LUBBOCK, Texas – The NCAA put Texas Tech on two years of probation Friday for a series of recruiting violations, saying 16 coaches or assistants sent nearly 1,000 impermissible text messages to football, softball and golf prospects.
The NCAA said the school discovered the violations and reported them. It did not add punishments beyond the school's self-imposed probation, recruiting restrictions and scholarship reductions.
The football violations occurred between August 2007 and February 2009 under former coach Mike Leach, the NCAA said. Members of the football staff sent 234 text messages to 45 recruits, with Leach sending nine of them, according to the report compiled by the Division I Committee on Infractions.
Leach, fired in December 2009 amid allegations he mistreated a player suffering from a concussion, told The Associated Press the football program "fully cooperated" with the inquiry. After signing day in one of the years involved in the infractions, coaches were allowed to call, he said.
"Our staff didn't understand that they weren't allowed to text," Leach said.
The NCAA report quotes Leach as saying he never deliberately sent text messages to recruits and that all the messages from his phone were inadvertent because he didn't know, or pay attention to, who sent them.
"Somebody would say 'Merry Christmas' and I would say 'Merry Christmas' back or I would get, 'Nice win against A&M' and I would reply 'Thanks,'" he said.
The NCAA said Texas Tech football, golf and softball coaches sent 951 text messages to 61 recruits and one parent. Golf coaches sent 399 messages and softball coaches sent 293.
Many of the coaches tied to the infractions told the NCAA they knew sending the messages wasn't permitted and that university rules covered that area.
"Obviously, some of our coaches and former coaches made mistakes, but we have a strong monitoring system in place and coaches who believe in doing the right thing," athletic director Gerald Myers said.
Tommy Tuberville, who replaced Leach, noted in a statement that the violations occurred before he arrived. He added that the program is "glad to have this behind us."
Although the committee said head coaches in golf and softball failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance, it didn't find that the university exhibited a lack of institutional control. The committee said the case was the 13th it has adjudicated in the last three years involving either phone or text message violations.
The school has completed most of the penalties it agreed to with the NCAA.
This was the institution's third major infractions case. In 1998, the school was placed on four years' probation for rules violations tied to academic fraud and using ineligible athletes. In 1987, the university was put on a year's probation for violating recruiting rules, including cash offers to athletes.
Texas Tech discovered the latest violations in February 2009, conducted its own investigation and imposed a series of sanctions that were endorsed by the committee.
The penalties on the football program included the loss of a football scholarship from its overall total of 85.
In addition to Leach, nine former Texas Tech assistant coaches and a recruiting secretary sent text messages to recruits, the NCAA said.
One of the former football assistants sent 123 texts to 18 recruits, according to the NCAA. The coach, who wasn't identified, told the NCAA he primarily sent the messages when he didn't have cell phone service. He also said many texts were initiated to arrange times to phone recruits and provide information.
Leach is suing Texas Tech over his termination and has filed suit against ESPN for the network's coverage of his dismissal. The player Leach allegedly mistreated, Adam James, is the son of ESPN college football analyst Craig James.
Associated Press writer Danny Robbins in Dallas contributed to this report.