In the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), a show-cause penalty is an administrative punishment ordering that any NCAA penalties imposed on a coach found to have committed major rules violations will stay in effect against that coach for a specified period of time—and could also be transferred to any other NCAA-member school that hires the coach while the sanctions are still in effect. Both the school and coach are required to send letters to the NCAA agreeing to abide by any restrictions imposed. They must also report back to the NCAA every six months until either the end of the coach's employment or the show-cause penalty (whichever comes first). If the school wishes to avoid the NCAA penalties imposed on that coach, the college must send representatives to appear before the NCAA's Committee on Infractions, and "show cause" (i.e., prove the existence of good reason) as to why it should not be penalized for hiring that coach. The penalty is intended to prevent a coach from escaping violations that he/she had a role in committing or allowing—which are generally applied to the school (e.g., lost scholarships, forfeited wins) -- by merely resigning and taking a coaching job at another, un-penalized school. It is currently the most severe penalty that can be brought against an American collegiate coach.
Contrary to popular belief, an NCAA member school is allowed to hire a coach who is under an ongoing show-cause order. However, the show-cause restrictions make it prohibitively difficult for a coach with a show-cause order to get another collegiate job. As mentioned above, any school that hires a coach with an outstanding show-cause order can be penalized merely for hiring him. Additionally, that school could be severely punished if such a coach commits additional violations while the show-cause order is still in effect. Consequently, most schools will not even consider hiring a coach with a show-cause penalty in effect, meaning that it usually has the effect of blackballing that coach from the collegiate ranks for the duration of the penalty. Many coaches who receive a show-cause penalty never coach again, even after the penalty expires, since a large number of athletic directors and university presidents are unwilling to hire someone with a history of major violations.
Notable show-cause penalties
- Bob Wade – former head coach for the Maryland Terrapins, who provided a loan to a recruit and free clothes to his players; he also lied to the NCAA and held meetings with his staff where they made plans to lie. For this, he was hit with a five-year show-cause penalty, which expired in 1995. Wade has not returned to the coaching ranks since.
- Norm Sloan – Former head coach at four NCAA schools, most notably at Florida (where he served two stints) and North Carolina State (where he led the Wolfpack to an NCAA title), he was forced to retire from his second stint at Florida shortly before the start of the 1989–90 season amid an NCAA investigation. During the investigation, it was revealed that Florida star Vernon Maxwell had accepted money from agents without Sloan's knowledge; Sloan himself had purchased a plane ticket to enable Maxwell to work at a basketball camp; and one of Sloan's assistants had allowed a recruit's mother to use the return leg of her son's plane ticket to return home after he had enrolled in another school. When the NCAA announced its findings in September 1990, Sloan was hit with a five-year show-cause. He never returned to college coaching before his death in 2003.
- Todd Bozeman – Former coach for the California Golden Bears, who had paid for a player's parents to watch their son play and lied about it to school and NCAA officials. He was forced to resign in 1996 and was handed an eight-year show-cause penalty, which expired in 2004. He now coaches the Morgan State Bears (a program that had spent much of its existence in Division II, until moving to Division I in the early-2000s).
- Clem Haskins – Former head coach for the Minnesota Golden Gophers, who was guilty of paying a tutor to write papers for players on the team; he also lied to the NCAA about those payments and encouraged his players to lie as well. For that he was hit with a seven-year show-cause penalty. This penalty expired in 2007, but Haskins has not returned to collegiate coaching.
- Dave Bliss – Former head coach for the Baylor Bears (a Division I program), and the central figure in the scandal that engulfed the program in 2003, starting with the murder of Patrick Dennehy, a New Mexico transfer, by Baylor player Carlton Dotson that June. In the wake of Dennehy's death, it was revealed that Bliss had paid tuition for Dennehy and another Baylor player. Bliss lied to investigators about the payments, and worse yet, encouraged players and assistant coaches to lie. Bliss went so far as to suggest that the players tell investigators and law enforcement that Dennehy had paid for his tuition by dealing drugs. One of his assistant coaches secretly taped these conversations, and sent them to the NCAA; the tapes were later leaked to the media. Dotson's estranged wife and the mother of another former Baylor player also reported widespread abuse of marijuana and alcohol by players that neither Bliss, his staff, nor the Baylor athletic department ever addressed. Bliss was forced to resign, and in 2005 was hit with a ten-year show-cause penalty. Two of his assistants were also given show-cause penalties of five and seven years, respectively. The assistant coach who taped the conversations, Abar Rouse, escaped NCAA punishment, but was effectively blacklisted by the coaching community for his disloyalty. In April 2015, Bliss was hired as the coach at NAIA-member school Southwestern Christian University, a position he resigned from in April 2017, following the airing of the Showtime documentary Disgraced, which chronicled the cover-up at Baylor.
