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There is a list with the names of at least 42 teams that the NCAA keeps in a very special place. Unfortunately, it is not a list of previous women's basketball champions. Rather, it is the list of women's basketball teams in Division I where the NCAA has released a report on rules violations.
The NCAA releases reports of its investigations on its website. These are teams which have fallen afoul of the NCAA Division I Manual. The current version - 444 pages of .pdf glory - isn't entirely about recruiting and eligibility, but most of it is. Terms used in the manual are defined so that there can be no mistake about what they mean, and situations are covered in painstaking detail. There is an annual exam which coaches must take before they can hit the road and recruit. It is thirty questions and open book, and most coaches can surprisingly pass it. Most are true/false, but many are stumpers.
With Mississippi head coach Adrian Wiggins all but fired due to infractions involving his coaching staff, it is very difficult for coaches - or their minders - to claim that they are not aware of what the rules are. And yet, the NCAA has handed down a surprising number of decisions against women's basketball programs.
The case of Baylor
Baylor was the most recent school to fall afoul of the NCAA. Among the findings of the NCAA were a large number of impermissible phone calls and text messages sent in 2008 and 2011. The overwhelming majority of these were made by the mysterious "assistant women's basketball coach A" who is later revealed to be a male.
(It is amusing that in NCAA reports of infractions, none of the "infractors" are named, leading to the fun game of connect-the-dots. "Head women's basketball coach" is probably a giveaway. There is also the mysterious "prospect 1" - more on that below.)
The odd part of the story is that Baylor had a computerized system used to log calls and text messages, and it malfunctioned. Some calls/texts were flagged as violations that shouldn't have been flagged, and vice-versa. Baylor had to reconfigure its system and reimport records from January and July 2011 to get them correctly flagged.
"Assistant women's basketball Coach A" stated the majority of these calls and texts to the father of a prospect who was a personal friend. This prospect wasn't being recruited by Baylor and ended up at SMU. The report implies that the head coach's unlogged calls were voicemail messages.
There was also impermissible contact with a recruit known as "prospect 1". (Hint: she'll probably be "prospect 1" in the 2013 WNBA Draft.) Prospect 1's father and the head women's basketball coach seemed to be communicating about the coach's daughter and prospect 1 playing on the same summer team. These violations were considered secondary.
The result was that Baylor lost a couple of scholarships for 2011-12 and the violators faced restrictions on off-campus recruiting, phone calls, and text messages.
It's understandable why coaches such as Muffet McGraw of Notre Dame might be angry. "Hey," she might be asking herself, "when do I get to make some impermissible telephone calls and text messages?" Other coaches might perform a mental calculus and think, "I'll take a hit of a couple of scholarships if it gets me a shot at a super prospect."
How bad is bad?
What follows is a list of all of the NCAA infraction decisions involving Division I schools in women's basketball since 1983. Others have complained that the database is not complete, so as they say, "what's there is there".
Furthermore, the women's basketball program can end up in a dragnet with several other programs from the same school, and it's sometimes difficult to separate the penalties which are women's basketball-specific. In that case, the notation "Men" in a column indicates such a situation where the men received more significant penalties that the women did not.
Finally, it can be very difficult to summarize a long text to its most important points. Any faults in the summary of violations is mine; you can go to the website and read the report if you dispute the conclusions.
Probations Postseason ban?
