NORMAN — Oklahoma men's basketball coach Lon Kruger might not have the date circled on his calendar, but Jason Leonard knows the significance of Nov. 9, 2014.
That's the date the Oklahoma athletic department's probation with the NCAA, stemming from men's basketball violations in August 2009, ends.
Leonard, Oklahoma's executive director of athletics compliance, said it's a day to look forward to, though not much will change within the department after that date.
“Obviously it's a milestone to be able to get to the date,” Leonard said. “The last day of the probation is Nov. 9, 2014. In terms of compliance though — in terms of our world — I wouldn't necessarily say that, other than sending in reports and doing some of the requirements under probation, I don't know if our jobs are going to change too much, just because of the world we live in.
“It'll be a neat day on the calendar, but I don't know if it'll necessarily change much in terms of what we do here.”
Kruger was the head coach at UNLV when the violations occurred, though by the time the probation was announced in early November 2011, he was on the job in Norman.
The Sooners were given three years of probation after a financial adviser paid $3,000 to Tiny Gallon and his mother to be used to pay the outstanding balance at Gallon's high school so his transcripts could be released to OU.
Then-assistant coach Oronde Taliaferro learned of the payment shortly after it was made but did not report the payment to then-head coach Jeff Capel, the athletic department or compliance department. Taliaferro also provided misleading information on his knowledge of the payment to both the school and the NCAA.
Tuesday, Kruger said he was unaware the probation was ongoing. The initial punishments included scholarships reductions and reductions in recruiting days and visits, though those punishments were in effect for just Kruger's first season, the 2011-12 academic year.
“I haven't thought one second about it since we've been here,” Kruger said. “I didn't even know we were on. We're going to take care of business the right way and we don't spend time thinking about what if we're on probation or what we have to do to get off because we're going to do it according to the rules and not ever think about it.”
A review of recent secondary violations bears that out. In a list of nearly 50 secondary violations the school self-reported to the NCAA, obtained by The Oklahoman through an open records request, only two involved the men's basketball program.
Kruger mentioned an unsigned recruit by name in an interview during the television broadcast of the Sooners' spring football game in April and an athletic department administrator sent a congratulatory tweet to Kruger and his staff following the commitment of a player who signed that day.
While most of the penalties for Gallon's and Taliaferro's actions were self-imposed, the NCAA added a third year of probation, changed Capel's record for the 2009-10 season, fined the school $15,000 and reduced the recruiting days by 30 to 100 for the 2011-12 academic year. The school initially reduced the number of recruiting days to 120.
All men's basketball recruits must also be informed of the violations committed that led to the probation as well as the probation period in advance of official visits and signing.
“There's been nothing negative at all from that,” Kruger said. “No response. No reaction.”
The school also has to provide the NCAA Committee on Infractions with an Annual Compliance Report by Nov. 1 each year through 2014.
In last year's report, the school outlined programs to educate student-athletes, coaches, staff members, faculty members, alumni, ticket holders, fans, boosters and others on NCAA regulations. That includes the creation of a database of rules education efforts either proactively or in response to an inquiry. Since the data collection was started in June 2007, nearly 4,000 instances have been tracked. The education includes meetings and printed materials.
Some other education efforts includes posters hung throughout athletic venues regarding extra benefits, flat-screen televisions throughout the academic center that are used to convey messages and NCAA rules education, monitoring and reporting of contact between agents and contactable athletes and their families and a letter from Bob Stoops to game day assistants outlining responsibilities, among others.
The school also sent out a mailing to more than 500 Norman-area businesses — including tattoo parlors, clothing stores, car dealerships and service-related businesses, including restaurants — that details applicable rules and regulations regarding benefits to athletes.
“The Department continues to make significant progress toward the University's overall goal of a ‘state of the art' compliance operation capable of maintaining institutional control,” Leonard wrote in the summary of the report. “Considering the nature of college athletics today, we must continue to expand the scope of our rules education and monitoring efforts as it is imperative that we remain diligent in this area.”