Wichita State says baseball players received improper benefits

Thursday December 5th, 2013

Gene Stephenson (Jaime Green/Getty Images) Gene Stephenson won 1,837 career games in 36 seasons as Wichita State's baseball coach. (Jaime Green/Getty Images)

Violations, including receiving improper clothing and apparel benefits under former coach Gene Stephenson, were brought to the attention of Wichita State administration by the current coaching staff, according to Paul Suellentrop of The Wichita Eagle.

The school announced in a statement released Tuesday afternoon that it had hired a law firm that specializes in NCAA compliance to aid the investigation.

Stephenson was fired on June 4 after 36 seasons as coach and replaced by former Arkansas assistant Todd Butler 12 days later. NCAA violations were not cited as a reason for Stephenson's firing.

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“We take this matter very seriously,” athletic director Eric Sexton said in the statement. “Our commitment to institutional integrity is unwavering and we must hold everyone associated with our athletics programs accountable for lapses in judgment. We believe this to be an isolated case limited to our baseball program. However, we will look into this exhaustively to ensure our compliance with the Missouri Valley Conference and NCAA rules.”

Stephenson, who had 1,837 career wins and seven College World Series appearances, did not return a message from the newspaper requesting comment.

But some of his former players were surprised by the allegations.

“Not in my time there,” said Cody Lassley, who played for the Shockers from 2007-10. “We would basically get the same type of clothing that other teams were wearing, no special benefits or anything of that nature. I can't think of anything that would have raised an alarm.” Added Travis Banwart, who played from 2005-07: “Everything was run tight. I never saw anything or experienced anything like that when I was there. Gene made us very aware of what we can and what we can't do.”
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