NCAA hands two-year probation to Utah basketball

Utes assistant Tommy Connor receives show-cause penalty

Cliff Grassmick/Staff photographer
Colorado’s Shane Gatling drives past Utah’s Both Gach on March 2.

Colorado men’s basketball fans might be pleased to learn that, at long last, the NCAA has leveled sanctions against one of the Buffaloes’ Pac-12 Conference rivals.

Those same fans might be surprised it is Utah, not USC or Arizona, that now is suffering the wrath of NCAA investigators.

On Tuesday, the NCAA announced that Utah’s men’s basketball program has been placed on two-year probation, in addition to other sanctions, due to recruiting improprieties during a “quiet period” in 2018. The infraction stemmed from an impermissible visit by what the NCAA disclosed as “local community college” that the Salt Lake Tribune later identified as the courting of sophomore Both Gach from Salt Lake Community College. Utah also was sanctioned for allowing head coach Larry Krystkowiak’s son, then a prep school basketball player, participate in practice activities with the Utes.

The penalties were cited as Level II and III infractions by the NCAA.

Among the other punishments handed down to Utah was a one-week suspension for associate head coach Tommy Connor, who also was handed a ban from off-campus recruiting in July 2019. Connor’s suspension is set to be served during the first week of the regular season in November. Connor was assessed a one-year show-cause penalty.

The NCAA also approved of a number of self-imposed sanctions offered by Utah, including a $5,000 fine, a reduction of two official visits during the 2018-19 school year, and prohibiting off-campus recruiting in July 2019.

The sanctions against Utah arrive as the NCAA reportedly has opened investigations against Arizona and USC, both of which had assistant coaches arrested in the FBI corruption scandal that broke nearly two years ago. The guilty pleas eventually offered by now-former assistants Tony Bland (USC) and Book Richardson (Arizona) has done little to handcuff either program on the recruiting front. Arizona enters the 2019-20 season with one of the top freshman classes in the nation led by Nico Mannion, who already is projected as a potential lottery pick in the 2020 NBA draft. This week, USC received a verbal commitment from Evan Mobley, widely regarded as the top prospect in the 2020 recruiting class.

Utah is scheduled to visit CU the week of Jan. 8-12 while the Buffs visit the Utes for the regular-season finale between March 4 and March 7.