Alcorn State improper recruiting contacts reprimand
0 yr 0 yr 1/10/1986
Louisiana-Monroe improper recruiting contacts no off-campus recruiting
1 yr 1 yr
by head coach
improper financial aid return of money
Men Men 9/23/1986
Mississippi State use of telephone cards by athletes report on compliance
1 yr 0 yr 7/24/1989
Eastern Kentucky provision of cash by head coach official visit and grant
1 yr 0 yr
Texas Pan-American impermissible recruiting one year recruiting ban
1 yr 1 yr
no television one year
San Diego State head coach helped negotiate pro none, unique case
0 yr 0 yr
agent contract for player
Vanderbilt providing false information to none, institution took
0 yr 0 yr
NCAA on secondary violation appropriate actions
gifts of clothing and free recertification
services by boosters
free airline tickets for players loss of financial aid
2 yrs 1 yr 3/29/1993
St. Bonaventure impermissible recruiting, extra limit on official visits
2 yrs 0 yr
benefits and recruiting
Alcorn State fraudulent SAT Scores reduction in one scholarship
3 yrs Men 3/16/1995
Morgan State lack of institutional control, reduction of two scholarships
3 yrs 1 yr
improper practice, financial aid forfeiture of contests
Bethune-Cookman incomplete squad lists recertification
Men Men 5/1/1997
improper recruiting inducements limit of scholarships
5 yrs 0 yrs
trips and gifts provided for two seasons
Kansas State impermissible recruiting, failure forfeit of games,
2 yrs 0 yrs
to monitor camps summer camps
Grambling improper financial aid forfeit of games,
2 yrs 0 yrs
Savannah State financial aid limits exceeded reduction in scholarships
4 yrs 0 yrs 8/4/1998
Texas Tech improper supplement of academic reduction in one scholarship
4 yrs Men
records with correspondence
exchange of basketball gear for instruction
2 yrs 0 yrs
Arkansas-Little Rock impermissible recruiting self-imposed penalties
2 yrs 0 yrs 11/27/2001
free airline tickets for players loss of scholarships and paid visits
1 yr 0 yr 1/8/2002
Stephen F. Austin coach arranged free textbooks for self-imposed penalties
0 yrs 0 yr
Minnesota impermissible benefits, violation reduction in financial aid, paid
2 yrs 0 yrs
of practice time rules visits
Fresno State illegal transportation and tutoring self-imposed penalties
4 yrs 0 yrs
of a possible recruit
Chicago State impermissible workouts, recruiting reduction in official visits,
2 yrs 0 yrs
violations evaluation days
Gardner-Webb head coach paid for Polish recruit's reduction in financial aid, paid
3 yrs Men
airline ticket visits
Stony Brook ineligible students played in compliance review
3 yrs 0 yrs
Weber State students used money for textbooks compliance review
2 yrs 0 yrs
to purchase other items
Florida A&M;compliance officer did not keep reduction in one scholarship,
4 yrs 0 yrs
up with paperwork forfeit of games
Ohio State discounted orthodontic treatment development of education program 3 yrs 0 yrs
provided by booster on NCAA regulations
Alcorn State violation of practice time rules limit in official visits, scholarships,
3 yrs 1 yr
compliance officer warning ignored compliance seminar required
Northern Illinois faculty member helped player with reprimand, 2-yr ban on faculty
1 yr 0 yrs
cell phone bill, travel member as player mentor
assistant coach wrote student reduction in scholarships, student
2 yrs 0 yrs
term paper ineligible to play
Prairie View A&M;improper practices, provision of reduced scholarships, practice
4 yrs 0 yrs
small amounts of cash hours, paid visits
SE Missouri State impermissible housing and reduction of scholarships, recruiting 2 yrs 0 yrs
transportation of players days, forfeit of games
Florida State improper academic assistance reduction of scholarships, forfeit of 3 yrs 0 yrs
abuse of textbook program fines, education program
3 yrs 0 yrs 11/5/2009
Richmond impermissible text messages from self-imposed penalties
2 yrs 0 yrs
coaches to recruits
ineligible students played self-imposed penalties
3 yrs 0 yrs
Cincinnati impermissible recruiting phone assistant may not place
2 yrs 0 yrs
calls by assistant or receive calls, education
impermissible phone calls, text reduction of scholarships, calls,
3 yrs 0 yrs
messaging, recruit contact recruiting, travel
* On the average, every eight months the NCAA releases a report of infractions involving a Division I women's basketball school.
* Alcorn State has been hit three times with NCAA violations involving women's basketball - once in each decade.
* Purdue is the only power conference team to be hit with two different infraction decisions - once in 1999 and once in 2007.
* Three power conferences - the Big Twelve, the SEC and the Big Ten - have had three schools with infraction decisions. Counting Purdue twice, the Big Ten leads with four total decisions.
* The Pac-Twelve is the only power conference with no infraction decisions. The ACC has only one school suffering penalties, Florida State in 2009.
