Originally published on January 30.
The University of Arizona swimming & diving program has been put on a two-year probation and docked a women’s scholarship over NCAA violations committed by former diving coach Omar Ojeda.
The infractions occurred between January and September of 2017, under former head coach Rick DeMont. Per the NCAA’s report, the violations center on an international women’s diving prospect. Ojeda had known the prospect and her family for “many years and had previously coached the prospect in her home country.” The diver didn’t yet meet academic requirements to join the Arizona diving team, but moved to Tucscon, Arizona in January 2017 with plans to study English and improve her test scores ahead of her enrollment at the University of Arizona that fall.
The report says Ojeda arranged for the diver to live with Arizona boosters for eight months, and that the boosters didn’t require her to pay rent. Ojeda and the boosters also provided transportation for her to train with Ojeda in diving. The NCAA found that Ojeda conducted “approximately 192 impermissable tryouts of the prospect over the course of 120 days.”
DeMont, the head coach of swimming & diving at the time, said he wasn’t aware that the diver was living with boosters or training with Ojeda, but was still responsible for the violations. DeMont retired in July of 2017 and Ojeda was not retained as the school’s diving coach.
The NCAA sanctioned Arizona with the following:
- A two-year probation from January 2019 to January 2021
- A loss of one women’s swimming & diving scholarship for the 2020-2021 academic year
The school also sanctioned the program itself before the NCAA’s ban was handed down. The report says Arizona suspended off-campus recruiting and unofficial visits for three weeks, beginning on December 10, 2018. The school also reduced the program’s official visits by five for the 2018-2019 academic year, a reduction of 10.8% from the average number of visits in previous years. Finally, the school self-imposed a $5,000 fine.
DeMont and Ojeda are no longer with the Arizona program. Augie Busch took over the program in July of 2017. The Wildcats had some turmoil in hiring a diving coach after parting ways with Ojeda, hiring John Appleman, then rescinding their offer when he was temporarily suspended by USA Diving, then hiring Dwight Dumais even though Appleman’s suspension was lifted.
During a period of probation, the teams are still allowed to compete, but have to meet a certain heightened set of compliance standards to demonstrate their commitment to the rules. Any further violations during the probationary period could result in an extension of the probationary period or additional, more severe penalties.
During the period of probation, Arizona shall:
a. Continue to develop and implement a comprehensive compliance and educational program on NCAA legislation to instruct coaches, the faculty athletics representative, all athletics department personnel and all institutional staff members with responsibility for NCAA recruiting and certification legislation;
b. Submit a preliminary report to the Office of the Committees on Infractions (OCOI) by March 15, 2019, setting forth a schedule for establishing this compliance and educational program;
c. File with the OCOI annual compliance reports indicating the progress made with this program by December 15 during each year of probation. Particular emphasis shall be placed on Arizona’s rules education related to Bylaw 13 recruiting inducement and tryout legislation;
d. Inform swimming and diving prospects in writing that Arizona is on probation for two years and detail the violations committed. If a prospect takes an official paid visit, the information regarding violations, penalties and terms of probation must be provided in advance of the visit. Otherwise, the information must be provided before a prospect signs an NLI; and
e. Publicize specific and understandable information concerning the nature of the violations by providing, at a minimum, a statement to include the types of violations and the affected sports program and a direct, conspicuous link to the public infractions decision located on the athletic department’s main webpage “landing page” and in the media guides for the affected sports program. Arizona’s statement must: (i) clearly describe the violations; (ii) include the length of the probationary period associated with the case; and (iii) give members of the general public a clear indication of what happened in the case to allow the public (particularly prospects and their families) to make informed, knowledgeable decisions. A statement that refers only to the probationary period with nothing more is not sufficient.
The NCAA says that probation applies to the entire athletics department. They would not comment on whether the self-imposed recruiting restrictions applied to the men’s and women’s program, or just the women’s program, but deferred to Arizona because they were self-imposed. Arizona declined to give any further transparency to the self-imposed sanctions besides what was in the report.