The NCAA placed Wisconsin on two years' probation Wednesday for what was described as widespread, unauthorized spending of booster club money.
"The penalties are quite light for a major violation," said David Swank, chairman of the NCAA's Division I Committee on Infractions. "The university did not properly oversee what its booster clubs were doing."
The probation amounts to an "embarrassment" for the university, Swank said.
The committee is requiring the university to continue developing a comprehensive athletics compliance education program during the probationary period.
In addition, the university must conduct an internal audit, focusing on fund-raising activities, file annual compliance reports and require the athletics director to attend an NCAA compliance seminar.
Wisconsin officials reported the infractions to the NCAA in April 1998.
An internal audit turned up hundreds of cases of unauthorized spending of booster club money on allowable items. Payments were made for such things as moving expenses, travel and business expenses and tickets to events.
The audit showed that 77 staff members, including athletic director Pat Richter, received reimbursements from booster accounts.
Such payments must receive prior approval from the chancellor's office, something that was either not done or not done in a timely fashion.
Richter received a written reprimand from Chancellor David Ward as a result of the violations.
Auditors said other payment were improperly funneled from the Mendota Gridiron Club to assistant football coaches.
Four months after bonuses for those coaches were denied by Wisconsin officials in December 1996, the coaches were paid "appearance fees" by the booster group for identical amounts.
NCAA rules forbid any outside source from paying or supplementing any athletic department staff member's salary.
Swank said the university has put in new controls to monitor booster organizations, which should prevent any future problems.
"Had the coaches and athletic director asked for permission, most of these expenditures would have been approved by the university and would have been completely legal," he said.
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