Former UVA coach Dave Leitao dinged by NCAA

ncaaFormer UVA basketball coach Dave Leitao, now the head coach at DePaul, has been suspended for the first three games of the 2019-2020 season for failing to monitor his staff after a former associate head coach gave impermissible benefits to a recruit, according to the finding of an NCAA committee.

The program will also be placed on three years of probation for a recruiting violation.

Leitao “did not promote an atmosphere of compliance because three men’s basketball staff members knew about the arrangement but did not report the violation or question whether it was allowable,” according to a release from the NCAA on Tuesday.

The issue involved a recruit who had graduated from high school but had not yet met NCAA initial eligibility requirements.

The report did not name the recruit, but the Chicago Tribune reported that it appears that it was Levi Cook, a 6’10” center from West Virginia who was a four-star recruit in the Class of 2016.

Cook only played one season at DePaul, averaging 2.6 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, before transferring to Marshall.

The report also did not name the coach, but the Tribune report suggests that it was Rick Carter, who was fired after the 2016-2017 season.

According to the release from the NCAA, the former associate head coach arranged for the assistant director of basketball operations on the DePaul staff to live with the prospect. The assistant director of basketball operations did not complete the prospect’s coursework, but he monitored the recruit’s progress, limited his extracurricular activities and ensured tests were taken.

“The student-athlete met eligibility requirements and enrolled at the university. Because the arrangement was an impermissible recruiting benefit, the committee said the student-athlete competed while ineligible. The arrangement also involved impermissible recruiting contact, which caused the men’s basketball program to exceed the number of allowable coaches,” the NCAA release stated.

More from the report:

“The head coach did not promote an atmosphere of compliance because three men’s basketball staff members knew about the arrangement but did not report the violation or question whether it was allowable, according to the committee. Even more troubling to the committee was the director of basketball operations stated he knew the contact was a violation but did not report it because he did not want to be disloyal, cause tension, get in the way of the associate head coach or otherwise hurt his career. He also did not know how to report violations. The committee said the assistant director of basketball operations was also concerned for his future and did not question the associate head coach’s directions. According to the committee, a culture of silence pervaded the program.”

“The head coach did not monitor his staff when he did not actively look for red flags or ask questions about the assistant director of basketball operations’ two-week absence. The committee directed that head coaches must verify — not just trust — that staff members are following the rules. The committee recognized the head coach’s efforts to require staff attendance at compliance meetings and communicate with compliance officials, but it said he needed to do more.

“The membership requires proactive engagement from head coaches as leaders of programs,” the committee said in its decision. “The head coach created an environment where staff members did not report violations or consult with the compliance staff but chose to remain silent. The head coach simply did not ensure a compliant program.”

Leitao coached at UVA for four seasons, from 2005-2009, compiling a 63-60 overall record, and leading the ‘Hoos to one NCAA Tournament appearance, in 2007.

His final season, in 2008-2009, saw Virginia finish 10-18, a campaign that included a home loss to Liberty in November, and a 4-12 mark in ACC play.

Leitao is on his second run at DePaul. His first stint, from 2002-2005, saw the Blue Demons run up a 58-34 record in three seasons.

He returned in 2015, and in four seasons has led DePaul to a 48-82 record, including a 19-17 mark in 2018-2019.

Story by Chris Graham

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