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Heath Hotzler, Published June 24 2009

NCAA fines MSUM for "lack of institutional control" regarding incident with wrestler

The NCAA publicly reprimanded the Minnesota State University Moorhead athletic department for lack of institutional control on Tuesday, fining the school $1,000 for an incident at a Houston hotel during the national championships in March.

A Dragons wrestler, who was at the tournament as a spectator and was not part of the team’s official travel party, was arrested for public intoxication during the early morning hours of March 15 at the Hyatt Regency in Houston, according to MSUM athletic director Doug Peters.

Charges were dropped within 24 hours and no charge of student misconduct has been brought forward against the athlete by MSUM’s judicial affairs office, Peters said.

His scholarship was not renewed for next season, Peters said. However, the athlete could still compete for the team.

“The simple bottom line is that we had a kid down there on spring break get arrested for public intoxication in an almost near-riot atmosphere,” Peters said. “… In my opinion, being penalized for lack of institutional control for the behavior of one student-athlete who was not part of our travel party doesn’t seem to be the punishment that fits the crime.”

The NCAA announced Tuesday that five student-athletes, an assistant coach, a volunteer assistant coach and a donor from several universities have been penalized with private reprimands or fines for the incident. The NCAA assessed a total of $4,000 in fines.

The MSUM athlete, and a volunteer assistant coach, an assistant coach and a donor from other schools, were arrested for public intoxication, according to the NCAA. Others not from MSUM were cited for unruly behavior and property damage. Peters said MSUM was not cited or fined for property damage to the hotel.

MSUM, Nebraska-Omaha, Findlay, Upper Iowa and Newberry received public letters of reprimand from the NCAA.

Three other schools were privately reprimanded.

The Hyatt Regency housed members of several wrestling, track and field and swimming teams from various schools competing at winter championships in Houston, including teams from MSUM, Peters said.

Peters said police were called to the hotel due to a wild party atmosphere in the hallways.

“In the past we’ve had a solid reputation,” said MSUM wrestling coach Keenan Spiess, who referred all questions about the incident to Peters.

Division II Championships Committee chair David Riggins said similar behavior in the future could result in suspension from postseason competition without warning.

Peters said the fine will be taken from the athletic department budget, which was approximately $3.1 million in 2007-08.

MSUM received a letter from the NCAA about the penalties on May 1, Peters said. The school had until June 1 to appeal.

Peters said he was notified on Monday that MSUM lost its appeal of the $1,000 fine.

“Obviously, if you are getting arrested you have put yourself in a bad situation,” Peters said. “And hopefully we can use this as a teachable moment for our student-athletes about the situations they put themselves in and how they conduct themselves regardless of if they are part of our official travel party or they are out there on their own.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562.

Hotzler’s blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com