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Alcorn St. women’s team gets probation

Alcorn State’s women’s basketball program received a one-year postseason ban and was placed on three years’ probation for several violations, including a lack of institutional control, the NCAA said Thursday.

The Braves also will lose one scholarship and must remove all references to its NCAA tournament appearance in 2005, the NCAA’s Division I committee on infractions said.

The school and women’s basketball coach Shirley Walker were cited for several violations, including using ineligible players and giving improper financial-aid benefits and travel expenses.

“The committee concluded that Alcorn State’s women’s basketball program was plagued by a lack of direction and poor decision-making,” the committee said in its report.

“This is just something that we’re going to have to weather as a campus community, and a women’s basketball program in particular,” school spokesman Christopher Cason said.

Walker was cited for allowing team four ineligible players to travel with the team even though they weren’t full-time students, and for allowing three to practice with the team and one to receive financial aid even though she wasn’t eligible.

Walker also was accused of exceeding weekly practice limits, failing to provide a day off from practice each week, allowing non-certified assistant coaches to recruit off-campus and allowing her husband, former men’s assistant Lonnie Walker, to actively coach, exceeding the limit of four coaches.

The committee also found that Walker falsified practice logs and provided false and misleading information to the NCAA.

Among Alcorn State’s self-imposed penalties, the school eliminated the volunteer coaching position for 2004-05, suspended Walker for the first two games of that season, reduced from 12 to 10 the number of official visits for recruits and cut one scholarship this past season.

“Alcorn State University’s compliance with the NCAA and any other governing entity is a top priority for the institution,” Cason said. “Whatever the penalty or penalties, most of which were already self-corrected by the institution. … Anything that we can do from our end, we took care of.”

The NCAA suspended Walker for the first week of practice for three seasons, starting in 2006-07; must prohibit its volunteer coach for three seasons and restricted Walker from serving on any committees during probation.

Alcorn State has the option of taking the scholarship reduction this coming season or deferring it until 2007-08.

The school also must remove any banners commemorating its NCAA tournament appearance in 2005. That year, Alcorn State lost to Michigan State in the first round.