Fans get ready for the second half of the Southeast game against Murray State on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017, at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau. (Laura Simon)
Southeast Missouri State University accepted the sanctions announced Friday by the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions panel in its investigation into the men’s basketball program during the 2015-16 academic year.
A former Southeast assistant coach acted unethically when he arranged fraudulent credit for a prospect, gave false or misleading information to the NCAA enforcement staff and university and failed to cooperate during the investigation, according to a Division I Committee on Infractions panel.
The case originated on Oct. 7, 2015, when an enrolled student-athlete informed his head coach that he had completed online exams on behalf of the prospect at the direction of the former assistant coach. The following day, the former assistant coach was placed on paid administrative leave, and the institution commenced an investigation. Thirteen days later, the institution contacted the NCAA enforcement staff to share its findings, and the two began a cooperative investigation.
The institution terminated the former assistant coach's employment on Nov. 3. Southeast announced the firing of assistant coach Jamie Rosser on Nov. 4, citing a violation of university policies and procedures. Rosser was an assistant coach under former head coach Dickey Nutt and was the only assistant retained after Rick Ray took over the program in April 2015.
"We respect the Committee on Infractions' decision and appreciate they recognized our prompt self-detection and exemplary cooperation through the investigatory process," Southeast Missouri State University President Carlos Vargas said in a news release. "I am pleased that immediately upon learning of the potential violation, head men's basketball coach Rick Ray notified director of athletics Brady Barke, and we launched a thorough investigation.”
Penalties for SEMO’s men’s basketball program include a two-year extension of the university’s probation period from a 2016 infractions case, a $5,000 fine and a six-year show-cause order for the former assistant coach. During that time, if an NCAA school hires him in an athletics-related position, he and the school have an opportunity to appear before the Committee on Infractions to determine whether or not the former coach’s duties should be limited.
"Our institution is committed to fostering its culture of compliance, and the actions taken by Coach Ray and our compliance office reflects that commitment. We will not compromise our integrity as we strive for excellence both in the classroom and on the field," Barke said in a news release. "I am proud of the way the situation was handled and believe our commitment to doing things the right way was reflected in our response."
According to the panel, the former coach directed a current student-athlete to complete three online exams on behalf of a prospect. The student-athlete knew completing the exams for someone else was wrong but was pressured by the former coach with repeated phone calls, texts and conversations. The former coach asked the student-athlete to complete a fourth exam for the prospect, but the student-athlete reported the conduct before the exam could take place.
The former coach also arranged for former university students, a former men’s basketball student employee and a former student employee’s mother to complete online coursework on behalf of the prospect.
The metadata associated with the coursework contradicted the former coach’s claims of no wrongdoing, showing that the coursework was completed by individuals in locations where the prospect was not physically present. The former coach also did not respond to the NCAA enforcement staff’s requests for documents and a final interview.
"I am disappointed that the actions of my former assistant, whom I chose to retain from the previous staff, has brought unfavorable attention to our university and our basketball program," Ray said in a news release. "The most important attribute I look for when vetting my assistants is integrity, so I was truly hurt that these violations occurred unbeknownst to me. And I appreciate our administration's unwavering support."