MORAGA -- The Saint Mary's College men's basketball program and coach Randy Bennett were slammed by the NCAA on Friday for major rules violations and failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance — one of the most dreaded charges in the NCAA arsenal.
The Gaels weren't banned from the NCAA Tournament, but they were hit with four years of probation, two years of scholarship reductions, recruiting restrictions and numerous other penalties.
In addition, Bennett will be suspended for the first five West Coast Conference games of next season for failing to properly monitor his program.
Bennett called the penalties "clearly excessive," in a statement.
Although I'm still reviewing the report and trying to understand it, I know already that the report fails to include important mitigating information and tells only part of the story," Bennett said. "I'll continue to review the report and consider my options."
The Gaels have two weeks to appeal.
"I personally believe some of the penalties were harsh," athletic director Mark Orr said. "We've got to take some time and evaluate that."
The NCAA, which began its investigation in the summer of 2010, charged Bennett with knowing impermissible conditioning and practice sessions were conducted by two individuals not employed by the college."
The report added that Saint Mary's failed to properly respond to information "provided by the state high school athletics governing body as it related to the recruitment of an international prospect.
Orr said the three recruits involved in the most serious transgressions were French and that none of them officially visited, applied to, or attended Saint Mary's.
"All the major infractions that are in the report, none of those major infractions involve Australian athletes, current or former," Orr said. "Secondary violations do include Australian student-athletes as well as other student-athletes." Orr added that the Gaels have already taken corrective actions, including the addition of a second full-time staff member devoted to NCAA compliance.
"I am confident that we are a stronger institution," he said. "Coach Bennett understands Saint Mary's strong commitment to NCAA rules compliance and we will continue to work with him to ensure that compliance remains paramount."
The NCAA charged an unnamed former Gaels assistant with unethical conduct. Bennett confirmed Keith Moss was the assistant coach involved and said
David Patrick had nothing to do with it. Moss had worked for a sports agency before being employed by the Gaels in 2008-09.
Bennett and SMC officials appeared before the NCAA's Committee on Infractions on Dec. 14 to address allegations of infractions.
West Coast Conference Commissioner Jamie Zaninovich said in a statement from the conference: "Clearly mistakes were made and those violations are in direct conflict with our conference's values and beliefs, including our commitment to NCAA compliance." The penalties are as follows: Public reprimand and censure.
Four years probation from March 1, 2013 through Feb. 28, 2017.
The head coach must serve a five-game suspension during the 2013-14 season.
The head coach may not recruit off-campus during the 2013-14 academic year.