Saint Mary's Stephen Holt gets by Creighton's Avery Dingman… (Dan Rosenstrauch/Contra…)
It was a dark day for a sleepy little private college east of Oakland on Friday when the NCAA issued severe sanctions against St. Mary's basketball program.
The NCAA Committee on Infractions charged that a former St. Mary's assistant coach acted unethically in the recruitment of international athletes. St. Mary's has risen as a major basketball power thanks in part to a pipeline of talented players from Australia.
The NCAA claims head coach Randy Bennett failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance and suspended the coach for five games next season. Bennett will also be prohibited from recruiting off campus for one year.
St. Mary's also received a four-year probation and a reduction of scholarships from 13 to 11 for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.
St. Mary's issued a press release Friday morning stating it has decided to "accept" the findings of the report but will consider seeking an appeal on the penalties.
"Saint Mary's was founded on principles of integrity, service and Catholic values and we expect all in our community to act according to those values," school President Ronald Gallagher said in a released statement.
Bennett said he was "disappointed" with the NCAA's findings.
"I cooperated fully with the investigation and accepted responsibility where I came up short," he said.
Bennett said the report "tells only part of the story," and vowed to review the report and "consider my options."
Read the NCAA release detailing a complete list of sanctions.
Last year, St. Mary's won the West Coast Conference regular season and tournament for the first time in school history. The Gaels are currently 25-5 overall and 13-2 in WCC play. The Gaels' only two conference losses have been to arch-rival Gonzaga.
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