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Numerous NCAA Violations Surface at South Florida

Nov 18, 2009 – 8:42 PM
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Brett McMurphy

Brett McMurphy %BloggerTitle%

TAMPA, Fla. -- The University of South Florida's men's basketball program has violated numerous NCAA rules over the past months, a former USF assistant coach, former USF players and other school sources told FanHouse.

Most of the NCAA violations involve USF video and conditioning assistant Terrelle Woody, who was hired Aug. 26, 2008, in a non-coaching position by USF coach Stan Heath (right) as part of a package deal to guarantee the signing of highly touted Maryland transfer Gus Gilchrist.

The violations include Woody providing transportation to student-athletes, watching "open gyms," coaching players and illegally working out USF players.
Heath, who is 23-41 and in his third season at USF, denied the allegations or said he had no knowledge of them.

"You want to keep nickel and diming him," Heath said. "All this little [crap] ... I don't know what this is all about. It's stupid."

Besides the alleged violations, three current USF players -- Dominique Jones, Anthony Crater and Justin Leemow -- were the primary suspects in the April 2009 theft of nearly $8,000 worth of items stolen from former players Gaby Belardo and Jesus Verdejo, according to a Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office report. The father of one of the victims said he believes that Heath never contacted the police about the burglary to protect the current players. The items have not been recovered and no charges were filed."You want to keep nickel and diming him. All this little [crap] ... I don't know what this is all about. It's stupid."
-- South Florida coach Stan Heath


Among USF's alleged NCAA violations:

-- On May 20, 2009, Woody was providing transportation to Gilchrist when Woody's car was involved in an accident a few miles from campus. Woody and Gilchrist were treated at the University Community Hospital's emergency room in Tampa and discharged that night, said UCH spokesman Will Darnell.

"It was raining," Heath said about that specific instance. "Gus was at the supermarket and didn't have a way home."

But the incident was not isolated. Since arriving at USF, Woody has provided transportation to Gilchrist so frequently around town and to and from campus that USF's players joked that Woody was Gilchrist's "personal valet."

The NCAA allows "reasonable local transportation" to student-athletes, but only on an "occasional" basis.

-- At the end of the 2009 spring semester in late April/early May, Woody provided transportation for Gilchrist by driving him from Tampa to Gilchrist's home in Maryland, USF sources said.

-- Woody also provided transportation for Gilchrist to Orlando, Fla., to attend at least two Orlando Magic games, including Game 4 of the NBA Finals on June 11, 2009, USF sources said. It's unknown how they paid for the tickets.

Heath said he was "not aware" of Woody driving Gilchrist to Maryland or Orlando and said Woody and Gilchrist denied attending any Magic games.

-- On Aug. 25, 2009, a reporter witnessed nine USF players practicing with basketballs in the Sun Dome, while Heath, assistant Jeremy Cox and Woody watched. Coaches may attend workouts once school has begun, but NCAA rules prohibit more than four players in the gym at a time with a basketball until Sept. 15, 2009.

"I never did that," Heath said.

-- A reporter witnessed on three different occasions -- May 6, May 9 and Aug. 24, 2009 -- Woody, sitting near mid-court, watching USF's players participate in "open gym" workouts involving a basketball, which is not allowed under NCAA rules.


Gus Gilchrist

Heath said he was not aware of Woody watching open gym.

-- Between April 2008 and October 2009, out of season, Woody "organized and watched pick-up games" about three times a week, USF sources said. The games also included non-USF players.

"I don't think that's true," Heath said. "Now, he has the ability if other [non-USF] guys are in there to make sure there's no issues, no problems, no fighting -- for protection. So he can pop in to make sure everything's OK and then pop out. But he's not sitting in there."

NCAA rules prohibit members of the coaching or basketball administrative staff from attending "open gyms" during the off-season.

Former assistant coach Byron Samuels said it was common knowledge about Woody's involvement in "open gyms."

"Sure, absolutely Woody coordinated open gyms in the preseason and then after the season was over and occasionally when we had in recruits in town," Samuels said. "I know this: He handled that situation, setting up open gyms at times, players from a lot of different places were there."

Other USF sources said Woody "frequently reported to Heath," which players participated in the open gyms and how they were performing.

The alleged violations aren't the first for USF's program. In the past two years, USF reported committing six secondary NCAA violations in the men's basketball program.

Father of Former Player Alleges Cover-up
TAMPA, Fla. -- Besides the alleged NCAA allegations, former USF players Gaby Belardo, a freshman at the time, and Jesus Verdejo, a senior, had $7,760 worth of items stolen from Belardo's apartment on April 22, 2009, according to a Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office report.

Jose Belardo, Gaby Belardo's father, believes since his son had announced a month earlier he was transferring from the program, Coach Stan Heath did not report the theft to police to protect the current USF players.

When Gaby Belardo, discovered the theft, he immediately informed Heath, who called a team meeting. Heath said he told the players if the stolen property was returned that night, no questions would be asked. If the items were not returned, Belardo and Verdejo said Heath told the team -- and he also told Belardo's father on the telephone -- that Heath would personally contact the police the following day on April 23, 2009.

