MORAGA -- The NCAA has upheld penalties against the Saint Mary's College basketball program for recruiting violations, it was announced Monday.
Coach Randy Bennett will serve a five-game suspension at the start of West Coast Conference play and can't recruit off campus this season after the NCAA infractions appeals committee denied his appeal. Bennett claimed a procedural error was involved.
An appeal by Saint Mary's on a two-year reduction of scholarships beginning in 2014-2015 was also denied.
"While the college is disappointed with the decision, we respect the NCAA appeals process and will comply fully with the penalties given to our athletics program," Michael McAplin, Saint Mary's director of media relations, said in a statement.
Bennett issued a statement that said, "I'm disappointed with the decision by the NCAA Infractions Committee on my appeal of the penalties. But it's time to move on and focus on success in our program. I'm proud of what we've achieved and I think there is more we can do. We have a great group of student-athletes and I'm looking forward to the season."
The findings of an NCAA investigation into the program were released in March, and Saint Mary's was hit with four years of probation for "a failure to monitor and a failure to promote an atmosphere for compliance" in its men's basketball program.
Bennett's five-game suspension includes the Gaels' Jan. 2 game against defending champion Gonzaga in Spokane as well as games at Pacific and Portland and at home against Santa Clara and nonconference opponent William Jessup.
During his suspension, a period of time that spans nearly two weeks, Bennett is banned from all Saint Mary's basketball-related activities, including practice. One of the Gaels' assistant coaches -- Adam Caporn, Marty Clarke or Eran Ganot -- will serve as acting head coach during Bennett's suspension.
Saint Mary's also faces a ban on preseason and in-season tournaments that the team is not already contractually obligated to attend, though the team is permitted to compete in the WCC and NCAA tournaments.