LEXINGTON, Ky. — The Kentucky basketball program was put on probation for three years and banned from postseason competition for the next two years today for recruiting and academic rules violations that the NCAA said could have justified shutting down regular-season play entirely.
Two Kentucky players, Chris Mills and Eric Manuel, also were declared ineligible for their part in the violations. Mills, the second-leading scorer last season, can never again play at Kentucky. Manuel, who sat out this past season after questions about his college-entrance exam, is ineligible at any NCAA institution.
Kentucky was banned from television appearances next season and limited to three scholarships each of the next two years. In addition, any player who transfers because of the sanctions cannot be replaced by a scholarship player.
Kentucky also must forfeit all money it received from the 1988 NCAA tournament because of Manuel's participation.
The university may appeal the sanctions, but is not expected to.
Steve Morgan, the NCAA's associate executive director in charge of enforcement, said the committee "very seriously considered" a ban on regular season play next year and perhaps the year after, as well as a ban on television for a second year. Other possible penalties that were not imposed included a ban on all scholarships and a ban on off-campus recruiting.
The NCAA report said the penalties were softened because the university cooperated with investigators and took steps to correct some of the ongoing problems.
Among the violations:
--Former Assistant Coach Dwane Casey sent cash to Mills' father when the high school All-American was being recruited. The money was found in an opened air-express package in Los Angeles in April, 1988, triggering the investigation that culminated with today's announcement.
--Manuel "committed academic fraud by cheating" on a college entrance examination and was allowed to compete during the 1987-88 season even though the school should have known he was ineligible.
--Casey demonstrated a "knowing and willful" effort to violate NCAA regulations and provided false information to investigators about his role in rules violations.
The NCAA Committee on Infractions also cited a host of other, more minor violations such as providing improper trips, housing and inducements like free T-shirts to recruits.
"I think we're all a little bit relieved to see the NCAA investigation come to a conclusion," said Kentucky President David Roselle. "Our real objective from the very beginning was to save the basketball program."
Former Athletics Director Cliff Hagan, a Kentucky basketball star in the 1950s, resigned in November. He was replaced by another former Wildcat, C. M. Newton, whose 30-year coaching career included stops at Alabama and Vanderbilt.
Coach Eddie Sutton and his entire staff also ended their four-year stay at Kentucky in the aftermath of the NCAA inquiry.
Newton has spent the last two months searching for a new head basketball coach, but has been stymied by concern among prospective applicants about the NCAA penalties.