Iowa St. defends investigation
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowa State defended its handling of an investigation that found coaches and employees broke NCAA rules with calls to recruits, promising Thursday to release a 500-page report soon with more details.
In an interview, university president Steven Leath rejected any suggestion that officials had kept details from the public and oversight groups for too long. He said he personally notified board of regents leaders in January 2012 as soon as he became aware of the problem and has kept them updated, including a detailed briefing last summer.
Leath spoke as the university released a detailed statement seeking to "clarify any misconceptions that may have been drawn" about the secrecy surrounding its investigation.
The statement said school officials announced the violations Tuesday because that's when its final investigation report was completed and sent to the NCAA. Iowa State said it released the information "in an attempt to be as transparent as possible" despite the NCAA's desire that institutions make no public comment about pending cases.
Iowa State says its investigation found that coaches and staff members made 79 impermissible calls to recruits between 2008 and 2011. The school said the university also failed to document an additional 1,400 calls to recruits in which coaches failed to connect because they were dropped, not answered or went to voicemail, which also violated NCAA rules.
The university said the improper calls were a tiny fraction of the 750,000 that were reviewed over the three-year period involving all 18 sports programs. The university has asked the NCAA to accept its findings and issue a punishment of two years of probation.
Leath said the university had not released more details of the violations, including which programs and coaches were involved, because its attorneys are removing information that must be kept confidential. A university spokesman said he expected the report to be released in coming weeks.
Leath said the university first reported some violations to the NCAA in November 2011, before he became president. He said he learned in January 2012 that the NCAA was looking into the matter, and the university agreed to conduct a "comprehensive investigation in cooperation" with the agency.
He said the investigation into the violations was not disclosed sooner because the university did not want to jeopardize its integrity.
"I think we've been as forthcoming as we really can be," he said. "You want to make sure that you have a totally unbiased, independent investigation in these matters. That's difficult to do when it becomes in the public eye."
He said the investigation was led by faculty athletics representative Tim Day, who also served as the point person with the NCAA, as required under university policies. Day, a professor of biomedical sciences, said the investigation "simply took a long, long time" because it included examining hundreds of thousands of phone records and interviewing staff and coaches.
"The confidentiality was not driven by a desire to conceal, but by a need to figure out as accurately as possible what really happened," Day told the university's athletics council Tuesday, in a statement released by the university. "Our continuing reticence is not about secrecy (the entire report will soon be public), it is because we are trying our very best to submit ourselves to the NCAA process. As we will have ample time to show you, the investigation was exhaustive and painstaking; the depth and breadth of the data reported is literally unprecedented."
Board of Regents president Craig Lang said he and President Pro Tem Bruce Rastetter were briefed by Leath about the case last summer. Leath told them the main issue was that coaches didn't know they were supposed to document calls that failed to connect with recruits because they were dropped, not answered or went to voicemail, Lang said.
"The one thing I do remember thinking was, 'Obviously, this isn't serious,' " Lang said. "Steve had told us both that he wanted us to be aware of it, that there was an investigation going on. It was about the telephone calls. It looked like the violations were around the idea that they made a call, there was nobody on the other end and they didn't record it. I said, 'That's good, I'm glad to know.' "