SEATTLE — The investigation into alleged recruiting violations against one of its assistant football coaches appears to put Washington in unchartered territory under the NCAA’s new enforcement policies.
“There is not really precedent for this case because of the new enforcement program,” said John Infante, a former compliance director at Colorado State and Loyola Marymount.
There are still many more questions than answers regarding the $4,500 in cash payments Washington assistant coach Tosh Lupoi is alleged to have handed out for a Lynnwood, Wash., recruit’s tutoring services and online classes.
Lupoi has denied the allegations, and the recruit’s mother told The Seattle Times on Thursday that Lupoi had “nothing to do” with her son’s tutoring sessions.
“The allegations are detailed, include supporting documentation, and the third party sounds willing to talk to the NCAA,” Infante said. “That means at the very least it has to be taken seriously by everyone involved.”
The NCAA was scheduled to be on the Washington campus Friday to meet with Mike Davis, a former assistant track coach at Lynnwood High who mentored the UW football recruit, Andrew Basham. Davis had described in detail — first to The Los Angeles Times, and then to The Seattle Times — how he allegedly received the cash payments from Lupoi for Basham’s tutoring.
Davis told The Seattle Times he would cooperate with the NCAA, and he said he has bank records to support his claims.
Complicating the investigation further are the NCAA bylaws enacted in October 2012, but it’s unclear how the NCAA enforcement process has, or will, change because of those new bylaws.
If the allegations are proved to be true, they would violate NCAA Bylaw 13.15.1, which states that “an institution or a representative of its athletics interests shall not offer, provide or arrange financial assistance, directly or indirectly, to pay (in whole or in part) the costs of the prospective student-athlete’s educational or other expenses for any period prior to his or her enrollment.”
The NCAA’s new violation structure includes four tiers. Level I is the most severe, with Level II considered a “significant breach of conduct.” Level III is a “minimal” infraction and Level IV involves “incidental” issues.
Infante said it’s “especially hard to say right now” what the potential ramifications for UW and Lupoi might be.
“Is this a Level I or II infraction?” he said. “Are there mitigating or exacerbating circumstances? How will (an NCAA) panel drawn from a more diverse committee approach the case?”
USC also is involved in the investigation because Lupoi worked under USC’s new head coach, Steve Sarkisian, who left UW on Dec. 2. The new NCAA bylaws are intended to make a head coach more responsible for the actions of his staff, so it’s possible any sanctions — including a potential suspension — could follow Sarkisian to Los Angeles.
“We know the intent of the new enforcement program, but not how it will be executed,” Infante said. “This will be a good test of the new system to see if the case is handled quickly, if the new committee brings a different perspective, and whether the penalties are properly apportioned between school and any involved individuals.”