Simpkins parking fines hit $8,000 Terp kept using spots for disabled

February 22, 1996|By Brad Snyder | Brad Snyder,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Ken Murray and contributing writer Dana Hedgpeth provided information for this article.

Maryland senior guard Duane Simpkins racked up $8,000 worth of unpaid campus parking fines in part because he repeatedly received $250 tickets for parking in spaces reserved for the disabled, athletic department sources said.

To pay part of the fines, Simpkins accepted a loan that resulted in a three-game NCAA suspension. He is serving the final game of his suspension tonight at N.C. State.

Simpkins borrowed $2,000 from his former Amateur Athletic Union coach, Donnie Gross. He had to make a down payment to register for spring classes and to be eligible to play for the remainder of the season.

Maryland students who have more than $500 in outstanding bills cannot register until those bills are paid or "arrangements are made to pay them," said Roland King, director of university relations, yesterday.

The loan violated NCAA bylaw 12.1.2 (m), which prohibits a student from receiving preferential benefits on account of his or her athletics reputation or skill.

Carrie Doyle, NCAA director of eligibility appeals, said she revealed the size of the fines "to help clarify information from previous press reports." Simpkins accumulated the fines "over a couple of years," Maryland coach Gary Williams said earlier this week.

The fines did not come to the attention of university officials until November, because Simpkins incurred them through the use of two cars registered under his father's name, an athletic department source said.

Simpkins' father, Sylvester, sold the first car, a 1982 Volvo. The second car, a 1994 Honda Civic, has been "flagged" by state officials for having outstanding parking fines, according to Motor Vehicle Administration records. "Flagged" autos cannot have their registrations renewed until the obligation is satisfied, said Jim Lang, an MVA spokesman.

Simpkins could not be reached last night, and his father refused to comment yesterday. Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow also wouldn't comment yesterday.

A student who works in the university parking fines office didn't express surprise that Simpkins' $8,000 bill was a product of parking in spaces reserved for the disabled.

"It's pretty hard to accumulate $8,000 worth of parking tickets," the student said. "There has to be some serious violations, for example, he was using a handicap permit or he was [parking in the wrong lot] every day."

Parking fines at Maryland range from $15 for an expired meter, $250 for parking in a handicapped space or $500 for illegal use of a handicap permit, said David Allen, the university's director of parking.

Athletes are some of the school's prime offenders, said the student who works in the parking fines office.

"I'm not surprised by [Simpkins' $8,000 bill], because people run tabs up like you wouldn't believe, especially athletes," the student said. "I see athletes getting more tickets strictly because they think they are the big men on campus."

But Kenya Freeman, a senior psychology major and a friend of Simpkins', said athletes "have to get to practice. They have a tight schedule. They have to go to interviews after that practice, and, in general, they have a much busier schedule than most normal students."

Simpkins is not the first Maryland basketball player to encounter eligibility problems because of parking fines. Former point guard Keith Gatlin was ineligible for the 1986-87 season in part because of $1,800 in unpaid tickets.

Doyle said Simpkins was suspended because he knowingly violated NCAA rules after receiving a warning about accepting a loan from Gross. Two weeks ago, Simpkins tried to pay $2,000 with a check from Gross. The university bursar, suspecting an NCAA violation, didn't accept the check. Last week, Simpkins tried to make the payment again.

Simpkins violated NCAA rules because Gross did not qualify as an established family friend.

The NCAA ruled differently in a case last year involving Maryland forward Keith Booth, whose Urban Coalition League coach, Jeremiah Dickens, flew him to a Chicago Bulls playoff game and bought him a game ticket from a player agent. Booth had to pay for the price of the game ticket, but he was not suspended.

Maryland officials agreed that the relationship between Simpkins and Gross is different from that of Booth and Dickens.

"I don't compare this situation in the same way as Keith's, because my personal opinion of Jeremiah Dickens is he truly is a father figure," Yow said last week. "It's a different feeling based on the relationship between the two."

Steve Mallonee of the NCAA's legislative services department acknowledged the fine line between coach and friend and said the distinction is made on a case-by-case basis.

"It's not a cut and dried area," Mallonee said. "It's an analysis of different factors."

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