The University of Nevada Las Vegas football team has been ordered to forfeit 18 wins and surrender its Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. and California Bowl championships because of the use of seven academically ineligible players, it was announced Tuesday.
The action is the result of an investigation that began last November, when the eligibility of four UNLV players was questioned in an unsigned letter sent to the PCAA and its member schools. The players were found to be ineligible because they had taken General Equivalency Diploma tests to gain high school diplomas after they had entered junior college, a violation of NCAA rules.
The PCAA compliance committee's ensuing investigation revealed that three additional players were ineligible because physical-education courses were included in the computation of their grade-point averages to get them over the 2.0 minimum GPA required to participate in intercollegiate athletics. The inclusion of physical education courses was a violation of conference rules.
Cal State Fullerton won its first 10 games in 1984 before losing to UNLV. The Titans would therefore be in line to become the conference champion by forfeit, but exactly what will become of the title won't be determined until the conference council meeting in May, according to PCAA Commissioner Lewis A. Cryer. "We simply don't have anything in our rule book to cover such a matter," Cryer said.
The forfeits include wins in both the 1984 and 1983 seasons. The Rebels were 11-2 in 1984, winning the PCAA title and going on to a 30-13 win over Toledo in the California Bowl, and 7-4 in 1983. With the forfeits, the Rebels' record over the past two seasons will be listed at 0-24.
Probation was not one of the penalties imposed by the PCAA. The conference's action will be forwarded to the NCAA, which has the option of imposing further penalties. UNLV officials said Tuesday that they do not expect further sanctions. Cryer said he did not know what to expect. "I can never predict what the NCAA is going to do," he said.
Cal State Fullerton Coach Gene Murphy said the penalties were far too lenient. "I think this makes our conference a laughing stock."
In a press conference on the Las Vegas campus Tuesday, UNLV President Robert Maxson said he was "terrible embarrassed" by the infractions and that he had asked Athletic Director Brad Rothermel and the school' NCAA faculty representative to report within 30 days as to why the violations occured.
"The silver lining in this is the finding there was no intent on anyone's part to violate the rules," Maxson said. "In no way will we ever knowingly violate PCAA or NCAA rules."
Murphy said he's not convinced that the violations were untentional. "They say there was no intent on their part," he said. "I know what intent is. I (also) know what a smoke screen is.
"We're talking about seven football players who played when they were ineligible to play. There's only one way to play it, and that's by the damn rules."