Illinois Basketball Put on Probation, Barred From NCAA Tourney

From Associated Press

The NCAA today barred the Illinois basketball team from postseason play for the 1990-91 season as the result of a 16-month investigation into the Illini’s recruiting practices.

The NCAA, at a news conference in Overland Park, Kan., said the men’s basketball program was placed on probation for three years beginning this season and will operate under recruiting restrictions for the next two years.

The school will be banned from off-campus basketball recruiting and from paying for visits by recruits to its campus the first year, the NCAA said.

The school also will be limited to awarding just two basketball scholarships in each of the first two seasons of the probation, but television coverage will not be restricted.

“We don’t intend to appeal,” Illinois Chancellor Morton Weir said at a news conference this morning. ". . . An appeal probably would not succeed, whereas we’re sure that it would lengthen the process and simply draw it out to a conclusion that would be no different than the one we now face.”


Weir said, though, that the school may ask for modification of the two-year limit on basketball scholarships so that it doesn’t take effect this year.

The NCAA said “significant violations occurred.” But it said evidence did not substantiate the most serious allegations--that Illinois offered large sums of cash and cars to lure key recruits to campus.

The university’s recruitment in 1989 of prep star Deon Thomas touched off the investigation. The university said its own probe revealed some minor infractions.

The NCAA also found the school guilty of improper use of complimentary tickets by former players; the setting aside of NCAA Tournament tickets for purchase by high school coaches; preferential treatment given to three players last year when the players were not required to fill out auto loan applications from a Decatur bank completely; and illegal recruiting contacts by recruiter Jimmy Collins.

The NCAA had charged that in 1987, LaPhonso Ellis of East St. Louis was offered $5,000 to sign and $5,000 a year to play for Illinois, as well as the use of a car. Ellis went to Notre Dame.

The NCAA said Thomas was offered $80,000 and a Chevrolet Blazer to join the Illini.

Athletic Director John Mackovic said in a statement this morning, “We are pleased that Deon Thomas’ eligibility to play basketball at Illinois was restored and that the committee found that Jimmy Collins had not engaged in unethical conduct.”

“A week from today, we probably would be signing five players,” Illinois Coach Lou Henson said. “Now we have to tell these young men and their parents” that some won’t be able to get scholarships because of the sanctions.

He said he didn’t foresee losing any current players, however.