- Kelvin Sampson – Former head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners and the Indiana Hoosiers, who was guilty of making impermissible cell phone calls to recruits. He landed Oklahoma on probation before leaving for Indiana in 2006. When he repeated the violations at Indiana, he was forced to resign from that institution in 2008. That same year, the NCAA gave Sampson a five-year show-cause penalty, effective until 2013. Sampson was able to parlay his connections within the coaching community into assistant coach positions with two NBA teams (the Milwaukee Bucks [2008–2011], and the Houston Rockets, [2011–2014]) before returning to college head coaching at Houston in spring 2014.
- NOTE: Bliss and Sampson coached against each other in the August 27, 2011 Oklahoma Alumni Legends Game that was decided in sudden death overtime.
- Rob Senderoff – Former assistant at Indiana under Sampson who was found to have made many of the impermissible calls to recruits. He resigned in 2007, but was rehired by Kent State, where he had served as an assistant for five years before joining Sampson at IU, before the NCAA announced its findings. Senderoff was hit with a 30-month show-cause in November 2008. Kent State chose to keep him on its staff, presumably accepting any NCAA restrictions on his activities. After Geno Ford left for Bradley after the 2010–11 season, Senderoff was named as interim head coach and then permanent head coach. His show-cause expired on May 25, 2011.
- Neil McCarthy – Former basketball coach at New Mexico State, who was fired before the 1997–98 season due to concerns about his players' poor academic performance. During a deposition for a wrongful-termination suit, McCarthy admitted under oath that he'd agreed to hire a junior-college coach as an assistant if two of his players came to New Mexico State. This triggered an investigation which revealed the junior-college coach had helped the players with their coursework and exams. In 2001, the NCAA gave McCarthy a five-year show-cause order, effective until 2006. The junior-college coach, who had been hired as an assistant before being fired with the rest of McCarthy's staff, was hit with a 10-year show-cause order. As of 2016[update], McCarthy has not returned to coaching.
- Bruce Pearl – The former coach of the Tennessee Volunteers received a three-year show-cause penalty (which expired on August 23, 2014) for lying to the NCAA about an impermissible visit by prospective recruit Aaron Craft (who eventually went to Ohio State) to Pearl's home. While this was only a minor violation, the NCAA felt Pearl's lies elevated it to a major one. Had Pearl coached during this period, he would have been banned from taking part in most recruiting activities. Each of his assistants received one-year show-cause orders. Pearl was hired as head coach at Auburn in March 2014—the first known instance of a coach being hired at a power conference school after serving a show-cause. During the July 2014 recruiting period, he was allowed to evaluate players but was barred from contact with them.
- Brad Greenberg – The former head coach at Radford, who left the school at the end of the 2010–11 season, was hit with a five-year show-cause on February 24, 2012 for leading an effort to mislead NCAA investigators who were looking into major recruiting violations at Radford. He is specifically prohibited from recruiting activities during his show-cause. Three of his assistants at the time received two-year show-causes that included recruiting bans. Greenberg later became an assistant with the Venezuela national team.
- Gib Arnold – The former head coach at Hawaiʻi, who was fired shortly before the 2014–15 season amid an NCAA investigation into the program, received a three-year show-cause on December 23, 2015 for violations of NCAA ethical conduct rules. In March 2014, the university reported that one of Arnold's former assistants had altered a financial document and submitted the fraudulent document on behalf of a recruit, and that Arnold's wife had given the recruit an iPad and the assistant allowed the recruit to keep it. The assistant received a two-year show-cause. In addition to the show-causes, the basketball program was hit with a postseason ban for the 2016–17 season, lost two scholarships in both the 2016–17 and 2017–18 seasons (extending a self-imposed scholarship reduction of one in each of those seasons), and received three years' probation. At the time the penalty was announced, Arnold was a scout with the Boston Celtics.
