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NCAA stings St. Mary’s with four years probation

College athletics are, in theory, a mix of a quality education and competition.

Unfortunately, corruption and scandal seem to arise all too frequently in college sports, with the latest black eye right here in our backyard.

The NCAA placed St. Mary’s basketball on four years of probation Friday after an investigation found head basketball coach Randy Bennett failed to monitor “unethical behavior” by a former assistant coach in recruiting prospects to the program:

“The head coach’s violations occurred because he knew that impermissible conditioning and practice sessions were conducted by two individuals not employed by the institution.”

The NCAA report revolves around “unethical conduct” by an unnamed “former assistant coach” who became director of men’s basketball operations in 2008 and left the institution in August 2009.

Violations include providing athletic apparel and equipment to international recruits, providing no-cost travel arrangements to recruits, and failure by head coach Bennett to “monitor and promote an atmosphere for compliance” with NCAA bylaws.

As part of a package of sanctions against the university, Bennett was suspended for St. Mary’s first five games conference next season, scholarships will be cut from 13 to 11 in 2014-15 and 2015-16, and St. Mary’s will be restricted from touring abroad for the next four seasons.

Bennett helped St. Mary’s College in Moraga gain national attention for the success of the men’s basketball program. Since Bennett became head coach in 2001, he has guided the school to four NCAA Tournament appearances.

In his first year, Bennett gained recognition for recruiting Australian Adam Caporn from the Australian Institute of Sport. The team improved from 9-20 in his first season to 25-9 just three years later and St. Mary’s first appearance in the big dance in seven years.

After Caporn, Bennett recruited other Australians, with the most notable including Patty Mills, Mickey McConnell and 2012 West Coast Conference Player of the Year, Matthew Dellavadova.

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