Water polo coach Wolf Wigo | Credit: Paul Wellman

The NCAA announced Tuesday that it is imposing sanctions on UCSB’s cross-country, track, and men’s water polo programs because of “multiple Level II violations of well-known NCAA rules.”

The NCAA Committee on Infractions alleged that water polo players in previous years received impermissible extra benefits, including excessive stipends for two players who performed work for a water polo club. The violations in cross-country and track involved “countable athletically related activity restrictions,” in the NCAA’s parlance. Former coach Pete Dolan was accused of logging the mileage of Sunday and summer workouts when directed athletic activity was forbidden.

The NCAA issued a smorgasbord of penalties against the water polo and cross-country/track programs. They included two years of probation, a one percent reduction of their budgets, scholarship reductions of 5 to 7.5 percent, and reductions in allowable official and unofficial visits by potential recruits.

Among the penalties for the water polo team was being banned from postseason competition in 2018, an action taken by UCSB itself while the program was under investigation a year ago.

“We wanted to get these things behind us and lessen what the consequences might be later,” said John McCutcheon, the Gaucho director of athletics, who expressed satisfaction with the results. “We fared well,” he said. “I was pleased how our compliance office and staff handled ourselves. We’ll accept the penalties as issued and move on.”

Water polo coach Wolf Wigo said that the way is clear for the Gaucho men, currently ranked No. 4 in the nation, to compete for league and NCAA championships this year.

While conceding that “the NCAA’s decision could have been worse,” Wigo questioned the targeting of his water polo program. “There’s a whistleblower who has instigated five investigations against me,” Wigo said. “The first four amounted to nothing. The NCAA has more serious issues to deal with.”

 In the case of the athletes who were compensated for coaching in his club program, Wigo said their pay amounted to $20 an hour — less than the going rate for such work — while the NCAA applied a limit of $12.

UCSB dismissed Dolan as cross-country and track coach in May 2018 over issues that did not involve the NCAA investigation. He issued an unlawful termination lawsuit that was settled this year. Upon hearing about the NCAA sanctions, Dolan issued a statement that said in part: “I am disappointed, but not surprised, by the decision of the NCAA Committee on Infractions to find that my efforts to keep my athletes safe and healthy by merely reviewing their training logs on a regular basis — something every distance running coach must do if they want to train their athletes properly — was somehow a violation of NCAA rules. … I regret that the punishment for these illusory violations will unjustly fall on current coaches and athletes.”


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