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NCAA reinstates three WVU players after rules violations

| Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2002

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The NCAA has reinstated three West Virginia basketball players who accepted free meals, lodging and transportation before signing to play for the school.

An internal investigation of possible rules violations among Mountaineers players concluded in June that the unidentified players had roomed with WVU student-athletes and eaten at a campus dining hall in June 2001.

Athletic director Ed Pastilong declared four athletes ineligible to play after submitting his report to the NCAA, but he immediately asked for the reinstatement of three. Approval from the NCAA Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee was announced Tuesday.

Only former point guard Jonathan Hargett will not return to the team this fall. Hargett, a native of Richmond, Va., took summer courses at WVU and is enrolled for the fall semester, but he is not on the team's roster.

Athletic department spokesman Bryan Messerly would not discuss Hargett's status or confirm that he has been removed from the team. He acknowledged, however, the team's current Web site information is correct; Hargett is not listed as a player.

Messerly would not identify the other three players involved in the rules violations, citing legal concerns for their privacy.

The NCAA may not respond to other aspects of WVU's report for as long as two months, Messerly said.

"This was the first priority, to get these guys eligible before school starts Monday," he said. Although team practices don't begin until October, the three players can now attend team meetings and go through individual workouts with coaches and trainers.

"I have been confident that the pending issues would be resolved as quickly as possible, and they were," coach John Beilein said. "Now, it's time to put these issues behind us and move on with a fresh start."

The investigation began in mid-April when Bowling Green coach Dan Dakich, who briefly accepted a job as WVU's head coach, discovered a possible rules violation. He quit a week later.

Hargett publicly acknowledged he was the target of the investigation, which centered on his amateur status, but he repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

The WVU report, which did not name the player in question, said only that the athlete was introduced to an unidentified "mentor" who reportedly provided financial assistance to the athlete and his mother.

The mentor apparently hoped to become the player's agent if he turned pro, the report said. The money was an incentive to hire the mentor's company as an investment and financial adviser.

The amount of money that changed hands has not been disclosed, but Pastilong said it was enough that the athlete "should have realized there was a violation taking place."

WVU found no evidence that any current or former school employee knew of the financial arrangement.

The other three players were targeted for secondary violations that are unlikely to generate additional punishment for them or the school. Two athletic department employees who offered car rides to prospective players will not be disciplined, either.

While offering even brief, local transportation to an athlete is technically a violation, the circumstances at WVU do not merit punishment, Pastilong said. The matter was included in the June report out of an abundance of caution.

"Everything we found, we put in," he said.

Still, he added, "There are small things that may be construed as a violation that we have to be more conscious of."

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