AMHERST, N.Y. (AP) -- The Buffalo men's basketball program was put on two years' probation by the NCAA on Wednesday for recruiting violations under former coach Tim Cohane.
The NCAA infractions committee ruled the team broke rules on preseason practice, recruiting tryouts, scouting of opponents and in allowing players to make long-distance phone calls for free from the school.
"You never know what goes through someone's head when they're doing this, but it's a clear unmistakable violation," committee chairman Jack Friedenthal said. "One can surmise that when you observe a prospective student athlete in a workout or scrimmage, you as a coach have every reason to know that that's totally improper and, therefore, we're entitled to assume that it's deliberate."
In addition to the probation, which started Wednesday, the NCAA limited Buffalo to eight official paid visits from potential recruits -- down from an average of 10 over the previous four years. The NCAA limit is 12 paid visits.
Probation does not bar the Bulls from postseason play, but forces the school to provide annual reports on steps it's taking to ensure compliance.
Friedenthal added that the committee took into account the numerous sanctions Buffalo imposed on its own last September, including delaying the start of preseason practices by two weeks and cutting from 13 to 12 the number of scholarships for next season.
School president William Greiner called the sanctions fair.
"That that pattern of behavior went on as long as it did undetected is an embarrassment," Greiner said. "There was no excuse. These were not rules that were obscure or difficult to follow."
Greiner added that the school will consider appealing the loss of two more paid visits, after Buffalo imposed a 10-visit limit on its own last year.
Cohane released a statement from his home in Rhode Island, denying any wrongdoing, and urged the school to appeal the decision.
"I am confident that a higher-level appeal will bring more clarity to these issues and that I will be fully vindicated," said Cohane, who coached the team for parts of seven seasons. "Our program was one of the highest integrity, and those who testified otherwise were either biased or manipulated."
Any NCAA school that wants to hire Cohane until December 2002 must petition the NCAA. The rest of his staff in Buffalo resigned by the end of the 1999-2000 season.
Buffalo first learned of the violations from a former player in May 1999, at which point it asked the Mid-American Conference to investigate. The NCAA was then notified of the violations three months later.
The violations occurred from the 1995-96 season through 1999, when Cohane resigned in December.
The committee found that coaching staff members "regularly observed informal scrimmages involving members of the basketball team before the official starting date of practice," which is against NCAA policy.
The committee also ruled that Cohane and other coaches conducted banned tryouts for at least four prospective student-athletes from July 1997 to August 1999.
The university was cited for failing to monitor the use of telephones in the men's basketball office, and not reporting a violation in which an assistant coach was suspended by the school for watching an off-season practice.
"In large part, I think this is a lesson in shortcuts," said coach Reggie Witherspoon, who succeeded Cohane. "I think it's the shortcuts that get you in trouble. It's not going to be easy or quick to build this program, but we're going to do it and we're going to do it the right way."
Buffalo, then a Division III program, committed a major infraction in 1993, too, but the NCAA decided not to subject the school to repeat violator provisions because the two cases are unrelated and came under two coaching staffs.
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