A variety of gifts provided to Notre Dame linebacker Demetrius DuBose, a 1992 All-American candidate, by a family with ties to the university has come under scrutiny by the NCAA.
The gifts, said by sources to include a loan of about $5,000, were the focus of questioning by an NCAA investigator who visited DuBose's hometown of Seattle earlier this year, according to Monte Kohler, who was DuBose's coach at Seattle's Bishop O'Dea High.
DuBose, a senior, is a two-year starter for the Irish. He led the team in tackles last season with 127.
He has been listed on preseason All-American teams and is considered a leading candidate this year for both the Butkus and Lombardi awards, given annually to the nation's top linebacker and lineman/linebacker, respectively.
NCAA rules prohibit representatives of a school's athletic interests from providing athletes with benefits not available to the school's student population as a whole. Representatives are usually defined as boosters, alumni, recruiters, large contributors or season ticket-holders.
If the NCAA finds that an athlete received an improper benefit from a school representative, the school can be penalized. In addition, if such a finding involves an athlete with eligibility remaining, the athlete's eligibility would be jeopardized.
Chuck Smrt, an NCAA director of enforcement, would neither confirm nor deny that the NCAA is looking into the DuBose situation.
Notre Dame Athletic Director Dick Rosenthal is on vacation and could not be reached, according to his office.
Football Coach Lou Holtz declined comment on the matter.
Melissa Conboy, an assistant athletic director who oversees the school's rules compliance program, also declined comment, saying she considers all NCAA matters involving current Notre Dame student-athletes to be confidential.
According to sources familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified, DuBose has received a variety of gifts during his time at Notre Dame from a married couple in Seattle, both of whom are former Notre Dame students.
One way in which the couple has helped DuBose at Notre Dame, the sources said, is by providing him with the loan. DuBose signed a promissory note in which he agreed to repay the money after being drafted by an NFL team in 1993, according to one of the sources, who has seen the handwritten document.
Notre Dame apparently believes the couple's gifts to DuBose do not constitute a rules violation because the couple's relationship with the player began before he was recruited by Notre Dame, according to the sources.
The school's argument is based, in part, the sources said, on the case of Davor Rimac, an Arkansas basketball player from Yugoslavia who lived in the home of Razorback Coach Nolan Richardson as a high school junior. The NCAA determined that no impropriety occurred because the relationship between Richardson and Rimac is rooted in circumstances unrelated to the player's recruitment by Arkansas. Rimac is currently a player at Arkansas.
Kohler, DuBose's high school coach, said he was questioned in Seattle by an NCAA enforcement representative "a couple of months ago" about DuBose's relationship with the family in question.
Kohler said he was later told by DuBose that the matter had been cleared up. "Demetrius didn't seem like he was worried about it," he said.
Kohler confirmed that DuBose, raised by a single mother, has received gifts and favors from the couple during his time at Notre Dame. However, he said, the benefits have been relatively insignificant, such as meals and Christmas gifts.
Kohler confirmed that the couple, whom he declined to identify, is affiliated with Notre Dame, but said the benefits provided DuBose are unrelated to his playing for the Irish.
"The people involved were friends of O'Dea (High) before Demetrius ever decided to go to Notre Dame," he said. "We're a private school. We have a lot of inner-city kids. And people help people out. . . .
"As I told (the NCAA), these things had nothing to do with Demetrius going to Notre Dame. They were all out of friendship, out of caring."
He said the couple also has been questioned by the NCAA.
Asked what triggered the NCAA's interest, Kohler said: "All I heard was it was somebody in Seattle. I don't know if it was just a citizen. I don't know if it was a school. I don't know more than that. I just heard it was somebody in Seattle who brought (the matter) to a head."
Washington Coach Don James said he was aware of "rumors" that the NCAA had been looking into the DuBose situation but said the inquiry did not originate with information supplied by him or members of his staff.
"I don't think anyone at the university turned anything in--at least not my staff," he said.
Times staff writer Gene Wojciechowski contributed to this story.