Originally created 06/05/99

Hearing held on Notre Dame booster



INDIANAPOLIS -- The NCAA held a hearing Friday on whether a former Notre Dame booster gave financial help to as many as a dozen football players.

The hearing was closed, and the school said a decision is expected in July or August.

The NCAA is investigating whether Kimberly Dunbar's relationship with players broke a rule stipulating that schools and their representatives cannot provide an athlete or a relative or friend of an athlete a benefit not authorized by the NCAA.

Court records show Dunbar, who is serving a four-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to embezzling more that $1.4 million from her former employer in South Bend, provided players, their families and friends with more than $35,000 in gifts and trips.

Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Moore said the school responded to the NCAA in a "forthright and complete" manner.

Moore said Notre Dame has disbanded the Quarterback Club, a group of boosters whose members included Dunbar. The school has held assistant coaches accountable for athletes' academic and personal development, Moore said.

The NCAA has already established that Dunbar became a representative of the university in June 1995 when she joined the Quarterback Club. Court records show she purchased gifts and trips for several players after that date, including presents for players with whom she had personal relationships.

Among them were Jarvis Edison, with whom she has a child. She took him, fellow player Allen Rossum and Rossum's girlfriend on a $10,000 trip to Las Vegas in 1997 to see the Evander Holyfield-Mike Tyson fight. She also took then-boyfriend Derrick Mayes to Las Vegas in 1995, paying for his $1,836 ticket and a $756 stay at the Luxor, according to court documents.

Bill Jonas, a lawyer representing the company Dunbar embezzled the money from, said they have collected 5,000 to 10,000 pages of documents concerning Dunbar's relationship with Irish players and the NCAA has not requested any information from them.

University officials have argued that the possible infractions were secondary. NCAA enforcement officials agreed, recommending in April the committee shouldn't view the case as major. But the infractions committee decided to review the case as a possible major violation.

To bolster their defense, the school has hired the law firm of Bond, Schoeneck & King. The firm, with an office near the NCAA in Overland Park, Kan., specializes in assisting colleges under investigation by the NCAA.

Notre Dame has claimed Dunbar provided the benefits to players "in the context of personal relationships" and not as a booster.

Chuck Smrt, the NCAA's enforcement director and one of the officials that recommended Notre Dame's infractions be ruled secondary, said it's rare for enforcement officials to change their minds after making a recommendation to the committee, even if it's overruled.

Though he wouldn't comment on Notre Dame's case directly, he said enforcement officials usually argue for their original conclusion.

Smrt said the committee could rule Notre Dame committed a major infraction but withhold serious punishment. If the committee rules the infractions major it could put the Irish on probation for five years.

That means any other violation would make Notre DAme eligible for harsh penalties -- a ban from national television or bowl games, loss of scholarships, recruiting restrictions.