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Lawyer: Wichita State baseball assistant didn’t know she was committing NCAA violations

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, at 5:45 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, at 9:06 a.m.

A Wichita State administrative assistant was unaware of which apparel items she ordered for baseball players, unknowingly committing NCAA violations, according to her lawyer.

Shelley Wombacher, a long-time employee of the baseball program, is at the center of an internal review regarding improper clothing and apparel benefits to members of the team. On Wednesday, sources at WSU identified Wombacher as the person with access to a discounted Under Armour account. Players ordered non-baseball items such as hunting gear at as much as a 50-percent discount, a violation of NCAA rules.

Randy Rathbun, Wombacher’s lawyer, said he is angry that the university is using her as a scapegoat after her 20-plus years of work. According to Rathbun, coaches, administrators and athletes, from the baseball program and other sports and departments within the athletic department, often ordered from Under Armour through Wombacher. The practice was common, he said, for several years.

Wichita State athletic director Eric Sexton declined to comment, referring to statements made in Tuesday’s news release announcing the review.

Rathbun said Wombacher received no training from the department on how to use the account, and that she has not been fired.

“They would come to her with a SKU number and order items,” Rathbun said. “She had no idea what she was ordering. I don’t know if anybody knew what was being ordered.”

Coaches, staff and administrators are allowed to order apparel. Athletes are allowed to order items, such as running shoes or sweat suits, used in their sport.

Rathbun said Wombacher said some of the packages came through the baseball office. Others went to home addresses.

“It’s just disgraceful the way they’re treating this lady,” he said. “How in the heck does a secretary know it’s a violation?”

As many as 16 current players could be involved, sources said. Under Armour supplies WSU’s baseball uniforms and other apparel. The company did not respond to an email request for comment.

According to WSU sources, the purchases go back two or three years and took place without the knowledge of former coach Gene Stephenson and his assistant coaches. Members of the current coaching staff discovered the issue and brought it to the attention of the administration. Stephenson was fired after 36 seasons on June 4. Arkansas assistant Todd Butler was hired June 16.

WSU announced the review on Tuesday, the same day Wombacher was asked to leave her office at Eck Stadium and complied. The university hired Bond, Schoeneck and King, an Overland Park law firm that specializes in NCAA rules compliance, to help investigate. Its website touts that it has conducted more than 100 investigations into potential major infractions.

Reach Paul Suellentrop at 316-269-6760 or psuellentrop@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @paulsuellentrop.

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