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Tom Izzo Suspended For Tomorrow's Basketball Game

Press release:

The NCAA has determined that the Michigan State men's basketball program committed a secondary violation by employing an "Individual Associated with a Prospect" (IAWP) during the annual MSU Boys Basketball Camp in June 2010. Despite the violation being of a secondary nature, the NCAA Board of Directors "endorses and strongly encourages the use of suspensions" as penalties for violations involving an IAWP. As a result, MSU men's basketball head coach Tom Izzo will sit out the team's game on Saturday, Dec. 18 against Prairie View A&M.

A November 2009 interpretation broadly defined an IAWP as "any person who maintains (or directs others to maintain) contact with prospective student-athlete, the prospective student-athlete's relatives or legal guardians, or coaches at any point during the prospective student-athlete's participation in basketball, and whose contact is directly or indirectly related to prospective student-athlete's: a) athletic skills and abilities; or b) recruitment by or enrollment in an NCAA institution."

During the annual MSU Boys Basketball Camp, an individual was employed and paid the normal rate for services performed ($475 for five days of work), as he worked with middle school age campers. That individual has been identified by the NCAA as an IAWP. The IAWP was not accompanied by the prospect, nor did he have any contact with the prospect while coaching at camp.

"As an institution, we believe Coach Izzo and his staff have always demonstrated a commitment to compliance and will continue to do so," said MSU Athletics Director Mark Hollis. "This inadvertent secondary violation occurred in a changing landscape. We find ourselves in unchartered territory in light of this broad definition. Defining who is an IAWP can be difficult, especially when dealing with an individual that has demonstrated no influence on a prospect. It is also important to note that this is only a secondary violation, and with Coach Izzo sitting out a game, the case is closed. While the penalty seems severe for a secondary violation, this is a new mandate from the NCAA and the Basketball Focus Group by which we will abide."

"I've always placed a high importance on following the rules and pride myself on adhering to high standards of professional conduct and doing things the right way," said MSU head coach Tom Izzo. "This is an isolated and inadvertent secondary violation of a new rules interpretation. I regret that it happened.

"While I accept the findings that we unintentionally violated the broad letter of the interpretation, we did not violate the intent of the interpretation in that we did not receive any benefit, nor did we attempt to gain an advantage.

"It's unfortunate that this is a unprecedented situation where a secondary violation is accompanied by a prescribed suspension," continued Izzo. "I have all the confidence in my staff and team that they'll play hard on Saturday, and I look forward to joining them again on Sunday to begin preparation for Texas."

This is the first NCAA rules violation of any kind under Tom Izzo, and apparently the first disciplinary action against any coach for violation of this rule (which was propagated/interpreted last November).  FWIW, Jeff Goodman writes:

The NCAA Board of Directors strongly encouraged the use of suspensions for anyone violating the rule – and Izzo was hit with a one-game penalty.  [ . . . ]  The reasoning to implement the rule was well-intended, but Izzo likely won’t be the only one receiving a suspension for violating it.

I'm sure Izzo is mortified about this, but even notwithstanding his claims that the rule violation was inadvertent* there's not a whole lot of fire here.  The person in question was not accompanied by his associated recruit (whoever that may have been) at the camp, and was paid $475 for 5 days' work -- hardly a windfall.  For the moment, this looks like an embarrassing episode but not a black eye.

*Izzo says that the violation was inadvertent, but it's tough imagining a coach saying that a rule violation is intentional.  But given his track record, and the seemingly-limited potential benefit of the behavior which caused the violation, I don't think it's too homer-ish to take him at his word here.

In any event, we'll update this as more information comes to light.  Your head coach tomorrow is Mark Montgomery.