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Football: Can UL erase an entire football season?

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, November 13, 2015



UL placekicker Brett Baer celebrates his game-winning field goal in the first New Orleans Bowl win over San Diego State with quarterback Blaine Gautier (17).(Photo: Paul Kieu/The Advertiser)


Blaine Gautier’s three touchdown passes. Javone Lawson’s two TD catches. Brett Baer’s game-winning, walk-off 50-yard field goal to beat San Diego State 32-30 in the 2011 New Orleans Bowl at the Superdome.

The memory of all that and more cannot be erased.

But what will happen to the result of, and records from, that storied game and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s other victories that year as a result of the Ragin’ Cajuns’ decision to vacate their entire 2011 football season?

Even New Orleans Bowl executive director Billy Ferrante, who seems open to perhaps taking the Cajuns back again this year, isn’t sure.

“Are we willing to keep (2011) in the record books as a game that happened? I don’t know,” Ferrante said this week.

Those questions and more are prompted by the penalty, which is among several — along with scholarship reductions and recruiting restrictions — self-imposed by UL following an NCAA investigation into alleged academic-related recruiting and pay-for-play rules violations by former assistant football coach David Saunders.

Cajun representatives including athletic director Scott Farmer and head coach Mark Hudspeth were scheduled to appear Friday afternoon at a hearing before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis.

The committee is expected to take at least 60 days to issue its ruling.

The NCAA alleged after a roughly year-and-a-half long investigation that Saunders orchestrated an “elaborate” scheme to send six UL recruits including five who later played for the Cajuns to the same rural Mississippi testing center, where their ACT exam answers were altered and/or provided to help them meet academic eligibility requirements.

UL has acknowledged and conceded the allegation, and ones suggesting Saunders did not fully cooperate with the investigation, though it quibbles with the notion he orchestrated the scheme.

The NCAA also alleges Saunders paid one ex-Cajun approximately $6,500 with help from an unidentified booster, including $5,000 before he played at UL, which is something the program planned to refute at the infractions hearing.

No details from what happened at the hearing are expected to be released until committee makes its ruling sometime in 2016, leaving unanswered for now a variety of housekeeping matters because of what’s already been self-imposed, including vacating the 2011 season.

As far as the 2011 New Orleans Bowl results and records go, as well as the trophy, Ferrante said, “We’ve not had that conversation, and it’s probably premature for us to even do that.”

Direction is likely to come from the NCAA, and perhaps the Football Bowl Association, once a ruling has been made and any potential appeals by UL have been exhausted.

“It’s not come up in any of our committee meetings,” Ferrante said.

“From our perspective, it’s probably best that we stay at arm’s length and let the process work itself out, and if there’s something we’re required to do … then we’ll pursue what the best options are for us then.

“But at this point,” the bowl exec added, “we’ve not given it any consideration at all.”

For now, the Cajuns continue to count the wins within their all-time totals.

One in-state rival program, however, does not.

Before UL played UL Monroe on Halloween night, the Cajuns printed their all-times series record against the Warhawks as being 26-24.

ULM’s game notes read as follows: “UL-L leads 25-24* (UL-L 2011 win later vacated).”

The Cajuns beat the Warhawks 30-24.

As for UL hopes for a potential fifth straight New Orleans Bowl bid, they remain alive.

The Cajuns, who went into Thursday night’s loss at South Alabama needing two victories in their final four regular-season games to become bowl-eligible, did not self-impose a postseason ban.

If the NCAA were to impose one on UL as an added penalty, it likely would not happen until sometime after the 2015 season’s bowl games have been played.

Would the NCAA investigation adversely impact a potential New Orleans Bowl invitation this year?

“No,” Ferrante said, adding any such decision ultimately is made by the bowl’s executive committee.

“They (the Cajuns) are always in consideration,” Ferrante added, “self-vacated (previously) or not.”

UL’s four New Orleans Bowl appearances have been a financial boon for the game, with attendance being as high as a bowl-record 54,278 for a 2013 Cajun win over Tulane and no fewer than 34,014 for last December’s win over Nevada.

A crowd of 42,841 watched UL’s 2011 win over San Diego State.