Utah Baseball Coach Faces NCAA Penalty

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Copyright 2017 The Deseret News Publishing Co.

Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)


SALT LAKE CITY - Utah baseball coach Bill Kinneberg could miss a couple of games next season after the university self-reported an undisclosed rules violation and submitted a penalty recommendation to the NCAA.

Although Utah athletics director Chris Hill declined to give specifics, he did say it wasn't about academics, funding or recruiting. Hill then noted that Kinneberg "will be sitting out a few games."

A final verdict will be rendered by the NCAA. Hill, however, said it will not include any suspensions for players.

The violation was discovered in the midst of an independent investigation of the Utah baseball program brought forth after the athletics department received a letter from the parent of a student athlete who was injured after getting hit in the face by a baseball.

 The letter included several allegations concerning the safety and well-being of student-athletes and was forwarded to the university's general counsel, who secured the national law firm Bond, Schoeneck & King PLLC for the investigation with its specialized Collegiate Sports Practice Group. The latter assists schools with investigations involving issues with the NCAA such as compliance, conduct and eligibility.

The investigation report released to the university on Oct. 27 found no evidence to several concerns raised in the letter to the athletics department. Those allegations included the incorrect use of, or faulty, equipment; an alleged drug-abuse problem involving baseball student-athletes; a former baseball staff member allegedly requested prescription medicine from student-athletes; and an alleged culture of partying or other inappropriate conduct by student-athletes at away-from-home contests.

 Other issues included:

- The alleged failure of full-time staff to accompany and transport an injured baseball student-athlete to medical care. 

- The report noted that "on one occasion after an injured student-athlete had been treated and stabilized by the athletics training staff, a student-manager (who was also the roommate of the injured student-athlete) transported the student-athlete a short distance to the closest emergency room to receive additional medical care."

- An allegation that a coach asked a student manager to perform duties outside the scope of typical duties.

"On approximately three occasions, the head baseball coach asked a student manager (who was 21 years old) to purchase beer for the head coach."

- Alleged alcohol misuse by coaches at away-from-home contests. 

"A baseball staff member admitted that he and another baseball staff member were intoxicated on occasion at away-from-home contests in the privacy of their hotel room. Coaches also engage in social drinking while on the road. However, we found no evidence that coaches were intoxicated in public or around student-athletes. We also found no evidence that a coach's use of alcohol while traveling ever threatened the safety and well-being of student-athletes or prevented the coaches from performing their job functions." 

The investigation summary also includes four recommendations: 

* Making it policy that a full-time athletics department member transport, accompany or be present when a student-athlete requires emergency care at a hospital or medical facility. 

 * Having the baseball program ensure that adequate supervision is given and a curfew enforced on games away from home.

* Additional education for coaches regarding athletics department policies on alcohol use on games away from home.

* An evaluation of the scholarship relinquishment process. Should the university's student-athleteadvocate be involved in discussions with student-athletes in terms of rights involving NCAA rules and the university's financial aid process prior to voluntarily giving up athletics aid?

Hill discussed the findings with the media Monday afternoon. Kinneberg issued a statement.

"Student-athlete safety, development and success - both on and off the field - has always and will be my top priority and the top priority of the program," Kinneberg said. "I trust the university and the process as we move forward in addressing the concerns."

Kinneberg has been Utah's baseball coach since 2005. He guided the Utes to the Pac-12 championship in 2016.

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