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NCAA Decision Made in the Loren Woods Appeal
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: November 22, 2000
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TUCSON, Ariz. - Yesterday afternoon the NCAA heard Loren Woods' appeal of a six game suspension imposed as a result of his accepting benefits in September 2000 from a longtime family friend and personal mentor. Despite the long-term relationship, the suspension was affirmed. Loren will return to competition on December 9 against Connecticut. The NCAA does not allow further appeals.

In the summer before Loren's freshman year of high school, Loren met an individual who since has served as his mentor and advisor, and who also has become a strong family friend. As is permissible under NCAA rules, the individual, throughout high school, provided Loren with meals, transportation and small amounts of money, sometimes in the form of a regular allowance.

Both the financial and surrogate family relationship has continued throughout Loren's college career. Given the extended relationship, these ongoing financial contributions do not violate NCAA rules. However, the NCAA concluded that two larger contributions from the individual in September 2000, which were bigger than previous permissible gifts, were inappropriate due to the increase in amount. As part of his sanction, Loren must repay the September contributions.

Loren was beginning his senior collegiate season in the fall of 2000, and had suffered a difficult spring and summer as a result of health and family issues. Accordingly, the family friend felt that providing additional money to Loren would be appropriate under the circumstances. Based on their relationship, and the fact that other contributions were appropriate, neither of them considered that an increase in benefits might be inappropriate.

The University learned of the larger contributions in early November, and investigated the relationship and the circumstances surrounding the gifts. The University immediately notified the NCAA regarding the issue, and sought guidance from the NCAA regarding interpretation of rules related to permissible gifts.

Based on the NCAA's interpretation, Loren was immediately declared ineligible and suspended for six games. The University then asked the NCAA to consider the relationship and the ambiguity of the rule in reducing the sanction. The University contended that Loren was being penalized for accepting an increase in benefits from his mentor at a time of personal hardship. The University also argued that simply requiring Loren to repay the benefit clarifies the rule, and contest eligibility sanctions are inappropriate given these particular facts.

Since both individuals were forthcoming about the gift, and neither understood that they were violating a benefits rule, the University continues to believe that the sanction is inappropriate. "I'm extremely disappointed at the inability of the NCAA to look at the welfare of the student-athlete in this case," said UA Athletic Director Jim Livengood. "This penalty just doesn't fit the specifics of Loren's situation."

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