Heath said he never contacted the police and denied he told the team or Belardo's father he would contact the police.

"I said, 'Jesus let me really find out if somebody on this team did it before we get something going [with the police],' that something blows up that doesn't need to happen," Heath said.

On Friday, April 24, two days after the theft, Belardo went on a previously scheduled recruiting visit to Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y. Upon returning to Tampa April 26 and learning Heath had not contacted the police as promised, Belardo reported the burglary at 3:07 p.m., according to the sheriff's report.

"Coach Heath said he would talk to the police and it never happened," said Jose Belardo, who lives in Puerto Rico. "After that I never heard anything from him. We've had no answers from the university."

Belardo was one of at least eight members of last year's USF basketball team that lived in The Edge apartments, located across the street from USF's campus.

Belardo said he suspected Dominique Jones, Anthony Crater and Justin Leemow of the theft because a week before that, his watch, necklace and iPod were stolen from his apartment. The players confessed to the sheriff's department that they took the watch and necklace, but later returned them. Belardo told detectives he found his iPod in Jones' basketball locker at school.

Crater confessed to a Hillsborough County Sheriff's detective that he "took [Belardo's] necklace and watch" because he thought "it was Jesus [Verdejo's] stuff."

A week after the USF players returned Belardo's watch and necklace to him was when his apartment was broken into and ransacked.
-- Brett McMurphy
USF athletic director Doug Woolard, who hired Heath after he was fired at Arkansas, did not respond to an interview request. Heath is in the third year of his five-year contract at USF.

Woody's relationship with Gilchrist goes back four years and they've been aligned since. In that time, Gilchrist attended two high schools and signed letters-of-intent with three universities. During Gilchrist's recruitment last year, Woody said he was Gilchrist's "personal trainer, adviser and spokesman." On his wedding day on April 19, 2008, Woody, then 38, even had Gilchrist, then 18, serve as his best man.

Two months after Gilchrist signed with USF, Woody was hired. Woody, who does not have a college degree, receives a $30,000 salary. According to his job description provided by USF, Woody's job duties include recording games of upcoming opponents, making sure the televisions in the coaches' offices are connected to DirectTV and assisting a certified strength and conditioning coach.

Less than two weeks after Woody's wedding, he accompanied Gilchrist and his parents for an unofficial recruiting visit to USF. While on the visit, Woody worked at Heath's USF basketball camps. During the summer, Heath said he paid Woody $1,000 for working two camps and allowed Woody to stay at his house.

That was allowable then under NCAA rules at the time, but last month the NCAA approved new rules that prohibit coaches from employing a person associated with a prospective student-athlete at a camp or clinic. Also, legislation aimed at stopping so-called package deals has been sponsored by the NCAA's board of directors and is expected to pass next April.

Woody, who was hired in a non-coaching role, also routinely "coached" USF's players, two former players and a former assistant coach said.

Eladio Espinosa, who played for USF last season but transferred to Marshall in May, said Woody would come in the lockerroom at halftime while the Bulls' coaching staff would wait outside discussing strategy and adjustments for a few minutes. Heath said Woody did not enter the locker room without the other coaches.

"When we came into the locker room at halftime, Coach Woody was always telling us what we could do," Espinosa said. "Against Georgetown [on Feb. 18, 2009], he told the guards when they drove to get the ball to the bigs and we did that to start the second half and came back. He was always helping us that way."

Added Samuels, a former USF assistant: "I think it would be fair to say -- prior to games and at halftimes -- Woody tried to put his coaching hat on."

Belardo, who transferred to Canisius College after the 2008-09 season, said Woody frequently coached and worked out the players on his own.

"Coach Woody was always trying to make you better," Belardo said. "When coaches were there, he was there. When the coaches weren't there, he was always in the gym. You could call him anytime and he would work out with you on your game."

Replied Heath: "I guess [their] interpretation of coaching is different than mine. Any bozo can say 'You need to run harder. Hey those big guys are open.' That's not coaching."

Woody also routinely worked out non-USF players in early morning or late night workouts in one of USF's two gymnasiums, Samuels said. Among the players Woody worked out on USF's facilities was Denver Nuggets forward Renaldo Balkman and former college players Rashaad Singleton (Florida Southern) and Jerel Davis (Talladega, Ala., College). However, Woody did not rent out the facilities, school sources said.

Woody did the same thing while Gilchrist was at the University of Maryland, a UM senior associate athletic director said.

In 2008 when Gilchrist was attending Maryland, senior associate athletic director Kathleen Worthington discovered Woody was working out Gilchrist and other Maryland players in the Comcast Center without paying rental fees for the facility.

Worthington said she then notified Gilchrist and the other Maryland players that they couldn't use Woody as a personal trainer on campus unless they paid rental fees for the facility. Woody immediately stopped showing up, Worthington said.

A few weeks later, Gilchrist announced he was transferring from Maryland and soon after Gilchrist and Woody both ended up at USF.

Contact FanHouse reporter Brett McMurphy at brettmcmurphy@gmail.com
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