- Donnie Tyndall - The former head coach at Morehead State, Southern Miss and Tennessee, Tyndall received a 10-year show cause penalty on April 8, 2016—tied with Bliss for the longest on record for a head basketball coach—for numerous incidents of academic fraud, arranging payments to players and covering up the payments while at Southern Miss. Tennessee fired him in 2014 after the extent of the violations at Southern Miss became known. The penalty runs until April 7, 2026. During this period, he is banned from coaching duties at an NCAA member school. If Tyndall is hired by an NCAA member school after the penalty runs out, he will be suspended for the first half of the first season of his return. This led USA Today to call Tyndall's penalty the most severe ever meted out to a head coach.
- Al Barbre – The head coach for the Lamar University women's basketball team in the early 1990s. Barbre's program was the subject of an NCAA investigation shortly after a record-breaking 1990-91 season. He was found guilty of making illegal payments to players and received a five-year show-cause penalty when Lamar was placed on probation late in 1992. Barbre has not been a head coach at an NCAA institution since.
- Willie Anderson – The recruiting coordinator for Oklahoma State in the late 1980s, Anderson was given a 12-year show-cause penalty when the Cowboys landed on probation in January 1989, after the NCAA ruled him guilty of making cash payments to players. Anderson had been previously implicated in major recruiting violations at Clemson when that school landed on probation earlier in the decade. After his penalty was served, Anderson did not return to college football.
- Claude Bassett – The recruiting coordinator for Kentucky under Hal Mumme, Bassett was forced to resign in 2000 for numerous NCAA violations, including giving improper gifts to prospects and writing papers for them. In 2002, the NCAA slapped him with an eight-year show-cause penalty.
- Todd McNair – The running backs coach at the University of Southern California under Pete Carroll, McNair was found guilty of providing false information to the NCAA and covering up rules violations involving All-American running back Reggie Bush in 2004 and 2005. McNair retained his position after Carroll left and was replaced by Lane Kiffin, despite NCAA allegations against him. When he received a one-year show-cause penalty in 2010, USC did not renew his contract after it expired. McNair appealed the penalty, but it was upheld in April 2011.
- Jim Tressel – The former head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes, Tressel was forced to resign three months before the start of the 2011 season for lying to the NCAA about student athletes receiving tattoos and cash for signed memorabilia. According to the NCAA, he had four chances to tell the truth and failed to do so. For this, he was given a five-year show-cause penalty (until December 19, 2016). Had he gotten another head coaching job before then, he would have had to sit out the first five games of the first regular season of his return, as well as any postseason games (including conference championship games and bowl games). However, Tressel was named the new president of Youngstown State University in May 2014, and publicly announced that he is retired from coaching.
- John Blake – A former head coach at Oklahoma who, before being penalized, had been defensive line coach at North Carolina, Blake was forced to resign during an NCAA investigation into academic fraud and recruiting violations in the UNC program. The NCAA found that he had received personal loans from agent Gary Wichard and failed to report them to the university, and also misled investigators. On March 12, 2012, he received a three-year show-cause. In February 2016, after his show-cause expired, he was hired as a defensive line coach at Lamar, but left the next month for the same position with the NFL's Buffalo Bills.
- Chip Kelly - A former head coach at Oregon who was most recently the head coach for the NFL's San Francisco 49ers. The penalties included three lost scholarships, probation for three years, and an 18-month show-cause against former HC Chip Kelly. The NCAA also reduced Oregon's official paid visits from 56 to 37 for the next three academic years, reduced its evaluation days for each of the next three seasons and banned the program from using recruiting services during the probation period. The NCAA had been looking into Oregon's recruiting practices since questions arose over a 2010 payment of $25,000 to Willie Lyles and his Houston-based recruiting service, Complete Scouting Services. The infractions committee found that Lyles provided cash and free lodging to Lache Seastrunk, a running back who eventually signed with Baylor, and engaged in impermissible calls and off-campus contact with prospects, their families and high school coaches. It also said the football program allowed staff members to engage in recruiting activity, exceeding coaching limits. At the time the sanctions were announced, Kelly had already left Oregon to become head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. He was fired from the Eagles after the 2015 season and the 49ers after the 2016 season. Kelly's show-cause expired on December 26, 2014.
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