The NCAA rejected Oklahoma State's appeal of a postseason-ban ruling from 2021 and upheld the initial punishment, the NCAA announced Wednesday morning. The Cowboys men's basketball program will not be eligible to compete in the 2022 postseason. An appeals process that lasted 17 months allowed Oklahoma State to be eligible for -- and ultimately play in -- the 2021 NCAA Tournament, but the 2021-22 Cowboys will not be afforded the same fate.
, including a three-year probationary period that will start effective immediately and end Nov. 3, 2024; a scholarship reduction of three over an unspecified period of time; and other recruiting restrictions (such as fewer days on the road, fewer official visits and phone call limitations) that were previously put in place and adhered to by Oklahoma State.
Oklahoma State was one of four schools that had an assistant arrested by the FBI in late September 2017. That assistant, Lamont Evans, pled guilty in January 2019 and eventually spent three months in federal prison. Evans was found to have acted unethically and illegally after being captured on federal wiretaps and surreptitious videos. Evidence obtained by the federal government caught Evans willingly participating in a plot to recruit players to a basketball/marketing agency while he was employed by Oklahoma State and, prior to that, South Carolina. Evans was proven to have accepted at least $18,150 in bribes -- all of it money unknowingly provided by the federal government during its sting operation. Evans was working with Christian Dawkins, a former runner for a sports agency, who was trying to build out his own business for future basketball clients. Dawkins was convicted in May 2019.
Evans, who never had to speak at trial due to pleading guilty, did not cooperate with the NCAA's investigation. That was a factor in Oklahoma State's punishment, a source told CBS Sports. Everything else the NCAA acted upon was based off of what was provided in federal court. Oklahoma State is being punished for lack of cooperation (strictly from Evans) and unethical conduct, plus the fact Evans accepted dirty money.
"We are profoundly disappointed for our student-athletes, none of whom were here at the time of this case," OSU athletic director Chad Weiberg said in a statement. "This is an unprecedented decision by the NCAA. There are other strikingly similar cases that did not include postseason bans and had only minor penalties. We had a rogue employee carrying out actions that benefited him alone and he went to great lengths to assure his actions were undetectable. He was terminated when we learned of his actions."
OSU coach Mike Boynton added that the timeline for a decision was "unfathomable."
"So too was the outcome, not to mention incredibly unjust and unfair," Boynton added. "I invite members of the NCAA enforcement staff, it's Committee on Infractions, and appeals panel involved in our case to meet with my team, to look each of them in their eyes and explain why illicit conduct committed by a rogue assistant coach five years ago – conduct which led to no competitive advantage for our program, and for which the coach was fired immediately upon discovery by our administration – should serve as a basis for denying them the opportunity to experience postseason tournament play. This is the greatest disappointment in my career as a head coach."
The NCAA's investigation did not begin until the conclusion of the multiple trials tied to the FBI's probe, which led to 10 guilty pleas and/or convictions, including four former assistant coaches at Oklahoma State, Arizona, Auburn and USC. In April, the NCAA decided against levying a postseason ban against USC. Arizona and Auburn self-imposed postseason bans on their programs for the 2020-21 seasons. Those schools applied for, were accepted and are still going through the Independent Accountability Resolution Process, which is an alternative to the traditional NCAA adjudication route Oklahoma State went through.
The NCAA's only piece of evidence in its investigation of any rule-breaking by OSU was proof of Evans being involved in a $300 payment to former Oklahoma State senior Jeffrey Carroll, who later paid back the money and served a three-game suspension during the 2018-19 season.
Boynton was never charged or mentioned in the case and faces no punishment. Boynton was promoted to head coach in the spring of 2017, after former Oklahoma State coach Brad Underwood left for Illinois. (Underwood was not mentioned nor charged in the case.)
The FBI and the NCAA found zero evidence of Oklahoma State enrolling a prospect illegally, which is something OSU used as a major point of defense in its appeal process. What's more, Oklahoma State's punishment is believed to be the first time in NCAA history that a school received a postseason ban without being assessed one of these five major violations: a head coach responsibility charge, lack of institutional control, failure to monitor, any type of recruiting violation; or academic fraud.
In June 2020, NCAA Committee on Infractions member Larry Parkinson said Oklahoma State's case only pertained to the period in which Evans was employed there. All of Evans' rule-breaking from South Carolina was not considered. In February, the NCAA announced South Carolina would not be assessed a postseason ban. Parkinson also said that Oklahoma State's ruling was given some leniency for how accommodating the school was with the NCAA.
"If they had not, maybe the result would have been different, but they fully cooperated and got the benefit of that," Parkinson said at the time.
An emotional Boynton was moved to tears during the school's press conference Wednesday. He passionately defended the program, its ethical process throughout the NCAA's investigation and then proceeded to name every member of the NCAA's enforcement staff and appeals panel who dealt with the case.
"We asked them that we work with them (the NCAA) during this process," Boynton said. "We cooperated. And we showed up. And we answered their questions. And we provided all the information they asked. So if you're one of those other schools, be careful what they're asking you for."
Mike Boynton took a blowtorch to the NCAA on Wednesday. Called out enforcement staff by name. Said the only violation they committed was a secondary violation they self-reported.— Kyle Boone (@Kyle__Boone) November 3, 2021
"It's no wonder that nobody trusts them. They get to hide behind letters." pic.twitter.com/Ao72n3pHq1
Here is the full list of penalties, as initially decided upon by the NCAA in June 2020:
- Three years of probation.
- A 2020-21 postseason ban (now in effect for 2021-22).
- A $10,000 fine plus 1% of the men's basketball program budget (self-imposed by the university).
- A reduction of men's basketball scholarships by a total of three during the 2020-21 through 2022-23 academic years.
- A reduction of men's basketball official visits to 25 during the 2018-19/2019-20 rolling two-year period and to 18 during the 2019-20/2020-21 rolling two-year period (self-imposed by the university).
- A prohibition of men's basketball unofficial visits for two weeks during the fall of 2020 and two weeks during the fall of 2021 (self-imposed by the university). The university also must prohibit unofficial visits for three additional weeks during the fall of 2020, 2021 and/or 2022.
- A prohibition of men's basketball telephone recruiting for a one-week period during the 2020-21 academic year (self-imposed by the university). The university also must prohibit telephone recruiting for six additional weeks during the probation period.
- A reduction in the number of men's basketball recruiting person days by 12 during the 2019-20 academic year (self-imposed by the university). The university also must reduce the number of recruiting person days by five during the 2020-21 academic year.
- A 10-year show-cause order for the former associate head coach. During that period, any NCAA member school employing him must restrict him from any athletically related duties unless it shows cause why the restrictions should not apply.
- A prohibition of the men's basketball staff from participating in off-campus evaluations for three consecutive days during the summer evaluation periods in 2020 (self-imposed by the university).