- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 30, 2003

From combined dispatches

Utah’s athletic program was placed on three years’ probation by the NCAA yesterday for rules violations that included excessive meal money for men’s basketball players and academic fraud on the football team.

The Utes may still participate in postseason tournaments, and no restrictions were placed on TV appearances.

The NCAA Committee on Infractions announced the punishment after a two-year investigation of a university review. Infractions committee chairman Tom Yeager said the violations were relatively minor and did not warrant more serious penalties.

“These were not five-course steak meals at the finest restaurant in town,” Yeager said.

“This case may sound a lot worse when you actually hear all the details and all the nuances,” he added.

The NCAA accepted the university’s self-imposed sanctions, including cutting one men’s basketball scholarship for the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons, and added one scholarship penalty for 2006-07.

VIRGINIA: Freshman linebacker Ahmad Brooks pleaded no contest to marijuana possession and was placed on probation for six months.

The misdemeanor charge will be dropped if Brooks, a first-time offender, meets conditions set by Prince William County General District Judge Wenda K. Travers. Among those conditions are random drug testing and supervision by a probation officer.

OHIO STATE: The NCAA has investigated a police report filed by Ohio State tailback Maurice Clarett about cash and thousands of dollars of stereo equipment stolen from a car he was driving.

It’s not unusual the NCAA would make such an inquiry because of the expense of the items, athletic director Andy Geiger said.

The school also had started an investigation, which is separate from the university’s investigation into the academic performance of athletes, he said. That investigation started after a New York Times article said Clarett and other athletes received extra help.

TENNESSEE: A football player won’t be charged with raping a 16-year-old girl in a dormitory this spring, Knox County prosecutors said.

The girl accused Antwan Stewart, a redshirt freshman from Triangle, Va., projected to start at cornerback this fall, of sexually assaulting her May 17. She and a 17-year-old friend were visiting Gibbs Hall, a dormitory primarily occupied by athletes.

RULES: College football will eliminate the “halo rule” this season, forcing punt returners to call a fair catch if they don’t want to be hit.

Under the halo rule, the kicking team was penalized if a player came within 2 yards of a returner before he caught the ball. The rule led to many borderline penalties and gave the returner a cushion as he tried to get away from the initial tackle.

This season a returner must be given only an “unimpeded opportunity” to catch the ball, which is more in line with the NFL rule. The penalty for failing to do that or for contacting a player who has signaled for a fair catch will be 15 yards.

ACC: Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist filed a motion to dismiss a suit filed against the University of Miami and the Atlantic Coast Conference over expansion.

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