Wichita State baseball players purchased Under Armour apparel, not related to baseball, at a discount through administrative assistant Shelley Wombacher, according to several sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
As many as 16 current players could be involved. The purchases included items such as hunting clothes and gifts, at as much as a 50-percent discount. They led to Tuesday’s announcement by the athletic department of an internal review regarding improper clothing and apparel benefits to members of the team.
NCAA rules allow athletes to purchase items related to their sport. Under Armour supplies WSU’s baseball uniforms and other apparel.
The purchases go back two or three years and, the sources stressed, appear to have taken 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.
Attempts to reach Wombacher for comment on Wednesday were unsuccessful.
WSU declined comment, directing inquiries to Tuesday’s news release, in which it said it would release no more information until after the review is complete.
“We believe this to be an isolated case limited to our baseball program,” athletic director Eric Sexton said in the release. “However, we will look into this exhaustively to ensure our compliance with the Missouri Valley Conference and NCAA rules.”
By self-reporting, the sources said, WSU hopes to lessen possible NCAA penalties and send a message that it will not tolerate skirting NCAA rules. Suspensions from games next spring is a possible consequence for the athletes.
Wombacher, according to the sources, was asked to leave the baseball offices on Tuesday and did so. According to her biography on the athletic department website, she has worked for the program for more than 20 years. Her duties include working with the All-American and Battery clubs, travel and camps.
Wichita State hired an Overland Park law firm that specializes in NCAA rules compliance to help investigate. Bond, Schoeneck and King is the firm assisting WSU. Its website touts that it has conducted more than 100 investigations into potential major infractions.