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Creighton basketball receives NCAA penalties for violation by former assistant
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Creighton basketball receives NCAA penalties for violation by former assistant

The NCAA’s Committee on Infractions announced Tuesday that Creighton's men's basketball program will face scholarship reductions, recruiting restrictions and two years probation because of an ethical-conduct violation by former Bluejay assistant Preston Murphy.

The NCAA panel also ruled that CU will pay a $5,000 fine plus 1% of the men's basketball program's budget.

Murphy’s breach of NCAA bylaws, a Level I infraction, marked the first major NCAA rules violation in any sport for Creighton. The absence of an infractions history is rare, according to the NCAA, and that influenced the committee's ruling on penalties.

The Jays avoided a postseason ban — which is one possible penalty for a Level I infraction.

Creighton indicated in a university statement Tuesday that it accepted the NCAA's final ruling and is "eager to move forward."

Murphy, who resigned in 2019, received a two-year show-cause order, which places restrictions on an NCAA school if it were to hire him during that time.

Murphy, through his lawyer, expressed remorse Tuesday for an ordeal that spanned nearly four years but disputed the claim that he violated NCAA rules.

The committee also determined Athletic Director Bruce Rasmussen committed a Level II infraction for failing to immediately report Murphy's potential wrongdoing in 2018. Rasmussen waited five months before informing the compliance department.

In a teleconference Tuesday, the NCAA's chief hearing officer for the case said based on Rasmussen's reputation and experience, he acted unreasonably by not immediately reporting what he learned.

In a statement Tuesday, Rasmussen said: "I thank the NCAA for their thorough investigation. We are anxious to move forward knowing that the series of reforms we have made to our policies and procedures within the Department of Athletics at Creighton ensure ongoing adherence and compliance with the NCAA's high ethical standards."

On the basketball court, Creighton is coming off arguably its most successful two-year run in school history, winning a share of the 2020 Big East regular-season title, spending all of the 2020-21 season in the AP Top 25 and reaching the 2021 NCAA tournament Sweet 16.

The Jays just secured their highest-rated recruiting class in school history — a five-man group that ranked in the top six nationally for the 2021 cycle. Those freshmen and two senior transfers joined the program earlier this month.

"Having this behind us provides an opportunity to move forward with no direct impact on our current or future student-athletes," CU coach Greg McDermott said in a statement.

Tuesday's announcement from the infractions committee marked the end of an investigation into Creighton's program that began in 2018, one year after the FBI revealed it had uncovered a major bribery scandal in college basketball.

In October 2018, the father of recruit Brian Bowen testified that Murphy had an agreement in place with an aspiring agent to pay $100,000 to the family in exchange for the player's commitment to Creighton. Murphy denied that claim during a subsequent meeting with Creighton compliance officials. But that public allegation prompted the NCAA's initial records request, sent to CU on Dec. 14, 2018, in regard to a possible rules violation.

Still, the crux of the Creighton's NCAA case centered on Murphy's 2017 meeting in a Las Vegas hotel room with would-be agent Christian Dawkins and two financial backers. Murphy and Dawkins, both from Saginaw, Michigan, had a previous friendship. The meeting was being secretly recorded by a government agent and FBI informant posing as the financial backers.

It was there that Murphy received $6,000 in cash. A March 2019 indictment described the exchange as a bribe, but Murphy was not charged with a crime. According to the NCAA's report, Murphy admitted to accepting the money but he said he returned it to Dawkins in a casino bathroom. Dawkins said the same in his 2019 federal testimony.

The NCAA infractions panel determined that Murphy's actions still violated an unethical conduct bylaw.

Its report stated that while Murphy denied keeping the money and denied that he ever planned to influence players, the committee determined that Murphy "ignored repeated red flags and demonstrated a recurring lack of judgment."

Murphy did not inform his CU superiors of the 2017 Vegas meeting until October 2018.

It was then that Rasmussen conducted his own investigation into the matter. He declined to involve the Creighton compliance department until March 2019, when a federal indictment publicly linked Murphy to the fraud scheme.

One month later, the NCAA sent CU a notice of inquiry. A notice of allegations came in December 2019.

Murphy, originally hired by Creighton in 2015, resigned in November 2019 after spending eight months on administrative leave.

The specific penalties levied on CU's program:

» Two years of probation.

» A $5,000 fine plus 1% of the men’s basketball program budget.

» A reduction of men’s basketball scholarships by one per year for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons (self-imposed by the university).

» A reduction of men’s basketball official visits by six during the 2021-22/2022-23 rolling two-year period (self-imposed by the university).

» A reduction in the number of men’s basketball recruiting person days by 10% from the previous four-year average for the two-year probationary period (self-imposed by the university).

» The university will prohibit complimentary admission to home games for all prospects and coaches in November 2021 (self-imposed by the university).

» A two-year show-cause order for Murphy. 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.

Tuesday's ruling was the fifth set of sanctions handed out by the infractions committee to programs linked to the sport's fraud scandal.

Oklahoma State, South Carolina, Alabama and USC have all received their rulings. OSU received a one-year postseason ban and remains in the appeals process.

Arizona, North Carolina State, Kansas, TCU and Louisville have all reportedly received notices of allegations. The NCAA is also looking into Auburn and LSU. Some of those schools have already decided to use the NCAA's newly formed independent review process. Auburn and Arizona self-imposed a postseason ban for the 2021 NCAA tournament.

Creighton opted for the NCAA's adjudication route — a peer-review inquiry that concluded Tuesday when the infractions panel announced its ruling.

The NCAA's committee on infractions panel that reviewed this case included: Jody Conradt, retired head women’s basketball coach at Texas and special assistant to the women’s athletics director at Texas; Rich Ensor, commissioner of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference; Stephen Madva, attorney in private practice; Joel Maturi, former Minnesota athletics director; Roderick Perry, athletics director at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; Jill Redmond, senior associate commissioner at the Atlantic 10 Conference; and Sankar Suryanarayan, university counsel at Princeton and chief hearing officer for the panel.

Omaha World-Herald: Local Sports

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