NCAA penalizes Montana over booster perks

Associated Press

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The University of Montana and former coach Robin Pflugrad failed to monitor the football program, allowing boosters to provide benefits to players, including bail money and free legal representation for two players, the NCAA said Friday in releasing the results of a yearlong investigation.

Other player perks provided by boosters included free meals, clothing, lodging and transportation, the NCAA found.

The penalties, many self-imposed by the school, include a three-year probationary period, the loss of four scholarships in each of the next three seasons and vacating five wins in which ineligible players participated after receiving help with their legal problems that is not allowed under NCAA rules.

The vacated games include a 36-10 win over rival Montana State and FCS playoff wins over Central Arkansas and Northern Iowa. Montana won the Big Sky Conference title, finished 11-3 overall and advanced to the FCS semifinals before falling to Sam Houston State.

President Royce Engstrom and athletic director Kent Haslam issued statements Friday saying the university has expanded its compliance office and is improving its communication of NCAA rules to the university's fan base.

Haslam's statement asks boosters to feel free to ask any questions they have about NCAA regulations by calling, emailing or submitting an anonymous question to the "Ask Grizzly Compliance" section of the university's website.

Pflugrad, who is now the offensive coordinator at Weber State, is suspended from coaching during the first game of the 2013 season and faces recruiting restrictions this season. He also must attend an NCAA regional rules seminar in 2014.

Weber State athletics director Jerry Bovee issued a statement Friday saying Pflugrad accepts the sanctions and will not coach from Aug. 26 through Aug. 31, when the Wildcats play Stephen F. Austin.

Much of the case revolves around the October 2011 arrests of cornerback Trumaine Johnson, who now plays for the St. Louis Rams, and backup quarterback Gerald Kemp by police trying to break up a loud party. Officers used stun guns on the players.

The NCAA found that a booster bailed the two out of jail and an attorney provided each with about $1,500 in free legal representation. The NCAA said Pflugrad learned a booster had posted bail, but did not report it to university officials. NCAA officials also found then-athletic director Jim O'Day and the compliance director were aware that a booster was providing legal assistance to the players.

Johnson and Kemp ended up pleading no contest to disorderly conduct charges in December 2011.

Pflugrad and O'Day were fired in March 2012 without the university giving a reason. The school was notified of the NCAA investigation in January 2012, but it was not announced until May.

The NCAA also found that three couples who were university boosters provided meals for at least eight players on more than 100 occasions from 2004 through 2012; one couple provided a student-athlete with free storage space for a month along with transportation, clothing and a small cash loan, while an assistant athletic director committed a secondary violation by providing a player with meals, snacks, lodging and laundry services.

The NCAA also found an undergraduate student assistant performed activities allowed only for coaches. The penalty is a reduction of two student assistant positions in one of the next two seasons.

View Comments