The coach who took the UAA women's basketball team to unprecedented heights used his own money to help cover housing costs for two players during the 2011-12 season, the NCAA said Friday.
Former head coach Tim Moser, who resigned abruptly and without explanation in the spring of 2012, violated NCAA rules by paying players, the NCAA said in a report summarizing the conclusions and consequences of a year-and-a-half-long investigation.
The NCAA said Moser and volunteer assistant coach Elisha Harris put $7,320 into the bank accounts of two players without the players' knowledge.
UAA confirmed the payments at a press conference Friday.
"This was a terrible mistake by two individuals, and we're doing our level best it doesn't happen again," UAA chancellor Tom Case said.
The violation is one of the biggest in UAA history. It's the third time the school has committed what is called a "major" NCAA violation. The others happened in 1978 and 1984; both involved improper benefits given to members of the men's basketball team.
The penalties against UAA include:
• The loss of roughly three-quarters of a full scholarship for the women's basketball team. Coach Ryan McCarthy said the team's 10 scholarships -- the maximum allowed under NCAA rules -- are currently spread among 15 players; now, the team will make do with 9.26 scholarships for one season.
• The forfeiture of half of the wins from the 2011-12 season. The Seawolves were 30-5 that season and advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division II national tournament.
• A two-year probationary period for the women's basketball team, beginning this month. The Seawolves can still participate in postseason play, but if any more violations happen, sterner punishments will come.
• A $5,000 fine.
• An external audit of the athletic department.
• Public reprimand and censure.
Case called the penalties "very severe."
"We'll take our medicine," he said, but added that the school may appeal some of the sanctions.
The most painful of the punishments, he said, was the scholarship reduction. "We regret our current and future teams will suffer," Case said.
Harris, a former star player under Moser who is now an assistant coach at Salt Lake Community College, on Friday rejected the notion that she and Moser paid players.
"We wrongfully paid a promised scholarship to two players," Harris told the Daily News by phone. "One of these players was a redshirt and the other barely played.
"... This did not help us win a single game that season."
Now a Division I assistant coach at Colorado State, Moser issued a statement Friday through that school. He apologized for his "poor judgment" but said he was trying to do the right thing for the two players.
"I was motivated by the desire to 'do right' by the student-athletes," he said. "I exercised poor judgment in my honest desire to fulfill what had been promised to two student-athletes. The choice I made was wrong, and I fully accept responsibility for having made that decision."
Moser has been suspended from Colorado State's first three conference games next season, did not get a raise this school year and must attends ethics training at his own expense.
According to the NCAA report, Moser on four occasions gave Harris cash to deposit in the bank accounts of two players.
"(A)fter promising the two student-athletes 'full ride' scholarships, but being unable to deliver funds covering a full grant-in-aid, the head coach provided money to the volunteer coach and instructed her to deposit it into the accounts" of the two athletes, the NCAA report said.
Friday's revelations mark the third straight tumultuous spring for the UAA athletic department.
In the spring of 2012, Moser -- who in six seasons guided UAA to a 165-32 record, six Division II tournaments and two Final Fours -- resigned mysteriously. He did not leave to take another job, although he eventually landed at Colorado State, where he is an assistant coach for the women's basketball team.
UAA hired Nathan Altenhofen to replace Moser, but before Altenhofen had even conducted a practice, UAA accepted his resignation for "professional misconduct." Then the school hired McCarthy, who led UAA to the NCAA tournament this season.
Last spring, UAA fired hockey coach Dave Shyiak and two months later, amid furor over the search for a new coach, it fired longtime athletic director Steve Cobb.
Cobb hired Moser and was the athletic director when the violations occurred.
The NCAA investigation began in July 2012, after UAA reported the violations, according to the university. Schools that self-report violations often suggest sanctions too, and in this case UAA's self-imposed sanctions included the probationary period and the external audit.
The NCAA added the other penalties.
UAA athletic director Keith Hackett, in his first year as head of the school's athletic department, said UAA learned of the violation in when one of the players on the receiving end of the money came to an administrator with a question about her scholarship. The player had received a notice from the school describing the size of her scholarship for 2012-13, and it was a decrease from the full ride she believed she had received in 2011-12. When UAA checked, it learned the player had never been on a full ride but believed she was because of the supplemental payments from Moser.
UAA did not identify the player or say if either are still with the team.
McCarthy, who is coming off his second year as the women's basketball coach, said players learned about the violations and penalties Friday morning. He was confident that all of them will stay with the team.
"No one's gonna leave," he said.
Besides the violations committed by Moser and Harris, the NCAA on Friday said that a minor, or secondary, violation involving a booster happened during Moser's tenure. The booster provided transportation, meals and entertainment to players during an East Coast road trip in 2011.
Brad Keithley, an Anchorage lawyer and University of Virginia alum, said he paid for a van to take the Seawolves from their hotel to a tour of the White House and a visit with Alaska's Congressional delegation. Keithley said he also treated the team to dinner at the University of Virginia's Rotunda.
During that road trip, UAA players blogged about Keithley and the favors he did for the team during the road trip. The NCAA discovered the extra benefits, which are prohibited by NCAA rules, in 2013 while investigating the payments to players.
UAA has disassociated Keithley, according to the NCAA. Disassociation prohibits the booster from involvement with athletic department activities.
UAA has committed numerous minor violations over the years, which often result in no sanctions.
The school's most notorious violation came in the early 1980s when it was discovered that for two seasons athletic director Gene Templeton filed false reports about the size and membership of the UAA men's swim team. All of UAA men's teams were declared ineligible for championship participation in 1983-84, a heartbreaking penalty for a hockey team that was 18-1-0 and was poised to go the national tournament.
Reach Beth Bragg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
By BETH BRAGG