Remember Mike Slive’s dream to have every SEC school off probation? Yeah, that dream is dead. Alabama, LSU, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Auburn have all tangled with NCAA issues in the last two years. Today South Carolina became the latest SEC school to receive an NCAA notice of allegations. South Carolina published that document here. In it the NCAA alleges that ten Gamecock football players received reduced rate suites at Columbia’s Whitney Hotel for just $14.59 a night. Those hotel room stays occurred from May 2009 to October 2010 and the NCAA alleges that a cumulative total of $47,000 in improper benefits were received.
Based on the allegations South Carolina was also hit with the dreaded failure to monitor charge which could spell significant penalties for the Gamecock football program. What would those penalties be? Certainly lost scholarships and potentially, based on the dates in question, vacated victories from the 2009 season as well.
But that’s not all Kevin Lahn, who you can read about here, and Steve Gordon, two men classfied as representatives of the institution’s athletic interests, aka boosters, are accused of providing improper benefits to prospective South Carolina athletes. While the athletes’ names are blocked out, we know that at least one of the players, Damiere Byrd has been suspended for the first four games of the season and ordered to repay $2,700 in improper benefits.
Lahn, a former manager of the Gamecocks basketball team told My Alumni Website, “I take every loss personally.” Lahn also told the same website that the Gamecocks victory in Knoxville was “about one of the best days of my life.”
Lahn and Gordon, the president and the treasurer respectively, have founded the Student Athlete Mentoring Foundation which the NCAA is investigating. The organization exists, according to the website linked in the previous sentence, to provide additional education benefits to prospective student athletes.
According to the AP article on Byrd linked above, “(Steve) Gordon said SAM has 18 student-athletes at 17 colleges and that the NCAA has ‘interviewed a lot of our kids.’ Gordon declined to identify the other student-athletes, but said the foundation has ‘been under investigation since October.'”
We already know that Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd was another of the players implicated in the Kevin Lahn, Steve Gordon improper benefits mess. Floyd served a two-game suspension for receiving improper benefits. But that may just be the beginning.
In the meantime, Gamecock hotel stays represent a substantial collection of improper benefits.
The Whitney Hotel, which you can check out here, gave the Gamecock players quite a deal at $14.59 a night for a two-bedroom suite. The public rate if you attempt to book a two-bedroom suite for an evening is $126 a night.
Somehow the NCAA decided that a normal rate for a stay of this length was $56 a night. So the improper benefit was the difference between $56 and $14.59 or $41.30 a night multiplied by the number of nights the football players stayed there, around 1140 nights total.
But if the NCAA based the improper benefit on what you or I would have been paying then this $47,000 in improper benefits would quickly run up to roughly $100,000 in improper benefits.
What does all this mean? Based on the dates it would appear that South Carolina’s 2009 football season may be vacated. But more importantly, if there are 17 colleges involved with SAM, how many other names may emerge? And how many scholarships is this going to cost the Gamecocks?
It’s just the latest mess associated with the NCAA’s original sin — classifying athletes as amateurs.