home sitesearch sitemap contact fan about
  Submit/Update Profile  

Search the Network:

Football: NCAA investigation – How UL avoided a bowl ban

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, January 12, 2016


VIDEO: NCAA issues findings on Cajuns


While awaiting potential further sanctions stemming from the NCAA’s investigation into ACT-related recruiting violations allegedly committed by former UL assistant football coach David Saunders, a future bowl ban was chief among Ragin’ Cajuns athletic director Scott Farmer’s biggest worries.

When the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions issued its final ruling Tuesday, however, Farmer was able to take a deep breath and smile because that did not happen.

UL was hit with added penalties beyond the harsh ones it previously had self-imposed, which includes a reduction in football scholarships by 11 over a three-year period, recruiting restrictions and the vacating of its entire 2011 season including a New Orleans Bowl win over San Diego State.

But what the NCAA added Tuesday – more recruiting restrictions, a two-year period of probation, a $5,000 fine – was a relative wrist slap.

Not only did the Cajuns avoid a further reduction in scholarships, they also can play in a bowl as soon as this year – something they did for four straight seasons from 2011 through 2014 while winning the New Orleans Bowl each year, until missing out in 2015 because of a 4-8 record.

“The first thing is we all took was a huge sigh of relief that we didn’t have a postseason bowl ban,” Farmer said.

Farmer suggested UL officials including university president Joseph Savoie devoted immeasurable time and energy to dealing with the investigation and its fallout.

He estimates that six figures worth of monetary value – at least $100,000 – was spent on the matter. That presumably includes everything from attorney fees to the value of man hours devoted to the effort.

“Let’s be honest: (A bowl ban) would have been a significant thing,” Farmer said, “so that made us feel good about all the hard work we had done.”

That work was a mitigating factor in UL’s penalties, Committee on Infractions chief hearing officer Carol Cartwright suggested during a conference call with reporters Tuesday.

So too was UL’s cooperation in the investigation, as cited by the NCAA in its final report on the case, as well as, perhaps, the original self-imposed penalties.

“President Savoie and the athletics compliance director (Jessica Leger) both personally invested substantial time and attention to the details of this investigation,” Cartwright said, “so we note in our report this is exemplary cooperation and it’s a model for the kind of relationship and cooperation that member institutions should strive for in the infraction process.”

Farmer and Savoie both seized on that notation.

“That’s a great quote. It’s an absolutely great quote,” said Farmer, who added that “the (UL athletic department) staff’s professionalism, vigilance and integrity were recognized and appreciated by the Committee on Infractions.”

“The Committee,” Savoie added in a statement, “recognized our full cooperation and determination to get to the truth surrounding the allegations.”

Saunders is alleged to have directed multiple Cajun recruits and future football players to an ACT testing site at a high school in rural Mississippi, where an exam administrator there allegedly altered answers to improve the students’ scores.

When asked Tuesday if UL’s decision to terminate Saunders during the 2014 season further mitigated the penalties the Cajuns received, Cartwright did not directly answer the question.

“Any employment decisions relating to the assistant coach, or anybody else, really,” she said, “are the business of the university, and the NCAA does not comment on institutional employment practices or decisions.”

Cajuns head coach Mark Hudspeth originally said Saunders, also a former Ole Miss assistant coach and now the head coach at Pearl River Community College in Mississippi, “resigned for personal reasons.”

UL initially made no mention of a resignation, but issued a statement in November 2014 saying “Saunders is no longer associated with the … football program due to personal reasons.”

But later, in its response last year to the NCAA’s 2015 Notice of Allegation, the university suggested the ex-assistant was let go because he declined to fully cooperate with investigators.

In any event, Farmer seems to firmly believe now that – in addition to UL’s cooperation with the NCAA – the decision regarding Saunders’ job status at the school played a role in avoiding a bowl ban.

“I definitely think it was a factor,” he said.

“How much, I can’t get into the Committee on Infraction’s head. I don’t really know. Obviously I wasn’t behind closed doors with them,” Farmer added. “But I think they knew that we acted appropriately throughout the whole investigation, and (that) when he failed to cooperate with us we made the appropriate decision.”


   Penalties and corrective actions self-imposed by UL as a result of an NCAA investigation into its football program, and specifically alleged ACT-related actions by ex-assistant coach David Saunders, and accepted by the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions include:

  • A reduction of initial football scholarships by three for both the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons, leaving 22 initial scholarships each season.
  • A reduction by five in the total number of football scholarships awarded in 2015-16, leaving 80, and by three in both 2016-17 and 2017-18, leaving 82. The reductions over the three-year period will total of 11 scholarships.
  • A reduction in the number of off-campus recruiting days by six in the fall of 2015 and 22 in the spring of 2016.
  • A reduction of official visits to 38 for the fall of 2015 and 44 total visits during the 2014-15 season.
  • A prohibition of all recruiting communication for a three-week period during the 2015-16 season.
  • A vacation of the records from the 2011 football season, including the team’s participation in the New Orleans Bowl.

   Additional penalties and corrective actions prescribed by the panel on Tuesday include:

  • A two-year probation period from Jan. 12, 2016, through Jan. 11, 2018 (but no bowl ban).
  • An eight-year show-cause order for the former assistant coach (Saunders) from Jan. 12, 2016, through Jan. 11, 2024. If he seeks employment at an NCAA member school, he and the school must appear before the Committee on Infractions.
  • A $5,000 fine.
  • An additional limitation in the number of official visits to 38 for the 2016-17 season.
  • An additional three-week ban on all university-initiated recruiting communication in the football program for the 2016-17 season.
  • An additional vacation of records for the 2012-2014 seasons in which student-athletes competed while ineligible; which games, to-be-determined.