* Only five schools have ever suffered a post-season ban, one year in each case, the last such decision handed down in 2006. No school in a power conference has ever suffered a post-season ban and there has been nothing remotely approaching a death penalty for any women's basketball school.
* There is one head coach who was involved in infractions at two different schools - Minnesota in a 2002 decision and Chicago State in a 2003 decision.
Compared to some of the stuff on this list - fraudulent SAT scores, assistant coaches writing papers - Baylor's violation might seem like nothing much compared to what goes on in the men's game. As one person on a message board put it:
Yawn. Phone call violations. Yawn. Text violations. Yawn. No illegal money changed hands. No fancy cars were delivered. No Booster Club members paid-off any players or their families. No proof, or even any allegations that the phone calls or text messages influenced a single player to come to Baylor. I'm not a Baylor fan, but is this truly much ado about nothing?
But since women's basketball is relatively free of scandal, things which might be considered minor violations by outsiders are viewed as a serious stirring of the waters by those invested in the sport. When a school which has recently won a national championship is hit with infractions, one can understand the point of view of those that want to keep women's basketball pristine.
The worst job in athletics
So who at the university is watching the watchmen? If the coach can't be expected to keep track of the rules, then who is? That would be the university compliance office, generally a member of the athletics department.
According to Seth Wickersham at ESPN, the worst job in athletics is that of compliance officer. These men and women doing a thankless job belong to the National Association for Athletics Compliance. The highest honor given by NAAC is the Frank Kara Leadership Award, first granted in 2008. Winners have represented Texas, Michigan, Rutgers, Indiana and the Big East Conference.
An interesting line in Wickersham's article is that coaches will read the biographies of compliance officers, looking for hints on how the relationship is going to go. Is the compliance officer an older alumnus? Good sign. Is the compliance officer a newly-minted law school graduate? Bad sign.
Dept. School Compliance Officer Graduated Year Size Connecticut Marielle vanGelder MA Connecticut 2003 3 Tennessee Todd Dooley Tennessee 1997 5 Baylor Chad Jackson Auburn 1999 5 Stanford Megan Boone Wayne State 1996 4 Notre Dame Jill Bodensteiner (*) Notre Dame 1991 6 Texas A&M;David Batson Sam Houston St. 1987 5 Duke Cindy Hartmann Syracuse 1991 4 Maryland Dan Trump California 1992 4 Oklahoma Jason Leonard (*) Oklahoma 1994 11 Louisville John Carns (*) Oswego (NY) 1985 6
* - indicates law degree, if known
Note that Connecticut is charged with having one of the smaller compliance offices - certainly one of the smallest (if not the smallest) in the Big East. But many schools don't have compliance offices that much larger. Most of the major college women's programs are from schools with small staffs. It makes one wonder what the staffs of mid and low major compliance departments look like.
For all the fuss about Baylor, they did the right things for the most part. Many of the infractions were self-reported or secondary violations. The compliance officers around in 2008 have been dismissed - Chad Jackson has only been there since 2011. In 2010, Baylor hired Lori Ebihara from the Big Twelve office to be their compliance director, a great hire as Ebihara had worked as the assistant compliance commissioner for the Big Twelve from 1996 to 2010. In September 2011, Ebihara was hired at Maryland to be their senior women's administrator.
But remaining a great women's basketball program depends upon staying on the right side of the line. The coach must always know where that line is. If the coach doesn't know, the compliance officer has to know - and if both don't know, the line turns out to be the border of a cliff.
(* * *)
#1: Connecticut: My last writeup about Connecticut had the premise that a team cannot really change its rivals or decide who its rivals are. But a lot can change over a year. Pat Summitt is retired (whether by choice is another matter). The changes at Tennessee (see #2 below) are very disconcerting, and cast dark clouds over the program.
With Pat no longer pounding her ring on the court, Geno Auriemma is now the undisputed king - and he might indeed have the power to choose the program's rivals. So who gets the honor? Notre Dame? They're leaving the Big East. Baylor? Could be entirely dependent on Brittney Griner? Stanford? Does Stanford have a big enough following to deserve the honor of being Most Hated? Tennessee? Is anyone interested in Geno vs. Holly?
