In March 2009, University of Wyoming volleyball coach Carrie Yerty offered financial help to one of her incoming players.
To secure a "nice" apartment at an off-campus housing complex in Laramie, the player needed $300 for her portion of the security deposit.
Yerty wrote on March 10 that if the player couldn't get the money, she should let her know and "we will see if you can work it off when you get here."
The offer wasn't necessary. The player's father wired her the $300 and her portion of the security deposit was paid on May 9, 2009.
But when that player and her eventual roommate moved in on Aug. 1, 2009, the other half of the security deposit had been mysteriously paid.
More than two years later, as Wyoming was in the midst of investigating possible impermissible benefits to players in the volleyball program, that second player said she understood how her portion of the security deposit had been paid. The Star-Tribune has obtained the university's internal investigation, along with dozens of emails, texts and other correspondences, to help reconstruct the issues that led to Yerty's abrupt resignation in early May.
"I remember [the first player] telling me that coach Carrie gave the $300," she said in a Nov. 12, 2012, interview.
* * *
While Wyoming officials forced out Yerty -- along with her husband, director of volleyball operations Lee Yerty, and associate head coach Jill Stucky -- and offered to vacate nearly three seasons of victories, this is not a wild NCAA scandal on the surface.
When Wyoming officials said they had reported potential violations involving the volleyball program to the NCAA on June 18, the university estimated the total value of those benefits at $1,500 during the course of a two-year period. But Yerty's disregard, whether blatant or unknowing, of NCAA rules has the Wyoming volleyball program in a serious predicament. Wyoming plans to wipe away most of the 2009-2011 seasons -- ones that ended in 13, 22 and 21 victories -- in hopes of avoiding further sanctions from the NCAA.
So how did it get to this point?
The offer to pay a $300 security deposit was only the start, according to the report.
* * *
Through details in the internal report (the names of all former players involved were redacted) and Wyoming’s roster and recruitment records from those three seasons, the Star-Tribune believes the bulk of impermissible benefits centered on three foreign-born players that were with the program during the 2009-11 seasons.
Barbara Lasic and Jadranka Tramosljanin both joined the program prior to the 2009 season -- Lasic, originally from Livno, Bosnia, as a transfer from the New Mexico Military Institute, and Tramosljanin as a high school signee from Ruma, Serbia.
Based on details in the report, it appears Yerty’s email offer was to Lasic and it was Tramosljanin’s security deposit that was ultimately paid by Yerty.
When the two players moved into the Shilo Park Apartments in August 2009, both were met with a surprise.
The apartment was stocked with food, toiletries, bedding, household items and school supplies. It was even decorated with Wyoming volleyball pictures and a bucking horse statue, among other things, according to the internal investigation, which the Star-Tribune received June 27.
One player was "so surprised, because the apartment was set up, like, really nice."
Another said she had no discussions with any volleyball staff about what to bring to the apartment. As far as the roommates knew, the items were purchased from garage sales. How they arrived to the apartment was a mystery.
The two players lived together for the 2009-10 academic year, and it is believed Tramosljanin moved out prior to the 2010-11 year. Another transfer player, believed to be Tamara Kitic, entered the Wyoming program prior to the 2010-11 season and needed a place to live. Kitic, who is from Nis, Serbia, said in the report that she had a previous living conflict with Tramosljanin and would prefer to live with Lasic.
But in a Nov. 8, 2012 interview, Kitic said she did not pay the $300 security deposit.
She said it was her understanding that the "deposit was paid" and that the money from the original roommate "was still there" and that all she was told "was to start paying rent as soon as I moved in on a monthly basis."
The holdover roommate recalled a similar story. She said Yerty had paid for the former roommate's deposit and that Yerty told her at the time to "just keep it (the deposit) there" for the new roommate.
And Kitic, upon her arrival, also found bedding, school supplies and furniture in her room. Lasic said that associate head coach "Jill [Stucky] and Carrie” set up Kitic's room.
But the lingering issue of the security deposit was far more severe. Yerty alluded to as much in her Nov. 7, 2012, interview with the investigators hired by Wyoming to conduct the inquiry. Yerty told investigators the reason “we were under investigation and that we were going to get fired” was because she had paid the security deposit. Yerty asserted “we did not pay their rent or deposit” in that interview.
But the report concluded that Tramosljanin did not pay her portion of the security deposit in August 2009, and when she moved out did not attempt to reclaim her share of the security deposit.
The final roommate (it is unclear whether it was Kitic or Lasic) moved out in May 2012, and when the player told Yerty she was leaving the Shilo Park Apartment, she said Yerty instructed her to return Yerty’s deposit.
The player received a check for the balance of the security deposit, $575, after a $25 carpet cleaning fee. The player kept $300 of the $575, but it wasn't until late July when she ultimately returned the "$250 or $275" to the volleyball office.
* * *
In the end, money was the factor.
In August 2012, two Wyoming volleyball staff members abruptly quit. Both had a similar disagreement with Yerty about payment for summer hours worked, and in a final straw, resigned.
There were two support staff members from 2011 who were not listed in the 2012 media guide: Michael Wilson, a graduate assistant coach/manager, and Sarah Dvorak, the team’s manager for the 2010-11 seasons. Lasic also served as a graduate assistant during the 2011 season and did not return in 2012.
In separate September meetings with UW Deputy Director of Athletics Matt Whisenant, both alleged that Yerty had committed violations. The first staffer, presumably Wilson, said Yerty required him to participate in practice "every day" as a scout team player in violation of NCAA rules.
