More than one-quarter of Iowa State University’s self-reported NCAA violations in the last two years have come from the wrestling program, with several dealing with prohibited support for the Cyclone Regional Training Center.
USA Regional Training Centers, such as the Hawkeye Wrestling Club in Iowa City, have been the focus of scrutiny in recent years because although the centers are places for high school and college wrestlers to train with former U.S. Olympic and World competitors, they also are informal pipelines to affiliated universities.
“This is definitely a hot-button issue across the nation,” said Kurt Hunsaker, compliance director for the ISU Athletics Department. “I’m on a national committee that is discussing Regional Training Centers and how we can encourage growth in wrestling for USA wrestling, but also make sure we’re following NCAA rules.”
The Gazette requested a list of NCAA violations ISU, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa reported to the Iowa Board of Regents for 2017-2018 and 2018-2019. ISU and UNI provided both years’ reports, while the UI said the most recent report isn’t complete yet.
The UI still hasn’t disclosed to the public the “significant” and “serious” NCAA violation that caused volleyball coach Bond Shymansky to be put on paid leave for 30 days starting May 20. That suspension is scheduled to end next week.
ISU wrestling had nine self-reported violations in the two-year period ending in May. This was of a total 33 for ISU overall.
In August 2017, the Big 12 Conference alerted Hunsaker’s office about a wrestling newsletter that promoted a fundraiser for the Cyclone Regional Training Center. The NCAA doesn’t allow universities to support local sports clubs.
Two months later, in October 2017, ISU wrestling again mentioned the Regional Training Center’s fundraising goals in its newsletter, according to a second violation. Also during that time, in September 2017, a volunteer ISU wrestling coach who also coaches at the training center, impermissibly tweeted about a training center event.
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When Kevin Dresser, who wrestled for the Hawkeyes in the 1980s and had been coach at Virginia Tech, was named ISU’s head wrestling coach in 2017, he made clear having a Regional Training Center was part of his plan to help the Cyclones win more, according to a Feb. 23, 2017, Des Moines Register story.
“Kevin Dresser got here from another institution and was used to doing things in a different way,” Hunsaker told The Gazette. “Kevin has been tremendous and awesome in working with us and trying to fix that.”
ISU compliance has done a lot of education with wrestling staff to know the boundaries between the collegiate program and the training center, even with some overlap of coaches and athletes, Hunsaker said.
The NCAA fined UNI and ISU $10,500 overall for improperly certifying student-athletes for competition.
UNI was fined $500 for each of 10 student-athletes who improperly got credits toward eligibility when they were double majoring. The student-athletes were in five sports, said Ben Messerli, assistant athletics director for compliance. Another $500 fine related to allowing a track student-athlete to compete without being on the roster.
ISU miscertified a transfer student-athlete to participate in track for the 2016-2017 season, resulting in a $5,000 fine.
“Athletics certification is really, really difficult,” Hunsaker said. “For almost any institution, you do have mistakes sometimes. We try to build in double and even triple checks. If one thing gets missed, you can end up with those types of violations.”
Groceries and other violations
l An ISU football player was required to repay the value of grocery delivery to a local charity after the university discovered a tutor delivered groceries to the student-athlete at least five times last year, according to the report. The tutor was fired.
l A UI baseball coach was admonished and had to repay $240 for 12 free tickets he received for the NCAA baseball tournament.
l A dozen NCAA violations at the three schools were related to impermissible use of Twitter or other social media.
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In two cases, athletics staff tweeted about verbally committed recruits, which isn’t allowed. In another situation, a staff member posted video and photos of basketball players in a voluntary practice. Information about these voluntary sessions isn’t supposed to be shared with coaches.
Lyla Clerry, UI associate athletics director for compliance, said some of the violations stem from the evolving nature of social media platforms.
“The NCAA has since tried to adopt various rules, but social media is always changing, with new and different platforms or different capabilities within each platform, it’s hard for the NCAA to have rules in place to respond and keep up.”
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