While SMU is expected to once again be a contender in the American Athletic Conference in 2015-16, thanks in large part to the presence of seniors Nic Moore and Markus Kennedy, Larry Brown’s program is also dealing with an NCAA investigation that began last year. With an assistant coach (Ulric Maligi) being placed on indefinite leave before departing the program and Keith Frazier being ruled academically ineligible mid-year, this is a situation that could be a major problem for the Mustangs moving forward.
And according to a report from Yahoo Sports, Brown is up against a charge of “lack of coach control” in relation to this investigation, with SMU officials meeting with the NCAA Committee on Infractions last month. One of the players who was ruled academically ineligible was guard Keith Frazier, and his situation is what is of particular interest to the NCAA per the report.
At particular issue is the role of former SMU assistant coach Ulric Maligi and a basketball secretary in allegedly assisting Frazier with coursework. Maligi took an indefinite leave from the program in January 2015. Frazier played for the Mustangs during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons before he was deemed “academically ineligible” in January 2015 and missed the rest of the season. There has been no clarification yet as to his status for the 2015-16 season, but Frazier has not left the program.
At issue with Brown is what he knew about Frazier’s situation, and what he did about it.
That’s definitely an issue for Brown when considering the NCAA’s move to punish head coaches for rules violations that occur in their programs. No longer can a head coach say that they were unaware of a violation in hopes of avoiding punishment, as the NCAA expects them to know what’s occurring with in their program at all times.
As part of NCAA sanctions in recent years both former UConn head coach Jim Calhoun and Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim have received suspensions as a result of rules violations that occurred in their respective programs. Boeheim will appeal his punishment, which was for him to miss the Orange’s first nine ACC games in 2015-16.
This is a disappointing situation for an SMU program that turned things around under Brown, with his third season yielding regular season and tournament titles in the American and the program’s first NCAA tournament berth in more than two decades. In each of Brown’s two other stops in college basketball (UCLA and Kansas), his programs were placed on probation by the NCAA.