The NCAA Committee on Infractions on Friday placed Oklahoma State‘s men’s basketball program on three years of probation and banned the Cowboys from playing in postseason tournaments next season.
The penalties are the result of a Level I violation involving former associate head coach Lamont Evans, who was sentenced in June 2019 to three months in prison for accepting between $18,150 and $22,000 in bribes to steer players from South Carolina and Oklahoma State to certain agents and financial advisers.
The NCAA also hit Evans with a 10-year show-cause penalty. During that period, any NCAA member school employing him must restrict him from any athletically related duties unless it shows cause for why the restrictions should not apply.
The NCAA also reduced Oklahoma State’s men’s basketball scholarships by three during the 2020-21 through 2022-23 academic years and imposed other recruiting restrictions. The Cowboys had previously self-imposed a $10,000 fine plus 1% of its men’s basketball operating budget and reduced the number of official visits for three years.
“The conduct at issue in this case was related to a broader scheme that involved money and influence at the intersection of college and professional basketball,” the committee said in its decision. “The scheme resulted in the arrest and prosecution of multiple individuals — including college basketball coaches — on conspiracy and bribery charges, and it led to significant NCAA reforms.”
Oklahoma State said it would file an immediate appeal of the NCAA penalties.
The deadline for filing the appeal is June 20, and it will be heard by the Infractions Appeal Committee, the final step in the NCAA infractions process.
“The University is stunned by the severity of the penalties and strongly disagrees with them,” the school said in a statement. “The penalties do not align with the facts and are unfair and unjust. The NCAA agreed with OSU that Lamont Evans acted alone and for his own personal gain. Evans was terminated by OSU on Sept. 28, 2017, within 72 hours of learning of allegations against him.
“The NCAA also agreed that OSU did not benefit in recruiting, commit a recruiting violation, did not play an ineligible player, and did not display a lack of institutional control. As the report documents, OSU cooperated throughout the process, which lasted two years.”
Evans was among four assistant coaches arrested in September 2017 following an FBI investigation into bribes and other corruption in college basketball recruiting.
South Carolina announced in February that it also had received a notice of allegations, including a Level I violation, related to Evans accepting bribes while employed by the Gamecocks.
In a notice of allegations sent to Oklahoma State in November, the NCAA alleged that Evans “violated the NCAA principles of ethical conduct when he knowingly solicited and received benefits for facilitating or arranging a meeting between student-athletes and financial advisors” from April 2016 to September 2017.
Cowboys officials had argued to the Committee on Infractions that Evans accepted the bribes solely for his personal benefit, and “the University did not benefit in any way and was considered by the federal government to be the victim of the scheme.”
Oklahoma State is the first program to receive NCAA sanctions for rules violations related to the federal bribery and corruption criminal cases. Kansas, Louisville, NC State, South Carolina, TCU and USC have announced that they have received NCAA notices of allegations.
Larry Parkinson, the COI chief hearing officer and the director of enforcement for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said Oklahoma State’s penalties shouldn’t serve as a barometer for potential penalties for other schools involved in similar infractions cases.
“Each case is unique,” Parkinson said. “I would caution against reading too much from one decision. The panel bases its conclusions on the record before it, and as other cases come before either this panel or other panels, we’ll decide those cases based on the facts and circumstances of those individual cases. Having had only one and this being the first, I think time will tell whether other cases are similar or dissimilar.”
Oklahoma State fired Evans for cause two days after his arrest, while former forward Jeffrey Carroll missed the first three games of the 2017-18 season due to a review of the men’s basketball program.
At the time of his termination, Evans was the highest-paid assistant coach in college basketball, earning $600,000 annually.
At Evans’ sentencing in New York, U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos said Evans’ actions were “perhaps more egregious” than those of two other former assistant coaches he had earlier sentenced: Arizona’s Emanuel “Book” Richardson and USC’s Tony Bland. Ramos ordered Evans to forfeit the $22,000 he received from financial advisers Marty Blazer and Munish Sood and work 100 hours of community service.
Oklahoma State has signed No. 2-ranked senior Cade Cunningham for the upcoming season. He is the projected No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA draft. Oklahoma State hired Cunningham’s brother as an assistant coach last summer.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton said he will support Cunningham and whatever decision he makes about his future after Friday’s news.
“We’re going to have conversations over the next few days, weeks,” Boynton said on a conference call. “We’re gonna try to look at all the options, whatever they are: G-League, overseas, transfer to another school, stay at Oklahoma State. … Whatever he decides is best for his future, I’m gonna support 100%.”
Mike Holder, Oklahoma State’s athletic director, said he understands the penalties against Evans but not the school. He said the facts support a Level 2 penalty, not a Level 1, which involves a postseason ban.
“We were a victim,” Holder said. “I’m befuddled that the committee came to the conclusion they did.”
Boynton said he called every player on his roster, incoming and returning, after he heard about the postseason ban.
“There is obviously a little bit of confusion and concern on their part and rightfully so,” he said. “I’m gonna be here to support any decision that any of them decide to make.”
Boynton said the NCAA’s investigation is not tied to any current staffers. He said Oklahoma State officials expected a lesser penalty since they had dismissed Evans within days of learning about the allegations.
“In terms of a postseason ban for a group of kids who were probably 15 and 16 years old when this stuff was going on is completely, completely out of balance,” Boynton said, adding, “I wasn’t involved in this at any point.”
ESPN’s Myron Medcalf contributed to this report.