Calling Foul

Campus Issues: While we regret that men's basketball broke the rules, its responsible reaction provides an admirable role model.

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Not knowing the NCAA rules governing recruiting high school basketball players is not an acceptable excuse for breaking them, but accepting responsibility and self-reporting the violations are exactly the right things to do.

Last Friday, the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions announced it was penalizing men's basketball head coach Mike Montgomery and his assistant coaches for making 365 "impermissible recruiting phone calls" that began soon after they were hired. The campus said the violations were largely a result of improper record-keeping and brought them to the committee's attention.

The committee agreed that the violations were unintentional and stated that they took the campus's "self-imposed penalties, corrective actions, and cooperation" into consideration when determining the punishment. The consequences, which included a two-year probationary period and a limitation of five paid visits for the coaching staff for each of those years, are appropriate to the offense.

While we're disappointed that the Cal men's basketball team coaching staff committed the violations, we're pleased at the swift and responsible action that they and campus officials took upon discovering it. By imposing penalties and having a strict internal monitoring system, campus is setting an example for other programs across the nation to follow.

Cal's compliance and cooperation is especially admirable compared to the conduct of the University of Connecticut's staff. The NCAA ruled on Feb. 22 that their coaches also made "impermissible phone calls" and a former operations director misled investigators when asked about his conduct. Unlike UC Berkeley, University of Connecticut administrators failed to monitor the program and it faced stronger penalties.

Rules governing the appropriateness of recruiting phone calls and messages are important, as are the institutions in place to ensure that those rules are followed. High school athletes are not yet professionals, and coaches need to give them some space. But coaches and administrators are professionals - and they need to make sure they take responsibility for their actions.

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