Oklahoma basketball: Probation hasn't affected Sooners much

The clock on penalties levied for actions by former assistant coach Oronde Taliaferro and former player Tiny Gallon is almost up.
by Ryan Aber Published: February 18, 2014
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photo - OU coach Lon Kruger, center, knows a win over any conference team, including struggling Oklahoma State, will help OU make a second consecutive NCAA Tournament. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman
OU coach Lon Kruger, center, knows a win over any conference team, including struggling Oklahoma State, will help OU make a second consecutive NCAA Tournament. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

— 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.

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by Ryan Aber
Reporter
Ryan Aber has worked for The Oklahoman since 2006, covering high schools, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the Oklahoma City Barons and OU football recruiting. An Oklahoma City native, Aber graduated from Northeastern State. Before joining The...
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