Oklahoma Attorney General sends letter to NCAA in defense of Cowboy basketball

Oklahoma State men’s basketball is receiving support from the state government. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter sent a four-page letter to NCAA President Mark Emmert “denouncing” the penalties sanctioned the Cowboy program.

Oklahoma State may be in the early stage of appealing the NCAA decision of a postseason ban for the men’s basketball program, but they already have support from the state government.

According to a release from Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, he sent a four-page letter to NCAA President Mark Emmert “denouncing the punitive, and totally unwarranted, severe punishment” handed out by the infractions committee.

“The punishment by the NCAA to the OSU men’s basketball program is excessive, is completely unfair and only hurts the student athletes, who have worked their entire lives to play basketball at this level,” Hunter said in his release.

“In its findings, the NCAA admits that the university had no knowledge or connection to the corrupt act of a lone wolf, and his actions were of no benefit whatsoever to the university. The NCAA’s punishment is unjustifiable, illogical and needs to be re-assessed.”

The release from the attorney general mentions that the letter to the NCAA points out how the university was fully cooperative throughout the investigation, and that “the NCAA didn’t provide sufficient explanation for such a harsh penalty, even when the governing body admits that the incident involved one corrupt associated basketball coach, who was working independently and without the university’s knowledge.”

The punishment handed out to the Oklahoma State men’s basketball program, with the harshest penalty being a one-year postseason ban as well as the loss of three total scholarships in a three-year window, stems from the FBI investigation into the seedy side of college basketball.

The federal investigation was wide sweeping, with multiple assistant coaches across the country being caught in a sting operation – including former Oklahoma State associate coach Lamont Evans, who was terminated from his position within days of the initial federal findings.

The NCAA gave Evans a 10-year show cause, but the bulk of the penalties were levied on the program for which he was working for when he was caught – even though the NCAA committee acknowledged that Evans’ actions were only for personal gain, and did not benefit Oklahoma State.

“It’s almost always going to be the case that some innocent parties who had nothing to do with violations are adversely impacted,” said Larry Parkinson, a spokesman for the Committee on Infractions. “But their membership institutions are fully aware of that. It’s a given in virtually all of our cases.”

However, Hunter – an Oklahoma State graduate – fears a dangerous precedent could be made by the NCAA’s actions against Oklahoma State, considering the university cooperated but was still delivered such a significant penalty.

“OSU, the Committee argues, completely ‘owns the conduct’ of the coach,” Hunter writes. “But this is not how the employer/employee relationship is typically understood to work. Employers are not usually responsible for every wrong employees commit, and especially not at the same level of culpability.”

The release from the top attorney in the state of Oklahoma correlated the current situation for the Cowboys with the dealings typically found in the judicial system.

“Prosecutors generally treat favorably organizations that cooperate with investigators, recognizing that such entities are the ones best-positioned to probe corrupt acts of their own employees and assist in investigations and they should be incentivized to help root out such corruption,” the release states.

According to Parkinson during the teleconference earlier this month, the committee did treat OSU favorably, stating that the typical guidelines for such Level 1 infractions would warrant a two-year postseason ban. But due to the university working with the NCAA, it was lessened to just one year.

Hunter also dove deep into the lengthy decision handed down by the NCAA and pointed out an aspect that he found “worrisome.”

“[S]ome aspects of the decision appear to have been copied and pasted from other decisions from the NCAA,” the release proclaims. “He cites, for example, on page 18 of the investigation, the NCAA mistakenly labeled the former basketball coach the ‘head track coach.’”

Oklahoma State had two weeks from the announcement of punishment to deliver its appeal – which on the day of the announcement, the university said it would proceed with. The NCAA then has a 110-day timeline to process the appeal, though it could take longer “depending on the complexity of the case” per an NCAA rules enforcement document outlining the Infractions Appeals Committee.

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