Controversy has reared its ugly head again concerning the Brigham Young University men’s volleyball team. The university confirmed to VBM that the men’s volleyball program has been under an internal review for possible NCAA violations.
“We have completed our internal review on the matter and submitted our findings to the NCAA,” athletic department spokesman Duff Tittle told VBM via e-mail. “At this point we are working with the NCAA to complete the review and resolve any issues as quickly as possible.”
BYU’s internal review was announced at the same time as the dismissal of men’s coach Shawn Patchell.
“We were proactive and have been working closely with the NCAA,” Tittle said.
Rob Neilson, a former BYU player and an assistant coach in the program for the last three years, was named interim head coach. A brief BYU athletic department press release in August stated Patchell, a former player at BYU, had been relieved of his duties at the university effective immediately and that the school was conducting an investigation regarding potential NCAA violations in the men’s volleyball program.
The school has been tight-lipped on the reason for the internal review or if it has anything to do with Patchell’s dismissal. However, the Daily Herald out of Provo, Utah, wrote that a source close to the BYU men’s program indicated one of the violations dealt with the distribution of scholarship money.
The current review marks the second time in three years that the BYU men’s program has been embroiled in NCAA controversy.
In 2008, BYU emerged from an 18-month investigation with penalties (both self-imposed and NCAA-sanctioned) of three years probation, a limit on off-campus recruiting activity, disassociation with a booster and the reduction of the number of available scholarships from 4.5 to 4 after it was discovered impermissible benefits were given to individuals later identified as Cuban transfer and former ASICS/Volleyball All-American Yosleyder Cala (who played at BYU in 2007) and another individual who never enrolled at the school. That controversy coincided with former head coach Tom Peterson’s resignation in 2006. The NCAA ruled BYU and Peterson were found to have “failed to monitor the men’s volleyball program.”
Peterson, in a later lengthy written statement, denied wrongdoing and said he was told in a meeting with BYU administrators to resign or be fired. He said that there had been no attempt to circumvent rules and he had done everything he thought was necessary and appropriate to keep the program in compliance.
Patchell, who led the nation in hitting percentage his junior year at BYU, amassed a 65-24 mark in four seasons at BYU. He was a member of the men’s coaching staff for eight years, including stints as Peterson’s and former coach Carl McGown’s assistant.
Patchell and U.S. Men’s Olympic gold-medalist Ryan Millar (also a BYU alum) were named co-head coaches after Peterson left. When Millar exited to train for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Patchell was named the head coach. Patchell’s final BYU team in 2010 went 22-9 and finished ranked No. 2 in the country.
BYU’s men’s program has won three national titles, the last coming in 2004 under Peterson—a coach that won NCAA men’s titles at two different institutions (he also directed Penn State to the 1994 NCAA crown).
BYU’s 2004 title season also was tinted with controversy when some prominent men’s volleyball coaches questioned the eligibility of several BYU players, who were subsequently cleared to play by the NCAA.
Neilson was BYU’s starting setter during the 2005 and 2006 seasons—he started every match during those two campaigns. Neilson was a member of the 2004 BYU NCAA championship team. He graduated from BYU in 2006.
Tittle indicated a resolution to the situation could come in the near future.
“At this point we are working with the NCAA to complete the review and resolve any issues as quickly as possible,” Tittle said. “We hope to get feedback from the NCAA by the end of the year or early 2011.”
Men’s collegiate volleyball has been no stranger to chicanery in the last decade. Hawaii was forced to vacate the 2002 NCAA men’s title, while NCAA Division II Lewis University was forced to vacate the 2003 NCAA men’s crown. Both programs were found to have used ineligible student-athletes.
BYU recently went 5-0 in a fall round-robin tournament in Las Vegas. The Cougars will return All-American junior middle blocker Futi Tavana and all-MPSF selections Russell Lavaja (MB) and Robb Stowell (RS).
A look at the NCAA controversies that have sullied the men’s college volleyball game in recent years.
2010:BYU announces it’s under internal review for possible NCAA violations, reported to be related to the distribution of scholarships.
2008:BYU emerges from 18-moth investigation with myriad sanctions, both self-imposed and NCAA-sanctioned after it was discovered impermissible
benefits were given to individuals.
2004:BYU investigated for student-athlete eligibility issues. Program is cleared of any wrongdoing by NCAA.
2003:Division II Lewis University forced to vacate 2003 NCAA title because of student-athlete eligibility issues.
2002:Hawaii forced to vacate 2002 NCAA title because of student-athlete
Originally published in February 2011