The NCAA has rejected Oklahoma State‘s appeal and banned the Cowboys from the 2022 men’s basketball postseason on Wednesday, in a decision the school called “unprecedented in the history of the NCAA.”
Oklahoma State said it’s believed to be the first time a school has received a postseason ban despite no violations in the areas of institutional control, failure to monitor, recruiting, head coach accountability, participation of an ineligible athlete or academic fraud.
At an emotional press conference, Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton held back tears while expressing his unhappiness with the NCAA’s decision.
“I’m disappointed, disgusted, appalled, frustrated — but somewhere in Indianapolis there’s a group of people celebrating,” Boynton said, in a reference to the NCAA. “They won. Our players don’t deserve and shouldn’t have to deal with this.
“It was a single NCAA violation. One player received $300. One player. Not a recruit. Not a future recruit. Not a family member. One current player received $300. And in and of itself, because it was self-reported by us, it’s a secondary violation. So the punishment is you pay the money back, serve your suspension — which the kid did — and you move on.
“It’s no wonder that nobody trusts [the NCAA]. They don’t have to come and do this, and answer questions, and talk to kids, and talk to parents.”
Oklahoma State athletic director Chad Weiberg said it’s a sign the NCAA infractions process is “broken and needs to be fixed.”
“The student-athletes have to be the ones at the center of the decisions that we make,” Weiberg said. “If we want to get serious about playing on a level playing field, let’s monitor and punish the ones that knowingly break the rules that we have in place, and not student-athletes that were seventh-graders when it happened.”
Oklahoma State was originally given a postseason ban in the summer of 2020, but the Cowboys appealed the decision and were allowed to play while under appeal. Led by No. 1 NBA draft pick Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State went 21-9 and received a 4-seed in last season’s NCAA tournament.
The NCAA also placed Oklahoma State on three years’ probation and reduced the Cowboys’ scholarship limit by three, as well as imposing several recruiting restrictions — all of which were upheld by the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee.
The penalty stems from the 2017 FBI investigation into college basketball corruption. Oklahoma State was given a Level 1 violation involving former associate head coach Lamont Evans, who accepted between $18,150 and $22,000 in bribes to steer players from Oklahoma State and South Carolina, where he also spent time as an assistant coach, to certain agents and financial advisers. Evans was sentenced in June 2019 to three months in prison.
According to the appeals committee, Oklahoma State argued that the school’s case shouldn’t have been classified at the same level as Evans’ and that the NCAA didn’t give enough weight to mitigating factors in judging the classification of case.
In response, the appeals committee wrote: “We do not find the appellant has demonstrated that the panel abused its discretion in the application and weighing of the aggravating and mitigating factors. Further, given that we have also determined that the panel did not abuse its discretion in the determination of the level of this case, the appealed penalties are affirmed.”
Evans was also given a 10-year show-cause penalty by the NCAA.
“We are profoundly disappointed for our student-athletes, none of whom were here at the time of this case,” Weiberg said in a statement. “This is an unprecedented decision by the NCAA. There are other strikingly similar cases that did not include postseason bans and had only minor penalties. We had a rogue employee carrying out actions that benefited him alone and he went to great lengths to assure his actions were undetectable. He was terminated when we learned of his actions.
“We cooperated with the NCAA, expedited the process and received no credit for it. What message is the NCAA sending here? This is further evidence that the NCAA system is broken.”
Oklahoma State is the first school to be given a postseason ban by the NCAA because of the FBI investigations. Auburn and Arizona, which also had assistant coaches plead guilty, self-imposed postseason bans last season. USC was not given a postseason ban.
South Carolina, where Evans was also determined to have committed violations, avoided a postseason ban when the NCAA handed down its penalties in February 2020.
“There have been some results that have been very different from ours with very similar circumstances involved. And that makes it even more frustrating,” Boynton said. “The cases have similar circumstances and the consequences are drastically different. And that’s utterly ridiculous.”