.... the NCAA had just put the basketball program on four years’ probation for violations committed under former coach Dan Fitzgerald. The athletic department was hemorrhaging money so badly there was serious discussion about dropping out of Division I.
When Gonzaga's 4 year probation is brought up ... I like to recall this Seattle P-I column, written by my friend Laura Vecsey. The link is no longer available ... but this was written during the 3rd of the "back to back to back" Sweet 16's of 1999-2001 (a feat accomplished by 3 schools ... Duke, Michigan State and GU). Of course Duke and MSU won titles during that stretch, and the closest Gonzaga came was 33 seconds and a possession away from the Final Four in the Regional Final game against eventual National Champ UConn.

But I digress .... here is Laura's column (at least the portion I'd saved on my hard drive).

How small is Gonzaga?

It is so small that even its greatest athletic department embarrassment is more endearing than outright scandalous.

In 1997, the Bulldogs athletics director got in trouble because over the course of 15 years he hid $200,000 in a slush fund university officials did not know existed.

It is a part of Gonzaga's basketball lore no one really wants to talk about, mostly because athletic director and basketball coach Dan Fitzgerald resigned soon after the NCAA charged Gonzaga with violations. Also, it's old news.

"If unethical conduct is trying to keep an understaffed and underfunded program alive, I did that. I did not perceive it at all as being a violation," Fitzgerald said after his resignation from a basketball program he helped build.

In many ways, though, the fact that a basketball coach would tuck ticket and parking revenue, along with reimbursement checks from the West Coast Conference, into a bank account, shows you just how small Gonzaga really is.

Ethically, anyone would be correct to argue that what Fitzgerald did is not much different from the cheating scandal that rocked the University of Minnesota three years ago this week.

Then again, while Gophers coach Clem Haskins got booted for condoning widespread academic fraud -- during which time a Final Four team materialized at Minnesota -- you have to say that what happened at Gonzaga was a little more endearing.

For example, some of the money Fitzgerald tucked away went to pay for a used car that the basketball staff stashed in someone's driveway in the Bay Area to be used during recruiting there. Renting a car was astronomical, and since the recruiting budget was paper thin, wasn't the beater car a great idea?

The violations were so small-time that the NCAA found that Gonzaga realized no recruiting advantage with this money, mostly because the Zags still fell under the NCAA guidelines.

"I've agreed not to comment on that issue and we have moved on," Sladich said. "We have in place financial controls to make sure we do it right, and that's the message that comes down from the president to the athletic department.".