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Washington Huskies Get Tough Pac 10 Penalties : Sports: Football coach resigns after conference imposes sanctions for violations of NCAA rules.

August 23, 1993|ELLIOTT ALMOND | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MILLBRAE, Calif. — Don James, starting his 19th season as the University of Washington's football coach, abruptly resigned Sunday, hours after the Pacific 10 Conference levied stiff penalties against the school for numerous rules infractions.

The football team, which has appeared in the last three Rose Bowls, was placed on probation for two years and was banned from bowl games for the 1993 and 1994 seasons.

The Huskies, who are ranked 12th nationally in a preseason poll, will also lose their share of television revenue generated by 1993 regular-season telecasts, estimated to be $1.4 million.

Among the more serious violations was an alleged scheme in which a Los Angeles businessman provided players with summer jobs requiring little or no work. These and other infractions were first made public in The Times after a three-month investigation.

James, 60, was considered the dean of Pac 10 coaches and is the winningest coach in Washington history with a 153-57-2 record. He has taken the team to postseason bowl games 13 of the last 14 years.

"I have decided I can no longer coach in a conference that treats its players and coaches so unfairly," James said in a statement.

"We have suffered for nearly 10 months from media character assassination. By looking at the penalties, it appears we are all guilty, based in large part upon statements of questionable witnesses."

Jim Lambright, the team's defensive coordinator, will assume James' duties until the school decides on a new coach. James was unavailable for comment.

Athletic Director Barbara Hedges said she tried to talk James out of his decision Saturday night when she first told him what Pac 10 officials had recommended.

"But he said to me: 'Barbara, I am at peace with myself. I don't have the energy to fight this," Hedges said in Seattle on Sunday evening. "And my decision stands."

In addition to the loss of television money and being banned from postseason play, Washington also loses as many as 10 football scholarships during both the 1994-95 and the 1995-96 academic years.

The penalties are some of the stiffest ever given by the conference and serve as the final chapter in an eight-month ordeal in which allegations of NCAA rules violations surfaced from newspaper reports.

After a lengthy examination, the Pac 10 said Washington boosters violated NCAA rules on dozens of occasions.

The penalties were announced in Millbrae by the Pac 10 Council, a group of athletic program officials and faculty representatives from all conference schools. The sanctions were ratified Sunday morning by the Pac 10's chief executive officers during a 2 1/2-hour conference telephone call.

University officials said Sunday that they had expected some sanctions, but Hedges said she was "shocked and stunned" by the severity of the punishment.

"We believe the penalties are too harsh and unwarranted in this case," Hedges said in Millbrae on Sunday morning.

She said the sanctions set a standard that is "almost unheard of in the NCAA," adding that Washington expected a lighter sentence because school officials cooperated with Pac 10 investigators during the process.

"We do not believe we received any credit for the corrective actions that we undertook," she said. "On a daily basis, we were taking corrective actions."

University President William P. Gerberding said in a statement: "Whether one considers the penalties imposed by the conference to be appropriate or fair is a matter of individual judgment. I do not."

Citing other infraction cases, Gerberding told the Pac 10 Council that the sanctions are among the most severe ever imposed on an institution. He mentioned a recent case involving Auburn University as an example.

The NCAA last week hit Auburn with a two-year probation and a one-year forfeiture of TV money for paying players, but unlike Washington, that case involved the coaching staff as well.

"I think penalties we have to live by now are far too severe for the things that were wrong," said Andy Mason, a senior who is an outside linebacker. "The wrongdoings were minor in a lot of people's eyes and don't compare to a lot of other institutions."

James O'Fallen, Pac 10 Council faculty representative from the University of Oregon, said officials did not consider the Auburn case in making their decision.

Pac 10 President Tom Hansen said the reaction by Washington officials was not surprising because of the impact on the program. The football team is an institution in Seattle, and its weekly triumphs and defeats are as important to the city as any local political issue.

In recent years, Washington has successfully attracted some of Southern California's best players, and, in the process, built one of the country's strongest college football programs.

"This will affect the school for a long time," Hedges said. "We are going to have to live with the consequences."

Conference officials found violations in six major areas:

* Improper employment of football and basketball players by boosters during summers and holidays.

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