UK bans Web booster for 27 years. 3 NCAA recruiting violations tied to site, school says

LEXINGTON, Ky. A University of Kentucky football booster who tried to establish an underground recruiting network and was cited in three NCAA violation reports in the past nine months has been banned from involvement with the school's athletics program for 27 years.

Brian Poe, 34, who runs a UK fan Web site known as www.bigbluenation.com and is listed as the publisher of BBN Magazine and executive producer of the Big Blue Nation television show, was formally "disassociated" from UK athletics in a letter from athletic director Mitch Barnhart dated Oct. 7, 2003. The Courier-Journal obtained a copy of the letter and UK's reports to the NCAA involving Poe through an open-records request.

Disassociation means that Poe is prohibited from purchasing season tickets and cannot have any contact with UK staff members, coaches, athletes or prospects.

The case highlights the problems universities face from fans and boosters who decide to take recruiting into their own hands. Poe is one of six boosters who currently are disassociated from the UK program, which is itself on a three-year probation for violating NCAA rules during coach Hal Mumme's tenure from 1997-2000.

All of the violations were considered secondary and do not impact UK's probationary status.

"You reach a point where you have to protect the program," said Sandy Bell, UK's associate athletic director for NCAA compliance. "Something like this is a huge concern for us. To think that there's someone out there organizing our booster groups, it's a huge threat to the program."

"It's a complete lack of adherence by these people to NCAA rules," Barnhart said. "These are people who put their personal concerns above those of the program and of the student-athletes. You get to a point where it's in the best interests of the program to separate that relationship to ensure that we maintain the integrity of the program."

Poe said yesterday that he never intended to break NCAA rules by using his Web site as an outlet for recruiting news. When asked about establishing his network, Poe said, "What's illegal about that?"

"I am by no means a rogue fan," Poe said. "I was never trying to get the university into trouble."

Poe disputed UK's claim that he acted as a representative of the school's athletic interests.

"I did not represent UK in any way when I was interviewing recruits," Poe said. "I'm no different than the 10,000 recruiting sites out there interviewing recruits. Everybody else is doing it. Why is my Web site different?"

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By MICHAEL SMITH
mssmith@courier-journal.com
The Courier-Journal