This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Chagrin. Anger. Disappointment.
Those have been the primary emotions making the rounds in the Brigham Young athletic department during recent weeks, following the disclosure that the NCAA has sanctioned the Cougars' men's volleyball program for the second time in three years.
BYU long had taken pride in the school's virtually spotless record when it came to steering clear of NCAA entanglements. But the slate was smudged in early 2008 when the men's volleyball team was penalized for improper recruiting, and it was muddied again earlier this month when the Cougars were tagged once again for handing out improper benefits to players.
The cumulative fallout: Two coaches lost their jobs, scholarships were reduced and players were suspended. And the school got a public relations black eye.
"We're disappointed in the program," BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said. "Certainly, every program makes mistakes, but not intentional and not major mistakes. It's been hard on us."
The NCAA fallout also has brought closer scrutiny, and threatens to color a program that has traditionally been a source of pride. With three national championships and several national runner-up finishes to its credit the last coming in 2004 the Cougar men's volleyball program has long been considered a part of the sport's elite.
So how did this happen? Especially to a school that offers coaches rewards for high compliance marks as well as on-field success?
"For sure, there's some embarrassment," said Joe Hillman, a member of the 2004 championship team and current assistant coach at Salt Lake Community College. "The first time it happens, you're more sad. We'd go to practice every day to do everything we could within the rules to win."
Hillman disputes any notion of a laissez-faire attitude within the program, any deliberate absence of direction or the sense that the Cougar men's volleyball program is somehow different than other BYU teams because it is largely made up of California-based players.
"It didn't matter if you're LDS or not, or a California LDS or not," Hillman said. "Some people hide well. … We were investigated all the time."
While any NCAA sanction is troubling, this second violation comes as BYU remains under penalty for the first sanctions which will end in March.
And the NCAA findings have taken more than a little gleam off what is expected to be another run at a national championship.
Still, the team has gotten off to a good start the Cougars won their first eight matches, before dropping a pair at Stanford last weekend even without four suspended players sitting out matches in different stretches. Given that, Holmoe is confident the program will recover its footing, though he says BYU will scrutinize every move made by coaches, players and boosters from here on out.
The Cougars themselves are simply relieved to be moving forward.
"It's nice to get this out of the way," said interim coach Rob Nielson. "It's been a learning experience."
Holmoe last August fired fourth-year Cougar volleyball coach Shawn Patchell when allegations initially surfaced about the improper use of scholarship money. Eventually, the NCAA found four Cougar players Ryan Boyce, BJ Hiapo, Joe Kauliakamoa and Russell Lavaja received improper benefits.
Patchell did not return calls seeking comment.
In 2008, BYU was placed on three years probation and lost a partial scholarship for major and secondary violations of recruiting rules, including an alleged payment by a booster of more than $20,000. BYU coach Tom Peterson was forced to resign in 2006 for "failure to monitor the men's volleyball program."
Peterson, who began coaching at BYU in 2003, said in a statement through his attorney that the violations were "technical" and not "unethical."
Certainly, BYU's violations pale in comparison to other men's volleyball scofflaws. Both the University of Hawaii and Lewis (Ill.) University were stripped of their NCAA titles in 2002 and 2003, respectively, for using professionals. And, some believe that BYU caught a break from the NCAA for self-policing in both cases.
Still, the cost has been high.
"It's hard when you see someone you care a lot about, who has invested a lot of years, having these issues," former BYU assistant and current U.S. women's coach Hugh McCutcheon said of Patchell.
Yet, he notes, there are lessons here to be learned: "Coaches need to do due diligence."
Men's volleyball is unique among NCAA sports in that it does not have tiered structure. Schools in Division I, II and III play together. BYU competes in the highly-regarded the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, which includes Div. II San Diego, as well as schools from the Pac-10, Big West and West Coast conferences.
Like other nonrevenue sports, men's volleyball has limited scholarships 4.5 scholarships per team. Rarely does an athlete receive a full scholarship. More often, scholarships are divided between many players. Patchell was apparently too creative.
"The sport is underfunded," said McCutcheon, who also coached the U.S. men to the gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Games. "They're trying to do a lot with a little. Ours is a small sport and easy for the NCAA to make an example."
Holmoe is not complaining, though.
"The NCAA has been very fair with us," he said. "Every school has the same issue. Some schools tier their scholarships. We are fully funded in all of our sports. Some schools spend less."
Spike of trouble
In January of 2011, the NCAA found that four BYU men's volleyball players received improper benefits. Ryan Boyce and BJ Hiapo had to sit out the first three Mountain Pacific Sports Federation matches of the year. Joe Kauliakamoa and Russell Lavaja were forced to miss a match on January 7. Coach Shawn Patchell was fired.
Earlier, in March 2008, the NCAA penalized the BYU men's volleyball program with a three-year probation and loss of a half of a scholarship from 4.5 to 4 for major and secondary violations of recruiting rules. Two Cuban defectors, former BYU player Yosleyder Cala and another who never played at the school, received benefits that included transportation, housing, meals, employment, cash and clothing.
Coach Tom Peterson was forced to resign.