The failure, the NCAA said, occurred when a Gaels' "assistant men’s basketball coach acted unethically in his recruitment of international prospects."
"The case," the statement continued, "also includes a failure to monitor and a failure to promote an atmosphere for compliance by the head men’s basketball coach as well as impermissible training and coaching sessions."
"These should have been red flags," Britton Banowsky, chair of the Committee on Infractions and commissioner of Conference USA, said during a conference call explaining the findings.
The NCAA responded with a rash of penalties, which were also listed in the release.
— Public reprimand and censure.
— Four years probation from March 1, 2013 through February 28, 2017.
— The head coach must serve a five-game suspension during the 2013-14 season.
— The head coach may not recruit off-campus during the 2013-14 academic year.
— A two-year show-cause order for the former assistant coach. The public report contains further details.
— Reduction of men’s basketball scholarships from 13 to 11 for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.
— Elimination of foreign tours by the men’s basketball team until the start of the 2017-18 season.
— The men’s basketball team may not participate in a multiple-team event until the 2015-16 season.
— The men’s basketball team may not receive skill instruction during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons.
Gaels head coach Randy Bennett admitted some responsibility to what the NCAA references as "failing to monitor its men's basketball program," but did not hesitate in claiming the penalties went beyond what he deemed necessary.
“I am disappointed,” Head Coach Randy Bennett said in an official statement released by the program. “I cooperated fully with the investigation and accepted responsibility where I came up short. The penalties are clearly excessive and although I’m still reviewing the report and trying to understand it, I know already that the report fails to include important mitigating information and tells only part of the story. I’ll continue to review the report and consider my options.”
The penalties are sure to hinder, if not necessarily cripple, a program that along with Gonzaga formed a two-team powerhouse in the West Coast Conference. The two programs are the only ones to have amassed at least 25 victories in six consecutive seasons, with BYU, Kansas and Duke right behind.
The Gaels are currently 25-5.
BYU joined the WCC last year, but has won just one of a combined nine games against the Gaels and Bulldogs through this season. The Cougars lost to Saint Mary's at home in heartbreaking fashion in their first meeting this season, when Matthew Dellavedova sank a half-court heave at the buzzer to hand BYU a 70-69 defeat.
The Gaels won the following meeting at McKeon Pavilion, 64-57. BYU senior Brandon Davies scored 25 points in the contest.
Even under the weight of the newly imposed penalties, however, the Gaels will still be allowed to compete both at the conference and national levels. They are still eligible to play in the West Coast Conference tournament and the NCAA tournament, though in-season, multi-team tournaments will no longer be an option while the sanctions are in effect.
Saint Mary's athletic staff could not immediately be reached for comment.
Matt Petersen is the Sports Web Editor for DeseretNews.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheMattPetersen. The Associated Press also contributed to this report.