Archive for Wednesday, July 31, 2002

KU search committee was unaware of NCAA inquiry

July 31, 2002

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Information about a preliminary NCAA inquiry into rules violations at Fresno State wasn't made available to the Kansas University search committee that recommended hiring Al Bohl as KU's athletic director.

"I don't recall we had any hint about it at all," Reggie Robinson, the chancellor's chief of staff and the man who served as committee chair, said Tuesday.

Fresno State received the preliminary letter of inquiry in October of 2000, or about seven months before the KU search committee was formed. Bohl, who was AD at FSU from 1996-2001, was hired on June 28, 2001.

Robinson said he didn't know Fresno State was under investigation until the school revealed Monday it had received an official NCAA letter of inquiry.

During the search process to find a replacement for Bob Frederick, who resigned in the spring of 2001, the committee appointed by Chancellor Robert Hemenway relied heavily on Heidrick and Struggles Inc., an Atlanta-based headhunting firm, for resume information.

"Heidrick and Struggles didn't report any of that," said John Ferraro, chair of the KU Athletic Corp. board and a member of the search committee. "Whether they knew or not, I don't know."

At the time, Fresno State did not keep news of the receipt of the preliminary NCAA letter under wraps. The Fresno Bee newspaper reported the investigation as did other Freson-area media.

Heidrick and Struggles Inc. did report NCAA background info about some other prospects, Robinson said.

"I'm pretty sure we did get information on some candidates that gave us pause," he said. "But we felt pretty good about that in regard to our finalists."

Bohl was, of course, one of the finalists. Now that Robinson knows the NCAA is investigating alleged violations that occurred while Bohl was at Fresno State, he says he still has no regrets about the committee recommending Bohl as Frederick's replacement.

"I'm comfortable given the contact we had with other people," Robinson said. "We felt we knew what we needed to know."

Ferraro is comfortable, too.

"I'm not sure it would have made any difference if we had known," said Ferraro, head of the hearing and speech department at the KU Med Center in Kansas City, Kan. "I think had we known we would have asked about it, but I don't think it would have made any difference."

Ferraro noted that the alleged FSU infractions were self-reported and that Bohl suspended one of the players involved. In August of 2000, the university dismissed men's basketball player Tito Maddox for allegedly accepting a free airline ticket from a Las Vegas-based sports agency.

Other allegations against FSU athletics involve free meals for men's basketball players at a Fresno restaurant, a recruiting violation in women's basketball and improper aide for a soccer player.

"Al has talked to (KUAC) board members about some of those things," Ferraro said.

The bulk of the alleged violations occurred while Jerry Tarkanian, a long-time NCAA target, was the Bulldogs' head men's basketball coach. Tarkanian retired last April after seven years at FSU and is now a university fund-raiser.

"I guarantee everybody," Tarkanian told the Fresno Bee, "there is not a major violation of any kind."

Nevertheless, an official letter of inquiry almost always means the NCAA enforcement division believes a major violation has occurred.

While the NCAA isn't expected to announce penalties, if any, until after the first of the year, news of the impending investigation is the second embarrassment to occur under Bohl's watch at FSU. Earlier, he was linked to the improper transfer of budget funds, a brouhaha that apparently ended last month when Bohl and John A. Welty, the school president, jointly announced an undisclosed resolution of the matter.

Regardless of Bohl's involvement or non-involvement in either case, his reputation has suffered under the glare of media scrutiny.

"It's unfortunate all this is going on," Ferraro said. "Al's a great guy and I think he'll do a great job for us."

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