Track’s privileges renewed as NCAA restrictions set to expire

Recruiting and competition restrictions placed on the track and field program two years ago will come to an end Saturday as the team’s probation period ends.The team was put on probation for a series of NCAA violations, which centered on monetary and academic help given to track members and recruits.

Former head coach Monte Stratton, who was head coach during the team’s violations, instructed three former assistant coaches to assist prospects with entrance essays.

Coaches also made a large number of payments to assist track members with the costs of moving into off-campus housing, and provided prospective athletes with cash, merchandise, entertainment and airline tickets, according to NCAA Division I Committee of Infractions.

Stratton was released when the violations were discovered.

NCAA restrictions included a 20 percent scholarship reduction, a 25 percent reduction in official visits by male prospects, a reduced number of off-campus recruiters and a budget decrease. As of Saturday, these will no longer be in effect.

Sprinter Adam Benz said he believes the probation has influenced athletes’ decisions on whether or not to join the TCU track team.

“I’ve known some people on the team who thought about not going to TCU because of the probation, and they chose kind of last minute.”

The team as a whole will be able to compete in postseason competition again. Only individuals were allowed to compete in the past two seasons while the team was on probation.

Head coach Darryl Anderson, who has been in charge of the team since the probation began, said the lift of the probation not only benefits the team from recruiting and postseason standpoints, but finally releases the team of the stigma that the probation has caused.

Anderson said throughout the probation the team has maintained a high level of play, which he said should improve with the loss of restrictions.

“Performances have stayed respectable, but in the long run you get the funding back and the ability to go and do everything you normally could,” Anderson said.

Distance runner Steven Solazzo was a member of the team when it first was put on probation. He said when it happened there was an uncertainty with the team and how severely the penalties would put it back.

“There’s going to be some catch up as far as recruiting,” Anderson said.

Solazzo said the team should now have the ability to obtain more talented athletes, and he expects improvement in the near future.

Anderson said the team goals have never changed due to the probation and remain the same this season.

“Typical TCU expectations,” Anderson said. “We’d like to be in the top 20, and ideally, we’d like to be in the top 10 nationally.”

Benz said he did not think the end of the probation would have much effect on this season.

“We’ll still be working as hard as usual,” Anderson said. “Overall, we’re just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

In order to ensure that a repeat of the infractions does not occur, Anderson said he and his staff will hold one another accountable to stay in compliance with protocol.