The second staffer (it is unclear if it was Dvorak or Lasic) laid bare the situations involving the impermissible benefits.
Wyoming began its investigation shortly thereafter, and Whisenant said that the Yertys and Stucky came to his office on Oct. 29, 2012, to ask if the program was being investigated. Whisenant confirmed an inquiry was underway.
The Yertys and Stucky were all interviewed on Nov. 7, 2012. Before those interviews, Stucky sent an email to Yerty on Oct. 31 regarding the $300 brought to the women’s volleyball office. The email appeared to be an initial draft of the email Yerty ultimately sent to Whisenant on Nov. 2, 2012, attempting to provide clarification regarding why a player returned cash to the volleyball office.
On the evening of Oct. 31, 2012, Lee Yerty sent a series of text messages to one of the players involved with information related to the inquiry. Specifically, Lee Yerty texted that player that the other player was "trying to ruin our coaching careers and families" and ultimately requested that player ask the other to call him.
"We are not supposed to call her," Yerty concluded.
The player who returned the money said she gave the "$275 or $250" to Carrie Yerty and Stucky; she also told investigators the money was not in an envelope and was not in $100 bill denominations.
Lee Yerty said the player returned the $300 to the women's volleyball suite in "either late July or early August" 2012. Despite being in contact with Tramosljanin, he did not ask her if the money was hers up until his November 2012 interview, despite being asked by Carrie Yerty to do so.
When asked why he did not ask Tramosljanin about the deposit money, Lee Yerty stated he had "not got around to it yet." The money sat on his desk for six to eight weeks before he placed it in the athletics department safe.
In the report, it was noted that Whisenant, on the weekend of Nov. 3-4, 2012, observed an envelope in the women’s volleyball portion of the athletics department safe that had three $100 bills in an envelope labeled "[Yatza]'s deposit?" (Tramosljanin commonly goes by her middle name, Yatza).
On Nov. 13, 2012, two of the players that lived in the Shilo Park Apartment exchanged text messages; based on a Google translation, the texts appear to be Serbian and were translated for the investigation by a UW faculty member.
Player 1: "Did Lee call you and ask you to say that the deposit money was yours?"
Player 2: "I can't talk to you while his inquiry lasts. I am forbidden to do so."
Player 1: "OK. Be careful what you say about the deposit because I have proofs from the bank explaining things. Just do not get stuck in [expletive] yourself. We'll talk when this is done."
Player 2: "But I must not talk to Lee nor write anyone else. Think about the answer to your question."
Player 1: "Well, I said how it happened."
* * *
The report concluded that: A) The claim that the money belonged to a player was a lie; B) The money in the athletics department safe was not the original “$275 or $250” returned by the player C) Carrie Yerty was the only person who would have been in position to provide the player with "the cost-free payment of her $300 security deposit."
The living arrangements weren't the only benefits the investigation discovered. Another transfer student, the investigation showed, found her on-campus dorm room at McIntyre Hall "set up" in the summer of 2010 with nonstandard items: a television set, a microwave and a storage cabinet. The player, presumed to be Memphis transfer Carolyn Baker, did not recall asking for any of the items and told investigators that it was understood "that whenever I got my things, that I would give theirs back."
The Yertys also provided two players with bicycles in the summer of 2009. Yerty herself, it was discovered, gave some of her second-hand clothing and shoes to two former players.
So what does it all mean?
At face value, if you view the impermissible benefits as separate, isolated events, not much. Given that most of the players had already enrolled, either in summer or fall classes, the provided items were on the scale of secondary violations.
But, as the report noted in its recommendations, the cumulative and repeated nature of the violations during the two-year period could constitute a major violation.
Yerty maintained that violations did not occur in relation to the items provided to the former players because the same items were available to all students at Wyoming. But the report found that even if true, there was still a violation because "the women's volleyball staff was involved rather than the student-athletes in acquiring the items on their own."
* * *
In the report, Yerty denied paying the original portion of the security deposit, as well as any involvement in arranging for Kitic to receive the use of the already-paid deposit monies.
Yerty, in her November interview, said the original contents of the Shilo Park Apartment came secondhand from a former student-athlete who had graduated. She added that they "dumpster dove, we went and stood over by MicIntyre Hall and asked anybody and everybody for anything that they were throwing away" to furnish the apartment. She denied purchasing any items for the original roommates. Yerty also denied providing any items toward Kitic’s residence upon her arrival in 2010 or being involved in setting up her room.
As for Baker, who found the additional items in her McIntyre Hall dorm room, Yerty said she and Stucky came across an unclaimed TV and moved it into the room; she said she didn't know how the microwave or additional items ended up in the room.
The report found five separate violations related to extra benefits and another exceeding coaching limitations. A UW spokesman said that the NCAA will conduct its own interviews this month. It is unknown when the NCAA will issue a ruling.
Players, former and current, are placed under enormous pressure to cooperate with NCAA investigations. Tramosljanin, who completed her senior season in 2012 at Drake, received limited immunity for her cooperation in the investigation so she could finish her senior season. But her eligibility would be immediately revoked if she did not provide “full, complete and truthful information.”
The Yertys believe they were targeted.
"How could someone be so angry??" Lee Yerty said in one of the Oct. 31, 2012, texts. "This could ruin 10 lives and a team of 14.
"I don't understand."