Undoubtedly, as Notre Dame leaves the Big East, Auriemma probably wishes he could go with them. The Big East is looking less like a basketball conference and more like a sinking ship. Auriemma doesn't stay up every night worrying about Houston, or SMU - he might worry about the travel, but nothing more. Central Florida and Memphis present no terrors. But Notre Dame and Syracuse leaving is really something to worry about.
I believe that there exists a Geno Mystique. (I have no proof of this.) Players go to Connecticut just to say that Geno Auriemma is their coach. The great thing about a mystique is that it turns all negatives into positives. If he belittles and mocks a player, he's just teaching her about pressure, that's all. If he works them beyond human endurance, that's just making sure they play to the standard that Connecticut demands. If he says that past players had more camaraderie, that's just Geno reminding everyone of the importance of teamwork.
Fans can wear rose-colored glasses about their coach, but when the players start wearing them...well then, the battle is half-won right there. Who wouldn't feel secure with Geno Auriemma on the sidelines?
Pat had a capital-M Mystique. The Stare. It was a fricking honor for a Tennessee player to be banned from her own locker room and made to wash her own uniforms. ("Other players only wish their coaches cared that much!") And now, Geno has the Mystique. Maybe only one coach in women's basketball can have The Mystique, and when Pat retired it flew to Storrs and took up residence in Geno's body.
But Connecticut is just more than Auriemma. It has something to do with the players that show up. Some people claim that the WNBA Draft after 2012 will not be interesting again until Breanna Stewart graduates - and we'll have to wait four years for her. (Hopefully there will be a league to greet her.)
You see, when Geno picks you, you're anointed. There is no longer any dispute regarding women's basketball's best active coach. If this were the Game of Thrones, the House of Orange is in disarray, and the great Huskie King to the North is now the undisputed ruler.
#2: Tennessee: Last year was another season that Tennessee didn't make it to at least a Final Four. Four years in a row now away from the brass ring. So why isn't Baylor here? Or Notre Dame?
Part of this is attendance. Tennessee brings them in every year, and you cannot argue with that. They lead the country in attendance, at least every year since 2009 - maybe before, since I don't have the number for years for 2008 and previous. But attendance doesn't just come out of wins. Wins contribute greatly to attendance, but if wins were all it took then Stanford's attendance would be a lot better than it is. There have been wins, there has been great coaching in Pat Summitt (maybe the greatest coach ever), there has been institutional support from the University and all together the fans know that Tennessee will always strive for excellence and achieve it.
So the last couple of years have been very unsettling in that they threaten to undermine the very foundations of Tennessee dominance. The program hasn't won recently, at least not in the sense of being a perennial title contender. True, it's a good squad but to Tennessee fans, the last few years have probably disappointed. If I'm counting right, this is the longest drought in Final Four appearances at Tennessee since the NCAA began sponsoring women's basketball - the Lady Vols (more on that later) have never gone four years without going at least to the Final Four.
And now the institutional support is threatening to unravel. Bad coaching decisions everywhere outside women's basketball are one of the reasons Tennessee athletics suffered a year's deficit of $4 million - those dismissed coaches are still being paid their paychecks.
So athletic director Dave Hart has pulled out his hammer. He rewrote the organizational chart. He combined the male and female athletic departments. Rumor has it that he wanted to dump the Lady Vols logo in favor of the standard "Power T" of Tennessee. He's in the middle of a nasty lawsuit with Debby Jennings who was the director of media relations for the Lady Vols for over 30 years - and Pat Summitt signed an affidavit supporting Jennings.
Not only is it a public relations nightmare for Tennessee, but it casts doubt as to what level of institutional support exists for the women's basketball program. Either the program was a wreck and Hart needed to change things, or it was fine and Hart took an axe to things for his own reasons. UT could call into question Summitt's legal competency with regard to the affidavit but that would be a case of winning the battle and losing the war.
