Players Pompey helped could face NCAA scrutiny

August 23, 1994|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Sun Staff Writer

The revelation that former Dunbar athletic director Pete Pompey paid for summer camp and college entrance exams for some players could put NCAA enforcers in a tough position: having to punish students for a coach's well-meaning actions.

As a high school administrator and coach, Pompey is beyond the reach of the NCAA. However, by accepting Pompey's assistance, the players inadvertently may have voided their eligibility to play.

An investigative report by Baltimore State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms, obtained Friday by The Sun, alleged that Pompey deposited money from a fund-raising concession stand at Orioles games into an unauthorized checking account.

Some of the money then was used to pay for nine athletes to attend summer school or camp, and for 17 to take college entrance exams. Simms' report concluded that no crimes had been committed.

The NCAA has strict rules designed to limit college competition to amateurs, and accepting some types of financial assistance -- even as innocuous as helping with a less than $20 ACT fee -- could cost the players their amateur status.

The rules are designed to avoid the appearance of "pay for play," said Chuck Smrt, director of the NCAA enforcement division.

He declined to discuss the Pompey case, but said determination of eligibility is made on a case-by-case basis, beginning with the college the student attends. "It would be up to the member school that the athlete goes to," Smrt said.

The names of the players affected were not immediately available, but one, Maryland forward Keith Booth, said he is not concerned about NCAA action because he doesn't think anything Pompey did was wrong.

"Coach Pompey has done a lot for me. Not only did he teach me about basketball, but he taught me about life," Booth said.

Pompey paid for his college entrance exam, he said.

"I'm sure that if he felt what he did was against NCAA regulations, he wouldn't have done it," Booth said.

The administrator responsible for NCAA rule compliance at the College Park campus, Suzanne Tyler, said yesterday that she was unaware of the allegations.

"If someone did improper things, it could affect eligibility. It's something we will need to look into further," said Tyler, Maryland's senior associate director of athletics.

"That's a shame because there are lots of ways to get ACTs and SATs for free," Tyler said.

The state's attorney's report said investigators contacted the NCAA.

"The response indicates that because only certain athletes, and not students in general, received funds to pay for summer school, camp and testing, such a procedure constitutes preferential treatment and is precluded under NCAA bylaws," the state's attorney's report said.

Investigators received a similar response from the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, which the Baltimore City school system joined in 1992.

Ned Sparks, executive director of the MPSSAA, said the school system on Thursday officially notified the state association of possible rules violations, as required by its membership.

The school system is responsible for investigating allegations, he said. Among the possible penalties are banning the school from postseason play or declaring the coach ineligible.

"If they find there are violations they have to apply the penalties," Mr. Sparks said.

Other former Pompey basketball players who play in the NCAA or will begin doing so this season include Cyrus Jones (West Virginia), Michael Lloyd (Syracuse), Donta Bright (Massachusetts), Norman Nolan (Virginia), Alexander Mobley (UMES) and Rodney Elliott (Maryland).

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