Cal Football Team Faces NCAA Penalties For Foul Play

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No matter how hard the fans cheer, how well the athletes play or how great the band sounds, the Cal football team may not appear in a bowl game next season.

The NCAA banned the Bears from 2002 postseason play and cut nine football scholarships. The university will appeal the penalties, which include a four-year probation period and a reprimand of the university.

According to the decision, the university must cut nine football scholarships between the 2002-03 and 2005-06 academic years. At least two scholarships must be eliminated per year.

The NCAA Committee on Infractions penalized the university after two football players received academic credit in 1999 for a course they did not take. Without the credit, the players, Mike Ainsworth and Ronnie Davenport, would have been ineligible for the 1999 season.

The penalties also address over 30 players who, between 1997 and 2001, made unauthorized hotel charges before games. The charged amounts range from a 75-cent phone call to a charge in excess of $300. Three football recruits received "improper inducements" and made unauthorized hotel charges during their official visits. Some of the charges were made during the team's stay at the Claremont Hotel before home games.

Thomas Yeager, the chair of the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions, said a "lack of institutional control" resulted in the violations.

"Due to the inadequate initial internal investigation and a misleading report to the Pac-10 conference, the university failed to maintain control over eligibility certification," Yeager said.

Yeager added that evidence indicates the university received "at least the rumor" that the athletes' eligibility should be questioned for the invalid hotel expenses.

The university holds "repeat offender status." When the football scandal broke in 1999, the university was already on probation for a 1996 violation in which the former Cal basketball coach, Todd Bozeman, paid the parents of prospect Jelani Gardner $30,000 during recruitment.

Though the university claims to take NCAA violations very seriously, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Berdahl said the NCAA penalties for the current violations are too stringent.

Cal football coach Jeff Tedford said the football team will continue to prepare for the season as planned. Tedford said he is disappointed that 23 senior players on the team will not have the chance to compete in a bowl game.

"My heart goes out to the players because they feel the burden from the sanctions," Tedford said. "This will not derail us from our goal and mission to be the best possible team."

Nnamdi Asomugh, a safety and varsity starter for the team, said the loss of scholarships will most likely affect the team's walk-ons, who join the team without grants. He also said he was disappointed with the decision.

"Initially it was hard to digest, being a senior who has never been to a bowl game," Asomugh said. "We're still going to fight it. I definitely think we have a shot at a bowl game this year."

Cal athletic director Stephen Gladstone, who assumed the position in spring 2001, said the university has formed new procedures to ensure that infractions will not occur again. He also added that a new football coach and management team have been hired since 1999.

Following the 1999 incident and a private university-sponsored investigation, the university cut four football scholarships and implemented a one-year probation. The Pac-10 conference also penalized the university and made the football team forfeit its Sept. 25, 1999 victory against Arizona State University.

Gladstone said that in a few days the university will announce a new assistant athletic director to deal with possible future violations.

UC Berkeley Professor Alex Saragoza gave Ainsworth and Davenport the illegitimate credit. The university suspended Saragoza for a semester from teaching after the incident, and he resigned from his position as vice president of educational outreach for the UC system. He is still a professor of ethnic studies at UC Berkeley.

Ainsworth and Davenport last played for Cal during the 1999 season. They failed out of school after the fall 1999 semester.


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