But the really big question for Tennessee is if Pat Summitt can ever really be replaced. Yes, she'll still be there with the program but her coaching cannot be replaced - you just don't hire replacements for Pat Summitt. (How many coaches at that level exist?) So you have to make up for her loss in other areas of the program, and that would be in recruiting. Tennessee is still a go-to destination with Bashaara Graves, Andraya Carter and Jasmine Jones all wearing orange this year. Super-recruit Mercedes Russell just committed to U of T. If the faithful continue to show up in Knoxville, it will be hard to dislodge Tennessee from its lock on #2. But if Tennessee can't return to greatness, it will prove the saying that the most expensive army (so to speak) is the one that is second best.
#3: Baylor: Try up to come up with a list of the greatest women's college basketball performers, from Title IX all the way to today. It should be a short list. You'd have Nancy Lieberman, maybe Cheryl Miller, Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi...and Brittney Griner. The next question then becomes: where does Griner place on that list?
Is Baylor Baylor or is Baylor Griner? Griner quite literally adds a dimension to women's basketball that it has never seen before. She is the overwhelming (99.999 percent) consensus pick to be the 2013 #1 WNBA Draft Pick, and Phoenix is undoubtedly planning its marketing strategy. She will be an attendance draw in every other city for the spectacle alone - how many chances are you going to get to see a female play who can actually dunk, not over-the-rim dunks but real throwdown dunks?
With Griner as a junior, the team won 40 games last year and lost zero. They stand a strong chance of being back-to-back National Champions with her as a senior. Back-to-back in women's college ball is not unheard-of but they would be the first back-to-back champs not named Connecticut or Tennessee since 1983-84 when Cheryl Miller roamed the court at USC.
For Baylor, all the questions come after Griner leaves. Will their run of success just be counted a a fluke, or will it be attributed to the program that Kim Mulkey built? If they win again, she's the only active women's basketball coach with three titles other than Geno Auriemma. Once is an accident, twice is good luck, but three times? There will be no dispute
#4: Stanford: The benchmarks keep coming and they never stop.
* The fifth consecutive Final Four appearance for the Cardinal.
* Another undefeated season in the Pac-Twelve for Stanford. Their last Pac-12 loss was January 28, 2009 when they lost at California 57-54.
* Their last home regular season Pac-12 loss was February 4, 2007 - once again to California, this time at home 72-57.
* Every regular season conference championship since 2001.
In terms of prestige - All American players, WNBA draft picks, high win seasons, great tournament performances - in recent years Stanford might be the second most prestigious program around, next to Connecticut. Tara VanDerveer is not just a Hall of Famer - both in the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame and the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame - but a tireless advocate for the sport of women's basketball.
This season the team might not be as strong in the past - there's no Kayla Pederson or Nneka Ogwumike on the squad, but there is Nneka's sister Chiney and Nneka is the only starter they've lost. There is only one senior on the squad this year, but despite its youth don't be surprised if the Cardinal extend the strings mentioned above even further. The only thing the Cardinal doesn't do well compared to the three teams above it is attendance - and they do well enough.
#5: Notre Dame: Back to back NCAA Final Visits will definitely move you up on the short list of great programs. But the big news at Notre Dame is not in how they're playing but in fact who they are playing. The Fighting Irish will be moving to the ACC in all sports except football. With the Big East having lost three teams to the ACC and West Virginia to the Big Twelve, it could be that the ACC takes over the Big East's position as the best women's basketball conference in the country, and Notre Dame would presently be the best program in that conference, if not necessarily have the best team.
But that day has not yet come. Notre Dame will play one final year in the Big East, playing Connecticut twice in the regular sason. Baylor, Tennessee and Louisville will also be on their schedule. They have the World vision Classic as well, which offers the potential of a Texas A&M;match up.
All eyes will be focused on Skylar Diggins who is the consensus #2 WNBA Draft pick in 2013. As someone on the internet said, what's amazing is that Diggins hasn't been surrounded with the all-star talent you see at Stanford or Connecticut. I doubt that Diggins's stock will fall anytime between now and Draft Day.
#6: Texas A&M;: Welcome to SEC women's basketball, Aggies! There will be no "breaking in" period, you'll contend from the opening tip-off. But with Danielle Adams off to the WNBA, a comedown from championship heights was expected. Texas A&M;squeezed by the second round past Arkansas by two points and fell to Maryland in the Sweet Sixteen.
