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UNM Penalized by NCAA for Football Violations

By Susan Montoya Bryan
Associated Press
      The NCAA penalized the University of New Mexico on Wednesday for football program violations involving two former assistant coaches.
    The NCAA infractions committee imposed three years of probation, reduced scholarships and limited the number of paid visits provided by prospective football players.
    The sanctions went beyond the university's self-imposed penalties, which included two years of probation and fewer scholarship reductions.
    The committee concluded that the former Lobo assistants improperly helped three recruits in 2004 to obtain fraudulent academic credits through correspondence courses they never completed at Fresno Pacific University. The coaches also violated rules against providing extra benefits to an athlete by arranging for an academically struggling football player to enroll in a correspondence course.
    The NCAA also found unethical conduct by the former assistants, including providing "false and misleading information" to investigators. It concluded there was a "secondary" violation by one assistant for making more than an allowable number of weekly telephone calls to a recruit.
    School officials planned a 3 p.m. MDT news conference to respond to the NCAA's action.
    The probation will run through Aug. 19, 2011. The NCAA cut by five the number of yearly football scholarships that can be award during the probation. UNM had voluntarily reduced scholarships by one. Overall, the NCAA limited the football program to 80 scholarship players a reduction of five. The school had lowered the total scholarship "counters" on the team by two in the 2008-2009 school year.
    The NCAA also capped the number of official paid visits by potential football recruits and accepted the university's self-imposed penalties, which included lowering the number of coaches allowed to recruit off campus.
    Sanctions also were imposed on the former assistants in their recruiting and coaching activities at any school where they work. The NCAA did not identify the assistants in the infractions committee's report.
    However, the committee heard from former assistants Lenny Rodriguez and Grady Stretz at a hearing in Albuquerque in April.
    Rodriguez, who coached at New Mexico from 1998-2006, is now an assistant at Mount San Antonio College in suburban Los Angeles. Stretz, an assistant from 1998-2005, coaches Arizona State's defensive line.
    New Mexico's head coach Rocky Long was not accused of any wrongdoing in the case.
    In its report, the infractions committee said course registration materials at Fresno Pacific showed the home addresses for the three UNM recruits as the home address in California of a brother of one former assistant. Coaches' office or cell phone numbers were listed as the recruits' phone numbers. The recruits admitted to NCAA investigators that they "received no course materials and did no work" but received course credit.
    The recruits took courses from a Fresno Pacific instructor who was an acquaintance of one of the former UNM assistants.
    The infractions committee pointed out that New Mexico was the third school that had major rules violations involving courses from Fresno Pacific.
    "All institutions are cautioned that due diligence must be exercised prior to accepting courses from Fresno Pacific for academic credit and athletic eligibility purposes," the committee said in its report.

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