The NCAA put the Creighton men’s basketball program on two years’ probation Tuesday after finding a former assistant coach accepted cash from a management agency, while the athletic director did his own investigation and kept the findings to himself until the FBI released details of a corruption scandal.
The Bluejays also were docked scholarships and given recruiting restrictions, among other penalties, and athletic director Bruce Rasmussen was found to have violated ethics rules in a case that has ensnared several big-name schools.
“I thank the NCAA staff for their thorough investigation,” Rasmussen said in a prepared statement. “We are anxious to move forward knowing the series of reforms we have made to our policies and procedures within the department of athletics at Creighton ensure ongoing adherence and compliance with the NCAA’s high ethical standards.”
The committee on infractions said the assistant coach, Preston Murphy, had attended a meeting in a Las Vegas hotel in which he was recorded accepting $6,000 in an envelope. The meeting violated NCAA rules because it formalized a business relationship in which the management company could attempt to use Murphy to access to Creighton players.
Murphy’s lawyers said he returned the money after the meeting. While the assistant coach was never charged with a crime, the NCAA still slapped him with a two-year show-cause penalty.
Most of the penalties, though, were aimed at the Bluejays program for its failure to properly investigate the case.
They include a $5,000 fine plus 1% of the basketball program budget, the loss of a scholarship each of the next two years and a reduction in men’s basketball recruiting trips and visits. The Bluejays also cannot provide complimentary admission to home games for prospects and coaches during the November 2021 recruiting window.
“There is no postseason penalty imposed on the men’s basketball program, and none of our current or future student-athletes will be impacted,” the school said.
The committee gave Rasmussen a Level II penalty after finding he conducted his own investigation without notifying or coordinating with the compliance office. Rasmussen determined that no violation had occurred and kept the information to himself until the FBI’s case came to public light several months later.
Rasmussen has spent more than 40 years at Creighton, including 27 as the athletic director, and has been honored by Under Armour as Division I’s AD of the year a record four times. He also spent five years on the NCAA Division I men’s basketball selection committee, serving as the chairman in 2018.
“The violations largely stem from individuals permitting personal relationships to cloud their judgment and influence their decision-making,” the NCAA committee said. “Specifically, the assistant coach prioritized loyalty to his friend, the agent associate; and the athletics director looked past alarming conduct based on his trust in the assistant coach.”
The Bluejays went 24-9 during the 2019-20 season before the postseason was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They followed up the breakthrough year with their best season under coach Greg McDermott, going 22-9 and finishing second in the Big East before advancing to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1974.
Yet the season was not without controversy. McDermott was suspended by the school in March after telling players to “stay on the plantation” after a loss; he apologized and was reinstated in time to coach in the Big East Tournament.