The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“Committee”) recently issued its findings and found that Mississippi State University (“MSU”) committed major violations of NCAA legislation. The case involved the provision of recruiting inducements, including cash, clothing and vehicle discounts, by a representative of the institution’s athletics interests (“representative” or “booster”) to a highly regard prospective football student-athlete being recruited by MSU (“prospect 1”). The representative also provided cost-free lodging and meals to prospect 1’s non-scholastic coach. A former assistant coach was aware of the booster’s interaction with prospect 1, but failed to report his knowledge of the inducements and provided false information to investigators.
The Committee found that MSU committed the following violations of NCAA legislation:
Impermissible Recruiting Activities by the Representative in violation of NCAA Bylaws 13.01.4, 126.96.36.199, 188.8.131.52(a), 184.108.40.206.1, and 13.2.1.
The representative’s impermissible recruiting was motivated by a desire to secure prospect 1’s enrollment at MSU. The representative had telephonic and in-person contacts with prospect 1 and provided him with cash and other items. The representative, further, arranged for prospect 1’s transportation, a discount on a vehicle for his mother and meals and lodging for prospect 1’s non-scholastic coach.
The facts demonstrate that, between June 2011 and February 2012, the representative and prospect 1 exchanged 117 telephone calls. Both prospect 1 and the representative admitted to the phone contacts, and a review of telephone records by the enforcement staff and institution during the investigation confirmed the calls occurred. Prospect 1 and the representative also had two in-person contacts near MSU. The first occurred at a “tailgate” gathering in October 2011, while the second occurred over the weekend of January 13-15, 2012, when prospect 1 was on his official visit to MSU. The representative, non-scholastic coach and prospect 1 all reported that the contacts occurred.
In a letter to the enforcement staff, the representative admitted to providing prospect 1 with a jacket for his birthday, which is prohibited by NCAA legislation. In addition to the violation he admitted, the facts also demonstrate that the representative provided a Visa gift card and, on two occasions, $100 cash to prospect 1. The representative also arranged for the representative’s friend to provide a vehicle for prospect 1 to drive to an unofficial visit in July 2011. Further, the representative helped arrange the purchase of a vehicle at a discounted price for prospect 1’s mother, and he provided or arranged for the provision of free lodging and meals to prospect 1’s non-scholastic coach. Finally, he offered prospect 1 $6,000 to forego his official paid visit to another institution.
Unethical Conduct by the Former Assistant Coach in violation of NCAA Bylaws 10.01.1, 10.1, and 10.1(d).
The former assistant coach learned of NCAA rules violations committed by the representative and failed to act or report them to anyone at the institution. He then chose to provide false or misleading information to the institution and NCAA enforcement staff regarding his knowledge of the violations. The enforcement staff, MSU and former assistant coach substantially agreed to the facts and that those facts constituted violations of NCAA legislation.
The former assistant coach learned with certainty in late November or early December 2011 that the representative and prospect 1 were having regular telephonic contact when the representative told the former assistant coach that there was no need to worry about prospect 1 attending another institution. At that time, the representative confirmed to the former assistant coach that he was in contact with prospect 1. In January 2012, the non-scholastic coach told the former assistant coach that the representative had supplied prospect 1 with a debit card and jacket in the previous month. The former assistant coach did not report his knowledge of the violations to the institution’s coaching staff or athletics administration.
The former assistant coach admitted when he was interviewed by MSU and NCAA enforcement on May 21, 2012 and August 8, 2012 regarding any knowledge he had of NCAA violations committed by the representative, he denied any knowledge of the relationship between prospect 1 and the booster. In his third interview in September 2012, the former assistant coach admitted he had been untruthful in the earlier interviews and had failed to report knowledge of the representative’s rules violations to the coaching staff or athletics administration when he learn of them.
As a result of the aforementioned violations, the Committee penalized MSU as follows:
1. Public reprimand and censure.
2. Two years of probation from June 7, 2013 through June 6, 2015.
3. MSU shall limit the permissible number of official visits to 39 for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years.
4. MSU shall reduce the permissible number of recruiting days during the spring evaluation period by four, from 168 to 164, for the 2012-13 academic year.
5. MSU shall reduce the permissible number of total grants-in-aid by two, from 85 to 83, for the 2012-13 academic year.
6. MSU shall reduce the number of allowable initial and total grants-in-aid by two, from 25 to 23 and 85 to 83, respectively, for the 2013-14 academic year.
7. MSU shall prohibit the provision of complimentary admissions to football prospective student-athletes for the first two conference contests of the 2013 season.
8. The representative has been disassociated with MSU’s athletics program.
9. The former head coach received a one-year show-cause penalty.