There will be a lot of freshmen on Texas A&M;'s team this year, but oh what a group of freshmen that is. Courtney Williams. Jordan Jones. Four other Top 100 candidates. There are no less than seven freshmen on the Aggies this year, and if things work out right you might get a nice surprise in the 2015-16 season.
Unfortunately, Texas A&M;graduated three starters last season. Coach Gary Blair will be inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013, but the real Hall of Fame teams might have to wait. The Aggies should be competitive this year, but they have a vicious home stretch against Louisville, Penn State, Connecticut and Liberty that will serve as a baptism by fire to the newest Aggies.
#7: Duke: The ACC neighborhood - until Notre Dame moves in - seems to be run by both Duke and Maryland. And Duke can match just about anything Maryland offers.
Maryland got a tourney championship? Well, Duke was regular season champion.
Maryland went to the Elite Eight? Well, Duke did, too.
Maryland put someone on the All-American list? Elizabeth Williams made the third team - and that was as a freshman! (2015 #1 WNBA Draft pick anyone?)
Maryland averages 5,356 per home game? Duke averages 5,361 per home game.
Maryland ranked #36 on the Academic Ranking of World Universities? Duke ranked #35.
If Maryland and Duke each had a Prius, Duke would claim that theirs had better gas mileage.
How did it end between the two teams last year? As it should be. Duke beat Maryland 80-72 at home, Maryland returned the favor by beating Duke 63-61 in College Park. But Duke has a hard time beating programs above it on this list - they lost to Notre Dame last year - and if there's any real test in their schedule this season, it won't come until their first ACC game and they have never gotten past the Elite Eight in the McCallie Era.
#8: Maryland: If there is any shorthand in determining how good your program is on the court, you can always use two benchmarks - how far did you get in the postseason and who ended your season? For the Terps, it was all good - they won the ACC Tournament Championship and had won 10 straight games before losing to National Finalist Notre Dame 80-49 in the Regional Finals. The loss to Notre Dame was its only non-conference loss all season.
So where does Maryland go from here? Junior Alyssa Thomas will lead the team and she is a big gun - she was a first-team All American last year and the other names on that list are Griner, Ogwumike, Diggins, and Delle Donne. (2014 #1 WNBA Draft pick anyone?) There are only two seniors on this team and only one senior starter - Essence Townsend at 6-7. Maryland has at least four commitments lined up for the 2013-14 season and recruiting looks very strong, but sophomore PG Brene Moseley's injury might mean that freshmen might get more experience than they expected.
#9: Oklahoma: The Sooners are trying to get back to the glory years of the Paris sisters, but since 2008-09 just a little more paint flecks off the Oklahoma wagon. They can still win 20 games a year - it was the seventh straight 20 win season and the 13th straight NCAA tournament appearance - but a second round loss to St. John's has to sting after a third straight year of double-digit losses.
Oklahoma, however, still remains a power. G Nicole Kornet joins fellow Liberty Christian alumna Whitney Hand in Norman, preferring to stay close to home rather than join Stanford. 6-1 G Maddie Manning (no relation to Peyton) also joins a squad that brings all of its starters back this season. The next few years will decide if Oklahoma still remains a recruiting power.
#10: Louisville: The Cardinals had the second best attendance in 2011-12 and it was the second straight year that they averaged over 10,000 per home game. However, this is a program still looking for a way to get back to the Glory Years of Angel McCoughtry and a visit back to Final Four contention. It might be a little easier with Notre Dame now off to the ACC, but with the Big East not quite as solid anymore Louisville now finds itself on shifting ground.
The Cards were a Top 20 team when they rolled snake eyes at the NCAA Tournament - a second-round game with Maryland in College Park that they lost by four points. Monique Reid was out for the season with a left knee injury, she'll be back this year. Cierra Warren started 10 games but just left in February. So now what? This is a relatively young team, and junior PG Shoni Schimmel lead the team in scoring last year - but with 146 assists and 119 turnovers and .299 shooting from behind the arc, everyone will be looking to see where her game can get better.
For the full list of top 100 programs, check out our top 100 programs storystream.
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