The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

March 27, 2013

Coaches survive show-cause orders


Associated Press

— COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Few words are less welcome to college basketball coaches than "show cause," shorthand for the NCAA penalty designed to keep those sanctioned for misconduct at one school from quickly jumping to another campus.

Yet an Associated Press review of infractions cases since 2000 found that show-cause orders tend to have a sharply uneven impact.

Of the 44 former men's basketball coaches given show-cause orders since 2000, at least 25 found other basketball jobs, usually after the orders expired. Some remained involved with big-time programs, while others labored in obscurity at junior colleges, high schools or AAU programs. A few have found second acts in the NBA or as TV analysts.

Head coaches hit with show-cause orders tend to fare far better than the assistants deemed complicit in their misdeeds, the AP found.

Take former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl. A three-year, show-cause order in August 2011 for lying to NCAA investigators about improperly hosting recruits at his home didn't keep him from joining ESPN as a college basketball analyst little more than a year later. That was after a stint at Sirius Radio.

Former Pearl assistant Steve Forbes, who was handed a one-year order, is head coach at Northwest Florida State College. His top assistant is Jason Shay, who also left Tennessee with a one-year show cause. Tony Jones, a third Pearl assistant who received a one-year order, is a preps coach in Alcoa, Tenn.

Washington State assistant Ray Lopes joined the Cougars in May 2012 after a pair of show-cause orders given to him for making hundreds of impermissible recruiting phone calls — first at Oklahoma from 1995 to 2002 under Kelvin Sampson, and then again as Fresno State's head coach several years later.

"Many, many doors were shut on me out of fear, because of the show-cause tag on my resume," said Lopes, who started his climb back to the college ranks as an associate coach in the NBA D-League. "I was basically not worth taking a chance on, even though I had developed a pretty good reputation. None of that seemed to matter ... I almost gave up hope."

Under the penalty, schools that want to hire coaches with active show-cause orders essentially must prove to the NCAA that the rule-breaker has made amends. If not, any broader sanctions levied against the offender's former school can carry over to the new employer.

Former New Mexico State assistant Fletcher Cockrell left coaching for law school after receiving a 10-year order in 2001. The NCAA found that former Aggies coach Neil McCarthy agreed to hire Cockrell from Jones County Community College in Mississippi if he steered two of his JUCO players to Las Cruces. The NCAA also found Cockrell guilty of academic fraud by providing test answers to the two players.

"I'm doing quite well," said Cockrell, now a Houston attorney. "I'm OK, trust me."

So is Sampson, who is now an NBA assistant with the Houston Rockets following previous jobs with the Milwaukee Bucks and San Antonio Spurs. He declined to comment for this story.

The punishment has a long history. According to the NCAA, the University of Nebraska-Omaha received the first show-cause penalty in April 1963 — an institutional penalty after the football team played in an unsanctioned postseason game. A decade later, the NCAA handed down what appears to be its first show-cause penalty against an individual, when the athletic director at what was then known as Bloomsburg State College in Pennsylvania was found to have improperly raised scholarship money from outside boosters.

Show-cause orders are more prevalent now, with the NCAA issuing more than 100 overall since 2000, covering sports from football and basketball to baseball, soccer, track, swimming, golf, rugby and rowing. Ten such orders were handed down in three of the past five years, with the penalties' duration ranging from two months to 10 years.

And coaches aren't the only ones hit. Recent show-cause orders have been issued against tutors, volunteer coaches, graduate assistants, secretaries, athletic directors, compliance officers, faculty athletic representatives and directors of operations.

The NCAA was unable to provide more detailed statistics that could further help assess the impact of show-cause orders, including the number of times its Committee on Infractions has heard requests from show-cause coaches to work elsewhere — as well as the number of times such requests were allowed or denied.

Rod Uphoff, a member of the infractions committee since 2009, said NCAA punishments tend to mirror the criminal justice system, where judges consider a range of penalties depending on the severity of the violation and the history of the offender.

"Sometimes, with youthful assistant coaches who seem to be operating under the (influence) of a head coach, the committee may be more sympathetic than with an assistant coach who's been around for 20 years and ought to know the rules better," he said.

Uphoff, a University of Missouri law professor, said the committee employs show-cause orders not to run off unscrupulous coaches, but to put future employers on notice.

"They need to ensure that there are safeguards in place so that this person won't be tempted to violate the rules in the future," he said. Uphoff added that he couldn't recall a single case during his tenure of a show-cause employee or a prospective new boss petitioning the committee for another chance.

Of course, programs outside NCAA oversight don't need to seek such permission. Former Radford coach Brad Greenberg got a job in June 2012 leading Maccabi Haifa, a pro basketball team in Israel, mere months after receiving a five-year show cause order for misleading NCAA investigators looking into improper benefits for athletes.

Two Greenberg assistants coach high school teams in Virginia and Florida. His former director of basketball operations coaches at a Virginia military academy. Each received two-year orders.

Others, however, struggle to recover from show-cause orders, years after the penalties expire.

Twelve years after receiving a three-year order for reportedly watching recruits during a pickup game, former Buffalo coach Tim Cohane is suing the NCAA in federal court over what he calls a botched investigation in which his former players were threatened with losing their scholarships if they didn't incriminate their former coach.

Cohane is now associate head coach at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, a Division III school. He's also an adjunct law professor whose online faculty bio says he attended law school to "be able to represent student-athletes and coaches against the (NCAA)."

Kent State coach Rob Senderoff, a former Sampson assistant at Indiana, successfully petitioned the infractions committee in November 2008 to allow his hiring as an assistant at the school where he had previously spent four years despite a three-year show cause order for his role in the impermissible phone calls case.

Former Kent State athletic director Laing Kennedy, now retired, joined Senderoff at the committee hearing in a show of support. Kennedy's successor then hired Senderoff as head coach in 2011.

Like Lopes, Senderoff acknowledged his mistakes — though both pointed out that the NCAA in January agreed to allow coaches to make unlimited calls and send as many text messages as they want to recruits who have completed their sophomore year of high school. The association now plans to reconsider those changes in response to a swift backlash from some football coaches and athletic directors, including those in the Big Ten.

"I certainly am in the minority," Senderoff said. "I do think you can survive and bounce back from it. I don't know if I would have been able to go to another place. I'm more than grateful. I understand how fortunate I am."