A Mississippi State University booster made recruiting contact with a top football prospect and provided impermissible benefits, according to a decision announced today by the Division I Committee on Infractions. Additionally, a former assistant football coach was cited for unethical conduct for failing to report the booster’s activities when he became aware of them and providing false information during his first two interviews with the NCAA.
Penalties in the case include two years of probation, reductions in football scholarships, official paid visits, the number of in-person recruiting days and a one-year show-cause order for a former assistant coach. If the former assistant coach seeks employment at an NCAA member school during that one-year period, he and the school must appear before the Committee on Infractions to determine if the school should be subject to the show-cause procedures.
The booster befriended a top Mississippi State recruit and began arranging for him to use cars, gave him cash and provided other benefits. During the recruitment, the booster exchanged more than 100 phone calls with the recruit, assisted the recruit in securing a car to drive to a campus visit and provided cash to the recruit on multiple occasions. Additionally, the booster and his friend provided a car to the recruit for approximately $2,000 below the actual value of the car. Prior to taking an official visit to a different university, the booster told the recruit that if he did not take the visit, the recruit would be paid $6,000.
The former assistant coach, who developed a friendship with the booster, became aware of the improper recruiting activity but did not report it to university officials. The former assistant coach had frequent contact with the booster and he began to suspect that the booster was in contact with the recruit. Eventually the booster revealed he had conversations with the recruit and, in subsequent conversations, assured the former assistant coach that the recruit would commit to Mississippi State. The recruit’s non-scholastic coach told the former assistant coach the recruit received a jacket and a gift card from the booster and expressed concerns over the recruit’s car. Despite confirmation from the booster and the non-scholastic coach’s concern, the former assistant coach did not report the information to the coaching staff or administration.
In two initial interviews with the university and the NCAA, the former assistant coach denied any knowledge of the booster’s activity. After he resigned his position, the former assistant coach admitted he was aware. As a result, the committee cited the former assistant coach for unethical conduct. Since the former assistant coach is no longer employed by a NCAA member school, he was not required to appear at the infractions hearing but did attend to take responsibility for his actions. The committee notes his attendance helped give members a full assessment of the violations and the circumstances surrounding them.
Penalties in this case include:
- Public reprimand and censure.
- Two years of probation from June 7, 2013 through June 6, 2015.
- A one-year show-cause order for the former assistant coach, which prevents him from recruiting activities and booster interaction. The public report contains further details.
- A reduction of the number of official visits to 39, from the four-year average of 41, for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years (Self-imposed by the university).
- A reduction of the number of recruiting days during the spring evaluation period by four, from 168 to 164, for the 2012-13 academic year (Self-imposed by the university).
- A reduction in the number of total scholarships by two, from 85 to 83, for the 2012-13 academic year (Self-imposed by the university).
- A reduction in the number of initial and total scholarships by two, from 25 to 23 and 85 to 83, respectively, for the 2013-14 academic year (Self-imposed by the university).
- For the first two conference contests of the 2013 season, complimentary admissions to football recruits will be prohibited (Self-imposed by the university).
- Disassociation of the booster by the university’s athletics program. Details of the disassociation can be found in the public report (Self-imposed by the university).
The members of the Division I Committee on Infractions who reviewed this case include Britton Banowsky, chair of the Committee on Infractions and commissioner of Conference USA; Greg Christopher, athletics director at Xavier University; Melissa Conboy, vice chair of the Committee on Infractions and deputy director of athletics at the University of Notre Dame; Christopher L. Griffin, coordinator of appeals and attorney; Brian Halloran, attorney; Roscoe Howard Jr., attorney; James O'Fallon, law professor and faculty athletics representative at the University of Oregon.