NCAA asks Ball State to review possible rules violations

By The Associated Press

MUNCIE, Ind. – Former Ball State basketball coach Ronny Thompson’s attorney denies that the coach committed any rules violations as alleged by the NCAA in a letter to university officials.

The NCAA asked Ball State officials to investigate new accusations surrounding the men’s basketball program, including an allegation that the women’s volleyball coach was fired for reporting suspected infractions.

The latest allegations were outlined in a letter from the NCAA dated two days before Thompson’s resignation on July 13, following a 9-22 record in his one season at Ball State. School officials said then Thompson and his staff broke NCAA rules by attending voluntary offseason workouts in both 2006 and 2007, then lied about their involvement this May.

Washington-based attorney Matthew Keiser said Thompson, the son of former Georgetown coach John Thompson, did not resign over those self-reported secondary violations.

“No NCAA Division I coach would quit their job over a secondary violation,” Keiser told The Associated Press on Monday night. “In fact, Ronny’s letter to the university stated he had been subject to a racially hostile work environment and that they had made conditions so intolerable that he couldn’t continue to work there.”

Messages seeking comment regarding Keiser’s remarks were left late Monday for Ball State athletics department officials.

School officials have said they were investigating the source of notes slipped under the office doors of Thompson and other staff members in June that included racial slurs along with “cheaters” and “liars.”

The NCAA’s letter seeks additional investigation by the school into other suspected violations involving Thompson and his staff. The Star Press first reported Monday on the letter, which it obtained under an open-records request to the school.

The allegations described by the NCAA include that:

– Thompson may have provided financial assistance to someone involved with a basketball player at another university whom the coach was recruiting to transfer to Ball State.

– The possible recruiting violation was brought to the attention of associate athletics director Pat Quinn, who tried to investigate before being reprimanded by athletic director Tom Collins for pursuing the matter.

– Thompson provided Nike shoes to athletes as a reward for improved grades, which could be considered an extra benefit.

The letter also said the NCAA had been told that Ball State President Jo Ann Gora directed Collins to fire women’s volleyball coach Randy Litchfield after 18 seasons on Thompson’s request.

“It was reported that Thompson’s request and Litchfield’s termination were in response to NCAA violations by the men’s basketball coaching staff that Litchfield’s staff reported to the institution,” the letter said.

Last month, Litchfield filed a notice with Ball State that he intended to file a lawsuit over his firing, which a school attorney denied was linked to the basketball staff investigation.

Collins said the school has hired a Kansas City law firm to handle the NCAA’s request and that he hoped the allegations would not hinder the search for a new basketball coach.

“We want to get to the bottom of it,” he said. “And as quickly as we can get answers, we’ll get them back to the NCAA.”