STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Mississippi State University officials said Wednesday they will not appeal a one-year probation levied by the NCAA against the school for allowing athletes to use telephones to make long-distance personal calls.
The institutional probation, which went into effect Sept. 18, does not affect the university teams' appearances on televison or ability to compete in postseason competitions.
The violations, which occurred between January 1982 and March 1984, involved 19 members of the men's and women's basketball teams and women's softball, tennis and golf teams.
The NCAA reprimanded the university for the 'careless handling of certain athletics department telephone credit cards and lax policies by coaches regarding the use of WATS lines by student-athletes.' The free telephone calls amounted to an extra benefit for athletes unavailable to other students, a violation of NCAA regulations.
In another telephone-related controversy involving athletes, the University of Miami and MCI reached an agreement Wednesday that will keep the long-distance carrier from pressing charges against Hurricane football players who made long-distance calls using an access card number that had been posted on a campus bulletin board.
An investigation by the Miami athletic department and MCI found up to 34 players were involved, along with an undetermined number of other students.
Mississippi State President Donald Zacharias said his university decided not to appeal its penalty after reviewing the NCAA report with the athletic committee and the Board of Regents.
'I think we would have preferred, obviously, to receive only a private reprimand if we had chosen our own penalty,' said Zacharias. 'Overall, we're pleased with the ruling. I think this makes it clear that we want to abide by the rules.'
Zacharias emphasized the violations were reported by the university and the investigation was carried out in cooperation with the NCAA.
He said the NCAA report named former women's athletic director Libba Birmingham, former women's basketball coach Peggy Collins and former men's basketball coach Bob Boyd.
Boyd left the Bulldogs after the 1985-86 season, and Zacharias said his resignation was not related to the NCAA investigation.
Birmingham and Collins were fired by then Athletic Director Charley Scott in June 1984 when he learned of the long-distance telephone calls being made by athletes. They have since sued the university for 'wrongful termination based on sex discrimination.' The suit is pending in U.S. District Court at Aberdeen.
During the one-year probationary period, the university will be required to develop and implement a rules-education program for all athletics department staff members and to submit a written report to the NCAA enforcement staff.