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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU issues Self-Report to NCAA following review of men's basketball

New Mexico State University President William B. Conroy today announced NMSU has issued a Self-Report to the National Collegiate Athletic Association regarding possible violations of NCAA regulations covering recruitment of student-athletes, academic fraud, and extra benefits in the men's basketball program in 1996 and 1997.

The self-report is a result of an 18-month investigation by NMSU into information that was first discovered by the university during litigation involving former men's basketball head coach Neil McCarthy and NMSU.

The university reviewed six possible infractions: three of them related to recruitment of prospective student-athletes and possible arrangement of fraudulent correspondence-course credits; two related to extra benefits provided to student-athletes; and one related to rules regarding recruitment tryouts.

President Conroy said: "The information discovered during the McCarthy litigation and after that litigation is serious, particularly the allegations of fraudulent academic credit involving one of our former assistant coaches and two of our former student-athletes. NMSU will continue to cooperate fully with the NCAA in connection with the NCAA's review of the information contained in this self-report."

According to the 142-page report, the allegations relate to the recruitment of two junior college basketball prospective student-athletes. They signed National Letters of Intent in April 1996 to attend NMSU, where they enrolled for the fall 1996 semester. Their coach was Fletcher Cockrell, who was seeking employment at NMSU at the same time he was coaching the students, according to the report. McCarthy hired Cockrell as an assistant men's basketball coach at NMSU in June 1996, two months after the two student-athletes committed to NMSU.

The information discovered during the university's investigation suggests that Cockrell secured his employment at NMSU by thwarting the recruiting efforts of other interested institutions while at the same time inducing the student-athletes to commit to NMSU. Further, the report states that Cockrell arranged for the students to receive fraudulent correspondence course credit from the University of Central Arkansas during the spring of 1996, enabling the young men to graduate from the junior college and meet NCAA transfer-eligibility requirements for two-year transfer students. Based on their college transcripts and assurances of the validity of the correspondence courses, NMSU certified the student-athletes' eligibility, awarded them financial aid, and allowed them to play when, in fact, they were not eligible. Thus, the report states, an inadvertent violation of NCAA rules occurred.

Cockrell was terminated by former Athletics Director Jim Paul effective Oct. 31, 1997. On Dec. 3, 1997, Cockrell filed suit against NMSU. Cockrell's litigation is still pending in the Third Judicial District Court and the New Mexico Court of Appeals.

Additional possible violations concern extra benefits, such as unauthorized long-distance phone calls made by the student-athletes, and pick-up basketball games that may have constituted recruiting tryouts.

Athletics Director Brian Faison, who became NMSU's AD in July 1999, stated: "The possible violations are serious. The Athletics Department under my leadership will not condone any violations of the rules or any form of academic fraud. I have shared my philosophy with all of the staff and they wholeheartedly support my position."

Basketball Head Coach Lou Henson, who replaced McCarthy in October 1997, issued this statement: "I fully support President Conroy and Athletics Director Faison in connection with the Self-Report. None of the current members of the men's basketball team is involved in this matter. They understand I will not tolerate any violation of the NCAA Rules and Regulations. They also understand the value we place on academics. I am pleased that the men's basketball team grade point average for the fall 1999 semester was 3.08. Eight of the 15 current members had a grade point average of 3.0 or better. Four of our players had a perfect 4.0 GPA. My staff, players and I will cooperate fully with the NCAA as we have with the administration."

Nena Singleton
Feb. 21, 2000