Saint Mary's hit hard by NCAA; coach gets five-game suspension

The NCAA was not kind to Randy Bennett, but it did spare him the ultimate punishment. (USATSI)

Amid a debatable at-large campaign for the 2013 NCAA tournament, the Saint Mary's Gaels just got a different dose of attention from the NCAA. The wrong kind. The long-awaited news on punishment to the program and its head coach, Randy Bennett, came down Friday morning.

The good news: Bennett received no show-cause and the program has no postseason ban. This ruling/punishment has zero effect on the 2012-13 season.

The bad news: Bennett will have to sit five games next season; is on four-year probation; loses scholarships for 2014-15 and 2015-16; will have recruiting handcuffs; and a former assistant -- the primary violator in the case -- has been slammed with a two-year show-cause.

Shortly after the news was released, Bennett responded via an official statement from SMC.

"I am disappointed," Bennett said. "I cooperated fully with the investigation and accepted responsibility where I came up short. The penalties are clearly excessive and although I’m still reviewing the report and trying to understand it, I know already that the report fails to include important mitigating information and tells only part of the story. I’ll continue to review the report and consider my options."

SMC was charged by the Committee on Infractions with failure to monitor after "a former assistant men’s basketball coach acted unethically in his recruitment of international prospects." Bennett was also highlighted for illegal training/coaching sessions.

"The former assistant coach knowingly committed violations during the recruitment of three prospects," according to the NCAA. "When warned by the California Interscholastic Federation twice about the activities of the former assistant coach, the college did not proactively investigate the recruiting activities. Additionally, the men’s basketball team received impermissible training and coaching sessions from trainers not employed by the school."

Bennett's assistant gave one prospect help with plane tickets, "local transportation" and a roof over his head while being courted by Saint Mary's. Not only that, but the assistant in question continued to help Saint Mary's after he left the university and recruited more international prospects. Essentially a rogue quasi-booster who, by the way, went on to work as a sports agent.

Saint Mary's has become known for its prowess in recruiting overseas, specifically in Australia. Bennett is getting hit hard because the NCAA has new guidelines on punishing coaches for the actions of their assistants. No longer can head men play the I-didn't-know card. Thus: Bennett's five-gamer and the big dollop of additional penalization.

Via the NCAA, here are the specifics of the punishments.

  1. Probation from March 1, 2013,through Feb. 28, 2017.
  2. Bennett's five-game suspension next year (to start the WCC season).
  3. No off-campus recruiting allowed for Bennett from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014.
  4. Reduction of scholarships from 13 to 11 for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.
  5. No overseas trips (programs get one every four years) until the start of the 2017-18 season.
  6. No early season tournament inclusion (the November tournaments) until 2015-16 season.
  7. The team cannot have "skill instruction during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons."

It's a whacking, for sure, but it stops short of the two most vital aspects of any NCAA punishment: a coach's outright removal from a program and a no-postseason dictation. Saint Mary's will suffer a bit from this, but it dodged the biggest bullets.

For more college basketball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnCBB on Twitter, like us on Facebook and subscribe to the thrice-a-week podcast on iTunes. You can follow Matt Norlander on Twitter here: @MattNorlander.

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his seventh season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics and... Full Bio

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