Notre Dame officials anticipate a ruling from the NCAA that the school's football program has committed a major violation of the organization's rules, according to a published report.
They expect the NCAA's Committee on Infractions to determine that members of the athletic department should have done more to learn of gifts football players received from convicted embezzler Kim Dunbar, the Chicago Tribune reported Saturday.
Dunbar embezzled more than $1.2 million from the South Bend firm where she worked as a bookkeeper, providing players, their families and friends with more than $35,000 in gifts and trips. Her admission that she gave money to players led to the investigation.
A person familiar with the university's interests, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the committee was expected to maintain that Dunbar's gifts could have been discovered earlier had members of then-coach Lou Holtz's staff brought information to Notre Dame officials in charge of NCAA compliance, the Tribune reported.
Mike Enright, a spokesman for the university's sports department, said the school will not respond until the NCAA releases its findings.
Oklahoma University law professor David Swank, chairman of the infractions committee, told the AP this week that a decision was not expected to be released in the case for several weeks.
The Tribune also cited its unidentified source in reporting that Notre Dame would not necessarily appeal a major violation, choosing instead to place the already embarrassing episode in its past.
Findings of a major violation would overrule what was described as a surprisingly strong assertion by the NCAA's enforcement staff. The Tribune reported that its source said enforcement representatives maintained during a closed-door hearing on June 4 that Notre Dame players and staff members had not knowingly violated any rules, had been vigilant in the reporting process, had not gained any advantage as a result of Dunbar's gifts and had not shown a failure of institutional control.
Several people with knowledge of the hearing said the session was often contentious, the Tribune reported. Speaking only if they would not be quoted, they said committee members were skeptical that athletic department officials in a relatively small university community were not more aware of Dunbar's gifts.
Dunbar pleaded guilty last September to two Class C felony theft charges for embezzling the money. She was sentenced to four years in prison, meaning she would be eligible for release after two years with good behavior. She was also ordered to serve probation until 2014.
But her attorney said this week that Dunbar's release has been moved up to Oct. 17 because she earned an associate's degree from Indiana while in prison, qualifying for a new state law that rewards inmates for earning educational degrees.
Notre Dame Coach Bob Davie said Friday he had no reason to believe an CAA decision was imminent.
"I expect it to come sometime during the season," he said during a news conference marking the start of fall practice, "and we'll deal with it when it comes."
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