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Football: Ex-Cajuns coach Saunders’ Pearl River status in limbo

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, October 13, 2015

 

David Saunders’ future as an assistant football coach at Pearl River Community College in Mississippi now has a cloud of uncertainty as a result of NCAA allegations against him stemming from his time as a Ragin’ Cajuns assistant.

Responding to inquiries made Monday, Pearl River athletic director Jason Francis responded to The Daily Advertiser via email Tuesday.

“When the initial story broke,” Francis wrote, “we were as surprised about it as anyone.”

According to NCAA allegations, Saunders arranged for six Cajun recruits, five of whom later played at UL, to take their ACT exams at the same test center, Wayne County High School (WCHS) in Mississippi, as part of an elaborate scheme to alter their test scores and make then academically eligible.

The NCAA further alleges Saunders paid one ex-Cajun $6,500, including approximately $5,000 while he was at a junior college and another $1,500 for housing expenses paid during a supposed parking-lot exchange on the UL campus.

He’s also accused of providing the NCAA with false or misleading information.

“This is a personnel issue that is being reviewed by our institution,” Francis said in his email to The Daily Advertiser. “We are monitoring the decision and the results of the NCAA investigation closely.

“As the NCAA investigation unfolds,” he added, “we will make our decisions about his future accordingly.”

Saunders, dismissed by UL late last October and hired as an assistant coach by Pearl River earlier this year, has denied all allegations. He had been on the Cajun coaching staff since early in 2011.

UL has acknowledged most of the ACT-related violations and has self-imposed penalties including vacating their 2011 season and reducing football scholarships, but the university disputes the cash-payment allegation.

The Cajuns also suggested in their response to the NCAA that Saunders may have known of or been involved in NCAA rules violations while he was employed by Ole Miss.

UL disclosed the NCAA’s charges and its response Sunday, three days after a public records request by The Daily Advertiser.

A hearing on the matter by the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions is scheduled for later this year.