NCAA announces UI men’s basketball penalties

Pete Caster/Lewiston Tribune fileIn this Dec. 15, 2018, photo, former UI men’s basketball coach Don Verlin walks back to the bench after a timeout during a non-conference game against Nebraska-Omaha at Cowan Spectrum in Moscow.

The NCAA on Thursday levied penalties against the University of Idaho men’s basketball team and former coach Don Verlin for violations that occurred during Verlin’s tenure with the program.

UI was fined $5,000 and will be put on probation for two years, among other penalties. Verlin was issued a one-year show-cause order.

UI, Verlin and the NCAA agreed to the penalties, according to a resolution posted online by the NCAA.

According to the documents, the infractions occurred between November 2015 and February 2019. Verlin was fired in June 2019 after potential violations were discovered by the school. He was the coach for 11 years and he compiled a 177-176 record.

The Division I Committee on Infractions found that two non-coaching staff members engaged in impermissible coaching activities. Additional violations happened when prospects played in scrimmages observed by coaches and when the team conducted impermissible tryouts with prospects who weren’t highly recruited.

“Vandal Athletics has cooperated fully with the NCAA through its investigation,” Idaho athletic director Terry Gawlik said in a statement. “As the recently appointed athletic director at Idaho, I continue to look for improved processes across our department.

“I appreciate the NCAA’s fair and thorough report regarding the men’s basketball program, which identified several areas for improvement. We began implementing changes in the fall and (new coach Zac) Claus was involved in those adjustments. I fully support and look forward to watching him build the men’s basketball program with integrity.”

Verlin could not be reached for comment.

In October 2016, Verlin promoted an undergraduate manager to the director of men’s basketball operations, even though he was still a full-time undergraduate student at the time, according to the documents.

“The head coach’s motivation in promoting the undergraduate manager at that time was to allow him to receive additional compensation,” the document said.

The undergraduate manager later was used as a stand-in at practices, was seen holding play cards during a game and provided feedback to players — all in violation of NCAA rules.

The NCAA documents did not list names of who participated in the infractions, but redacted UI documentation sent to the Moscow-Pullman Daily News in June 2019 named former director of player development Brooks Malm as acting in an apparent coaching manner. The law firm Ice Miller conducted the review for UI.

Other violations involved “excessive and unrecorded countable athletically related activities (CARA) and impermissible on-campus evaluations,” the NCAA document said.

Coaches observing scrimmages are fine if they are recorded, but the unaccounted-for observations caused the team to exceed limitations almost every week they occurred, the document said.

The report also lists potential recruits participating in team activities when they weren’t cleared to do so. One such prospect hadn’t undergone a required medical examination.

The violations resulted in a Level II penalty, according to the NCAA. Some of the penalties were self-imposed by UI in 2019.

Claus, an assistant of Verlin, took charge of the program on an interim basis that same month and was hired as the full-time coach in February. The Vandals posted an 8-24 record last season.

Wiebe can be reached at swiebe@dnews.com, by phone at (208) 883-4624 and on Twitter @StephanSports.

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