … The [federal criminal] complaint alleged that the associate head coach accepted cash bribes from financial advisors in exchange for influencing student-athletes to retain the advisors’ professional services when the student-athletes entered the NBA. [NCAA]

In other words, Evans was getting kickbacks from financial advisors for steering players in their direction for the future. Again, this is important. The NCAA is saying that Evans was the beneficiary here.

During testimony in federal court, the two advisors explained they met with the former associate head coach shortly before he joined the Oklahoma State staff to discuss a plan for the advisors to take over payments an agent associate had been making to the former associate head coach. The committee continued that the group agreed that the advisors would pay the former associate head coach approximately $2,000 per month in exchange for using his position to influence student-athletes to retain the advisors’ services when they entered the NBA.

The committee detailed the two meetings the former associate head coach arranged for the financial advisors while he was employed at Oklahoma State. [NCAA]

Again, very bad for Lamont Evans. He was arrested for this. He was put in jail. You shouldn’t take kickbacks from people in exchange for delivering student-athletes to them in the future. That is, well, illegal.

The meetings violated NCAA rules because athletics department staff members are prohibited from receiving benefits for facilitating or arranging a meeting between a student-athlete and an agent, financial advisor or a representative of an agent or advisor. [NCAA]

No crap.

Athletics staff members are also prohibited from representing, directly or indirectly, any individual in the marketing of their athletics ability or reputation to an agency, and from accepting compensation for the representation. [NCAA]

So this is the NCAA saying what Evans did. He essentially tried to coerce players at Oklahoma State to sign with certain advisors so that he could personally profit.

This did not — at least in the way I understand it, unless I’m missing something — have anything to do with recruiting players to Oklahoma State. It’s an important distinction and the primary reason Mike Holder and Mike Boynton were so frustrated on Friday. Keep that thought in mind.

Now, back to what a Level 1 violation actually is. Here’s the definition, again from the NCAA (!) on its own website.

Violations that seriously undermine or threaten the integrity of the NCAA collegiate model as set forth in the Constitution and bylaws, including any violation that provides or is intended to provide a substantial or extensive recruiting, competitive or other advantage, or a substantial or extensive impermissible benefit. [NCAA]

Read that carefully. Any violation that provides or is intended to provide a substantial or extensive recruiting, competitive or other advantage, or a substantial or extensive impermissible benefit.

Let’s walk through those one by one as they relate to Evans and OSU.

Did this provide a substantial or extensive recruiting advantage? No.

Did this provide a substantial or extensive competitive advantage? No.

Did this provide a substantial or extensive other advantage? No.

Was this a substantial or extensive impermissible benefit? I mean, I guess there were benefits, but to what degree? This is where we get into arguing definitions of stuff. Everything is relative when you’re talking about words like substantial and extensive, but I have a hard time defining this as either (I should note that OSU self-reported that a player received $300 from Evans).

This was the argument that Holder and Smrt made on Friday. When this came out back in the fall, Oklahoma State agreed (!!) with the NCAA about what happened, but vehemently disagreed that any of this — especially because Evans and not OSU was the benefactor here — was a Level 1 violation. Here’s the AP from November.

The school said it agreed with the NCAA. Evans was sentenced in June to three months in prison for accepting bribes in the case.

The NCAA believes that because of Evans’ actions, the school could be guilty of a Level I violation that could include scholarship reductions and postseason bans. An Oklahoma State spokesman said Evans acted on his own. The school has asked to appear before the Committee on Infractions to present its position on the level of violation. [AP]

Now we’re at the part where you should be angry. Show me the substantial, extensive advantages. Show me the substantial, extensive benefits. Where are they?! I do not see them!

“When we went to the appeals hearing we didn’t agree as an institution,” said Holder on Friday “… Level 1 for Lamont Evans? Absolutely. Not a Level 1 for OSU. We were a victim.”

“Most of the cases with similar penalties, there was a gain for competitive or recruiting advantage,” added Smrt. “You did not see that here. I think this is abnormal with the level of penalty for the insignificant level of competitive or recruiting advantage.”

I feel like I’m going crazy reading this stuff. Am I missing something? Was there something left out here? Does the NCAA really have all of the above on its website at the same time? Somehow yes it does!

Should OSU have gotten some sort of punishment for this? For sure. Boynton said he expected something like probation or the loss of some recruiting hours or something along those lines. But a postseason ban and loss of scholarships over … what exactly?

Update: Jenni Carlson nicely lays out something I failed to mention — That there are different categories within each level of punishment so that even if the ruling had stood at the Level 1 spot, it could have been reduced to “mitigation” instead of “standard.” You can see all the categories here.

This is where the fury of Mike Holder and the frustration of Mike Boynton comes into play. This is what they’re mad about. This is why Holder opened Friday’s press conference firing flaming darts toward Indianapolis and at the NCAA.

If this (THIS!) is a Level 1 violation — a situation in which one person acted alone to secure a few thousand dollars for himself, apparently without anyone else knowing and with no visible advantage to the university or basketball program as a whole — then what in the world does an actual violation warrant?

“Goodness, what’s the next thing to come down the pipe?” asked Holder. “I’ll be fascinated to watch. There’s an expectation on our part … some of the other cases have several more egregious violations. Multiple Level 1 violations.”

In other words: Good luck, Kansas.

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