How I committed an NCAA violation — and how many Boise State reported

By Brian Murphy
bmurphy@idahostatesman.com

This is one sentence I never thought I’d write: I committed an NCAA violation.

Because I’m not an NCAA student-athlete, coach, administrator or booster, I didn’t see how it was possible. But the NCAA rule book is so big and so byzantine that I guess it was just a matter of time before I tripped over one of its rules in my reporting career.

In the final minutes of Boise State’s Oct. 19 victory against Nevada, I made my way to the Broncos’ post-game interview session in the Bleymaier Football Complex. As usual, I stood on the second floor platform and watched the final moments of the game.

Quarterback Joe Southwick, who was injured on the first play of the game, was in the lounge on the second floor, watching the game with his family and with his right leg elevated. I lingered to see how Southwick was moving. Did he need a wheelchair? Crutches? Was he walking fine? With a limp? Would he or his family exit through the platform and offer an update on his condition?

It was one of the biggest stories of the season — and any additional details would help.

(Coach Chris Petersen told the media just minutes later that Southwick had broken his right ankle. Southwick has not since been made available to media, despite repeated requests.)

At that point, a steady parade of Boise State recruits came streaming out of the Bleymaier Football Complex, walking on the platform and heading down the stairs to the field. Nevada was, arguably, the biggest home game of the season and it was a Saturday game. That typically makes for a big recruiting weekend — and it was.

The recruits wore name tags, and I spotted Shay Fields, a highly sought-after wide receiver and then-Boise State commit. I introduced myself to Fields and began asking a few questions. Had the visit to Boise State solidified his commitment to the school. “Yeah,” he told me. Did his friendship with Boise State commitment Jalen Greene, a quarterback, factor into his decision. Fields joked that he wasn’t friends with Greene and then smiled at his buddy, who stood just feet away.

(An aside: Fields later changed his commitment to USC.)

I turned and spotted Greene, who was listening to the conversation. I introduced myself to him.

At that point — probably less than a minute since I’d first started talking to Fields — Rich Rasmussen, Boise State’s director of player personnel, cut off the interview. He told me, basically, you can’t do this. I stopped talking with the players. Rasmussen led them down to the field.

I knew Boise State, per NCAA rules, could not publicize the recruit’s visits, could not distribute a list of recruits on campus and could not make the recruits available for media interviews. The school had done none of those things. I initiated the conversation and I wasn’t overly worried about breaking NCAA rules anyway.

The organization, so I thought, doesn’t have any jurisdiction over me — a sports columnist at the Idaho Statesman.

Plus, recruits aren’t Boise State players — yet. They are not subject to the football program’s litany of rules about who is made available for interviews and who is not.

One day later, however, I (and sports editor Mike Prater) received an email from John Cunningham, Boise State director of compliance.

“I understand that you had a brief conversation with two prospects on campus yesterday for their official visits,” Cunningham wrote. “As you may be aware, NCAA bylaw 13.10.1 states that a member institution shall not permit a media entity to be present during any recruiting contact by an institution’s coaching staff member. This means that it is our institutional responsibility to take measures necessary to prevent our official and unofficial visitors from speaking to the media while they are on campus. Although you had just a brief conversation with these prospects, it is considered an NCAA violation, which we will file.”

The Broncos filed the NCAA violation on Nov. 21. The school explained the violation and told the NCAA of its corrective actions.

“1. Educational email sent to media member and media member’s supervisor explaining rule.

“2. New process implemented to keep media separate from prospective student-athletes in the new football facility post-game.

“3. Compliance office is developing an education session for local area media.”

Cunningham told me the rule “has created confusion recently at some other schools as well,” and he assured me it was very minor in nature and would not lead to any penalty or sanction to Boise State.

That violation was one of 19 reported by the athletic department so far in 2013. The other violations range from inadvertent text messages to recruits to a football player being suspended from Boise State and declared ineligible by the NCAA for submitting false academic information to a previous college.

The entire list of Boise State violations is included below. This is a summary report and does not include the names of student-athletes or coaches (or, in my case, media members) who have committed the violations. That information, according to Boise State, is protected and not available under the state’s public records law. Boise State has turned down my repeated requests since 2006 for secondary violations reports.

Cunningham, who came to Boise State in 2011, produced the summary report. He said he thought there was “value in transparency.”

I agree.

If the graphic does not show on your device or it is too difficult to read, click here to read the summary report.

Sports columnist Brian Murphy writes about all sports in the Treasure Valley with a concentration on Boise State football and men's basketball. Murph has been with the Statesman since 2005. You can follow him on Twitter @MurphsTurph.

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