COLLEGE PARK -- Gary Williams did everything yesterday but say, "I told you so," when he got word that his Maryland basketball program was off the hook with the NCAA over the illegal observance of preseason pickup games last year.
"I feel very relieved and happy for the players and for the university that this matter is over," Williams said following practice for tonight's home game against Cal-Irvine.
The school announced last January that Williams had seen a preseason pickup game before the Oct. 15 date when coaches are allowed to conduct practices.
Maryland reported the violation to the NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference. Just after the issue was made public, Williams admitted he also had observed two informal workouts before Oct. 15.
As a self-imposed penalty, Maryland delayed the start of this season's practice to Oct. 20 -- five days after the usual starting date.
In a letter that the school received yesterday, David Berst, the NCAA's assistant executive director for enforcement, wrote that Maryland's self-imposed penalty was "appropriate in this matter."
In addition, Berst wrote that the NCAA Committee on Infractions had determined that "no additional penalty should be imposed."
Andy Geiger, who took over as Maryland athletic director Oct. 1, said the school moved quickly from the time he was hired to determine what had happened and offer a reasonable punishment.
"I thought it was incredibly important to come to closure as quickly as possible," said Geiger, who announced the five-day ,, self-imposed penalty soon after he arrived. "That was a very tough pill for the team to swallow. I felt very bad for the team. I thought a logical way to deal with it was to put ourselves at a disadvantage."
The school also announced that reprimands were issued in connection with the pick-up games matter.
Geiger confirmed that Adam Preyer, a part-time assistant coach who resigned just after the team's season-opener two weeks ago, had been reprimanded. But Geiger would not comment on the nature of the punishment beyond a letter of reprimand and would not identify the other parties who were disciplined.
"There was no organized plot to gain an advantage," Geiger said. "Coaches would linger after a pick-up game had started. They were in their first year and wanted to see what kind of team they had. It was a mistake."
Along with his sense of relief, Williams, who had never before been charged with a violation of NCAA rules in three previous coaching stints, also flashed a bit of anger.
"I'm still very bitter about the way the situation was handled," said Williams. "I know what I've done over 20 years of coaching. I didn't like my name dragged into the mess here."
There had been allegations that Preyer and Billy Hahn, another assistant coach, conducted full-fledged practices in the auxiliary gym at Cole Field House in September 1989.
Two former student employees in the athletic department gave signed statements to school and NCAA officials, attesting that they had seen Hahn and Preyer conducting the team in workouts.
Williams, Hahn and Preyer all vigorously denied that any preseason workouts ever took place.
Geiger said last night that the school, in its investigation, did not find evidence to substantiate the claims.
Geiger, instead, categorized those sessions as conditioning drills led by team trainers, which are permissible under NCAA rules.
The NCAA also said Maryland's five-day delay in practice was sufficient penalty for a self-reported violation involving workout gear for players. The school admitted that two unnamed incoming players were given athletic workout gear this summer before going on scholarship. It is considered a minor violation.
Maryland already is serving a three-year NCAA probation -- which includes a two-year ban on postseason appearances and a one-year ban from live television -- for violations mostly committed during the tenure of former coach Bob Wade.