The NCAA denied an appeal by Oklahoma State in an infractions case, meaning the Cowboys will be banned from the postseason next spring – a decision that prompted a tearful coach Mike Boynton to declare there is no point in cooperating with the the organization.
Last year, an NCAA infractions committee hit the Cowboys with a one-year postseason ban and other penalties after former assistant coach Lamont Evans accepted up to $22,000 so he could help steer athletes to certain financial advisers. Evans was arrested as part of a federal corruption investigation in 2017, and he pleaded guilty in 2019.
Oklahoma State immediately fired Evans after the arrest, and the school said it has fully cooperated with the NCAA since the beginning. The school felt the NCAA would view Evans as a rogue employee acting on his own.
That’s why Boynton said he was “appalled” by the result of Oklahoma State’s appeal.
“There’s no wonder that nobody trusts them,” an emotional Boynton said slowly at a news conference following the denial. “As they get to hide behind letters … And they don’t have to come do this – answer questions and talk to kids and talk to parents.”
Oklahoma State athletic director Chad Weiberg said the penalties don’t make sense because none of the typical issues that warrant such actions – such as lack of institutional control, participation of an ineligible athlete, academic fraud or failures in the areas of monitoring, recruiting and head coach accountability – were found.
The Cowboys were eligible for the postseason last spring while appealing, and they went 21-9 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament with eventual No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham leading the way.
Weiberg said the tournament’s success is being used against NCAA members.
“To use this flawed and inconsistent process to take away the opportunity for postseason and the NCAA Tournament from student-athletes that have nothing whatsoever to do with this case proves to me that the national office has chosen to weaponize the NCAA Tournament against the very membership that has turned that into the lifeblood of the NCAA,” he said.
In its appeal, Oklahoma State argued that the infractions panel erroneously classified Oklahoma State’s case at the same level as Evans’, stating that the coach’s personal conduct did not provide competitive advantages or benefits to the school.
The NCAA infractions panel said Wednesday it had “confirmed the level of the violation that occurred,” saying holding the school responsible at the same level as Evans was consistent with past decisions, and a member school is responsible for its staff members. Oklahoma State also will be on probation and have scholarship reductions and recruiting restrictions.
The ruling came as things were improving at Oklahoma State.
After last season, Boynton received a seven-year contract extension that increased his compensation to $3 million annually. He has a 72-58 record in four years at Oklahoma State, and the program has steadily improved on his watch. Last season, the Cowboys won their first NCAA Tournament game since 2009 and ended the regular season with a final Associated Press ranking of No. 11 – the program’s best finish since 2005.
Oklahoma State had the potential to go far this season. Much of the talent that was around Cunningham is back, and the Cowboys were 31st in votes in The Associated Press preseason Top 25.
Now, Boynton has been forced to explain the ruling to players who weren’t around when the issues first came to light.
“There’s some things that this team had talked about being able to achieve that realistically aren’t possible at this point, right?” he said. “Playing in the tournament, getting further than we did last year, possibly Final Four, national champs. These guys have talked about those things. And so, kind of got to reset a little bit that thought process because there are other things that we still can accomplish.”
Pending infractions cases tied to the federal corruption investigation remain at Arizona, Kansas, Louisville, North Carolina State and LSU. Those are making their way through the Independent Accountability Resolution Process (IARP), which was created to handle complex cases as one of the reform recommendations issued in 2018.