COLLEGE PARK -- The University of Maryland has penalized itself for an admitted rules violation by delaying the opening of men's basketball practice five days, athletic director Andy Geiger announced yesterday.
In taking his first decisive action since coming on the job last week, Geiger said that the length of the self-imposed penalty matched the number of pickup games observed by coach Gary Williams and his coaching staff before last season. Geiger said that Williams had watched parts of two workouts.
"I consider this pretty important, and I want to get this business behind us and not have to worry about this anymore," said Geiger.
With the penalty, the Terps will open preseason practice Oct. 20 rather than the normal Oct. 15.
Geiger said he will meet today with Mark Jones, a director of enforcement for the National Collegiate Athletic Association, at the organization's headquarters outside Kansas City. University counsel Dennis Blumer and John Anderson of the state attorney general's office also will attend the meeting.
Observing preseason workouts normally is considered a minor, or secondary, infraction by the NCAA. But the NCAA has examined this matter more vigorously because Maryland was under investigation for more serious violations committed under former coach Bob Wade.
The Terps subsequently were put on three years' probation, including a two-year ban from postseason competition and a one-year ban from live television appearances. Maryland's appeal of the sanctions was rejected by the NCAA in August.
Asked if the self-imposed penalty would ensure that the NCAA doesn't pursue the matter further, Geiger said: "I'm hopeful it will be a sign that we're taking this very seriously. There is a clear message that we want to have a firm hand at the helm."
Said Jones: "I won't comment on whether a self-imposed penalty by an institution is appropriate. Anything they report will be reviewed by the Committee on Infractions."
The NCAA's Committee on Infractions will meet next in Hilton Head, S.C., Nov. 8-10.
This matter has been going on since January, when Williams admitted that he and members of his staff had observed a couple of preseason workouts. The number of workouts, according to Williams' account, changed twice over the course of three days, and it was decided that two had been observed.
In June, it was reported by The Washington Times and Evening Sun that two former athletic department employees gave sworn depositions to the NCAA saying that they had observed members of Williams' staff running preseason workouts, a more serious charge.
Williams denied that had happened, and Geiger said there is no indication that coaches were involved in more than observing practice. "For a few minutes, up to 15, from what I can figure," Geiger said yesterday.
Asked to explain the discrepancy in the number of practices first reported, Williams said last night, "There's no discrepancy between this and what was told to the NCAA."
Speaking from San Antonio, Williams said he was happy to get thematter resolved, and praised Geiger's quick action. "There's definitely a rule [violation]," Williams said, "so you pay a penalty for it. I guess it's fair. I'm happy that we can go on from here."
Because Williams was out of town, Geiger informed the players before their unsupervised workout yesterday at Cole Field House. Nearly everyone seemed surprised, and some -- Matt Roe in particular -- were angry.
"No one had any idea until we met with Mr. Geiger," said Roe, a senior guard who transferred from Syracuse and sat out last season. "I've been waiting for a year to play. Good things happen to those who wait, so I'll put five more days on the calendar."
Said junior guard Walt Williams: "Hopefully, in the NCAA's eyes, the feeling will be that we're making a change. It shows a lot of character for the university to penalize themselves."
Gary Williams and his players agreed that the five-day delay will
make preparations for the season more difficult. Maryland opens the 1990-91 season Nov. 26 against Towson State and, as a result of the NCAA sanctions, will not play any exhibition games beforehand.
"The way we play, I'm concerned," said Gary Williams, whose roster includes five new players. "We'll really have to concentrate and do a good job in our conditioning. It's better that it happened this year than last year, when the system was new for everybody."
Geiger said the day he was hired that he will be intolerant of any violations, big or small, with all of his coaches. Gary Williams had been privately reprimanded by university president William E. Kirwan before Geiger's arrival.
"What happened was a violation, not the most severe violation that has ever been committed, but serious just the same," said Geiger. "We need to do things correctly, and we need to move all our programs onto the highest road, which I think they are."