Morgan State University has made no official response to last week's ruling by the NCAA's Committee on Infractions that gave the school's football program a one-year probation for secondary rules violations.
The probation, stemming from a series of rides given Morgan State football players by an assistant coach and the failure to report them to then-athletic director Garnett Purnell, was assessed Friday. It is retroactive to June 5 and requires the school to implement an educational rules program on NCAA legislation.
This is the second probation this decade for the Bears. It follows a three-year sentence in 1995 that kept 10 of the school's 14 sports teams (at the time) from the postseason for violations ranging from improper travel arrangements for athletes to the use of ineligible athletes in competition.
Officials at Morgan State declined to comment, but an appeal might be unlikely because the school had reported the violations, and the punishment amounts to a public reprimand.
Former Morgan State assistant football coach Tyrone Jones was found to have provided football players free, round-trip transportation from their hometowns to the northeast Baltimore campus during the 1996-97 academic year.
The NCAA found at least five occasions of the violations, which constituted extra benefits. The longest of these trips was a 1,450-mile drive taking current Morgan State defensive lineman Carlos Mitchell from Baltimore to Kingsland, Ga., and back, according to Mitchell's uncle and former head coach Stump Mitchell.
Stump Mitchell, now a running backs coach with the Seattle Seahawks, said the only rides he knew of were the ones Jones gave Carlos Mitchell. Since Jones -- a Morgan undergrad at the time -- lived with both Mitchells when he was an assistant, the coach said Jones saw helping Carlos Mitchell as similar to helping a family member, just as he may have thought of team members as fellow classmates.
"As far as doing anything illegal, I never did that," Stump Mitchell said. "I would never do anything to jeopardize that program. Maybe I didn't explain his [Jones] relationship. He did not consider himself not to be one of the students."
Morgan State received citations for failing to report the transportation, as well as the personal use of athletic department telephones by athletes.
As a self-imposed penalty, Jones -- an undergraduate assistant at the time -- left the school. Stump Mitchell received a letter of reprimand from the university. The coaching staff was also required to attend a rules education session, and the athletes were made to study the NCAA's rules on awards and benefits.
A former university official close to the process said he had expected something milder because the school reported the violations as soon as it found out about them.
"For the university to receive a year's probation, I'm surprised at that. If it's truly secondary, then why the one-year probation?" said the former official, who asked not to be named. "We worked so hard to clean up that program. For that stigma to be attached, it's not a good one."
One of the NCAA committee members, Bonnie Slatton, said the NCAA's bylaw on secondary violations doesn't specifically call for a one-year probation among its penalties, but the group can impose it if "the kinds of things that have been done were substantial but didn't rise to the level of a major violation."
"If a school is under probation for major violations and they have substantial secondary violations," Slatton said, "we'll often add another year of probation. What this means is, 'we don't think you've addressed the issues that need to be addressed, so we'll take a look at you in another year.' "