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Zbikowski reinstated by NCAA

Ken Fowler | Thursday, August 24, 2006

The NCAA reinstated senior strong safety and defensive captain Tom Zbikowski and two men’s basketball players after Notre Dame briefly declared them ineligible for their participation in promotional television spots, associate athletic director for compliance Mike Karwoski said Wednesday.

Karwoski said the NCAA informed him in a phone call around 5 p.m. Wednesday that they deemed the three committed “secondary violations” – violations without intent – for their “implied endorsement” of a local television show. The NCAA then told him there would be no penalties, sanctions or eligibility consequences because of the spots featuring Zbikowski, sophomore forward Luke Zeller and sophomore guard Kyle McAlarney.

“As far as they are concerned, the matter is closed and there would be no penalties involved,” Karwoski said.

In a statement e-mailed to the media Wednesday night, Irish coach Charlie Weis expressed gratitude to the NCAA for the quick manner in which the situation was resolved.

“I appreciate the fact this was handled in an expeditious manner by the NCAA as well as our compliance and sports information departments,” the statement said. “I’m glad we have a resolution to this situation and I look forward to continuing our preparation for Georgia Tech.”

Notre Dame had sent a letter to the NCAA compliance office in Indianapolis Tuesday afternoon at once declaring Zbikowski, Zeller and McAlarney ineligible and requesting their reinstatement.

The trio’s problem stemmed from separate appearances on the sports talk show “Sports Dogz” that airs on WSBT-TV in South Bend. During their appearances, the players filmed “bumps” – advertisements for the show, during the show, that informed viewers who the player was and what station they were watching.

Such action violates NCAA bylaw 12.5.3, which states: “The student-athlete shall not make any endorsement, expressed or implied, of any commercial product or service.”

The declaration of ineligibility did not affect any potential practice time for any of the players. Had their respective teams had a game during their brief ineligibility, however, they would have been prohibited from participating.

Karwoski said he agreed with the NCAA’s reasoning and that the situation would have been avoided had WSBT or any of the athletes asked compliance before filming the “bumps.”

“If someone from the station or the show would have called me, I certainly would have looked into it,” he said. “And we probably would have come to the same conclusion.”

The athletic department became aware of the violations Friday when multiple media outlets, including The Observer, contacted Notre Dame compliance officials after running back Darius Walker filmed a “bump” for a WSBT show during the post-practice interview session the day before.

Because Walker’s promotional spot did not air, Notre Dame did not have to rule him ineligible.

In fact, Notre Dame declared Zbikowski ineligible despite the fact that WBST has not been able to provide Notre Dame with the tape of the show that Zbikowski appeared on, only supplying the athletic department with the unedited footage from his appearance, which included bloopers of Zbikowski trying to film the “bump.”

In light of the situation, Weis addressed media issues with the players during a pre-scheduled team meeting Monday night.

Karwoski said the best way to avoid such encounters is simple.

“Our mantra here is, ask before you act,” he said. “That helps us out quite a bit.”