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Football: UL – “Violations isolated;” Hudspeth didn’t know

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, October 13, 2015


According to terms of Ragin’ Cajuns football coach Mark Hudspeth’s current contract with UL, prior knowledge of NCAA rules violations is requisite before the university could terminate the agreement “with cause.”

A with-cause termination would mean UL would not have to pay the head coach anything beyond what it already has or what is already owes him.

But with UL maintaining Hudspeth had no knowledge of what was happening in response to a Notice of Allegations from the NCAA that a former Cajuns assistant football coach committed major violations related to recruiting and cash payments, and the NCAA seemingly agreeing, termination with cause is not at all an anticipated fallout of the probe.

In fact, all indicators from the Cajuns are that they very much want their popular head coach to remain in the fold.

UL has extended Hudspeth’s contract twice since the NCAA’s probe started in January of 2014, and as recently as this past summer, indicating it wishes and expects to retain the fifth-year Cajuns coach long-term.

Hudspeth makes $1 million in base pay — a combination of $175,000 from UL, with the remainder from the Ragin’ Cajun Athletic Foundation — as part of a six-year, $6.45 million retroactive contract extension that was signed in 2014.

The extended contract was extended this year by one more year, meaning it now runs through 2020.

He also has a $50,000 annual annuity and various athletic and academic performance-based incentive bonuses as part of his contract.

The UL System Board of Supervisors’ Athletic Committee approved the latest extension, which became effective July 29, during a regular meeting in Baton Rouge on Aug. 27.

Former UL assistant coach David Saunders is accused by the NCAA of an elaborate scheme to direct six Cajun football recruits, five of whom later played at UL, to a specific ACT exam site in rural Mississippi, where an exam supervisor allegedly altered and/or provided answers to improve scores and help make the student-athletes academically eligible.

Saunders denies the allegation; UL has accepted most of the ACT-related charges.

Saunders also is accused of funneling about $6,500 to one ex-Cajuns players, an allegation both he and UL deny.

According to clauses in Hudspeth’s contract, “The committing by Coach (Hudspeth) of a major violation of NCAA or (Sun Belt) Conference regulations or the committing of major violations of NCAA or conference regulation by Coach’s staff of which Coach had prior knowledge and failed to report or attempt to prevent” falls under the qualifiers of “just cause for termination.”

Another “just cause for termination” in the contract: “Failure to cooperate with the University and/or the NCAA in the investigation of alleged violations of NCAA or Conference regulations.”

Another part of Hudspeth’s contract with UL spells out that “Coach shall abide by the rules and regulations of the NCAA, Conference and University” and that “If found in violation of NCAA regulations, Coach shall by subject to disciplinary or cooperative action as set forth in the NCAA enforcement procedures (NCAA Constitution 11.2.1).”

Additionally: “Coach may be suspended for a period of time, without pay, or the employment of Coach may be terminated if Coach is found to be involved in major, deliberate or serious violations of NCAA regulations which result in an official finding by the NCAA.”

Hudspeth himself is not charged with having committed any rules violations, however, and in UL’s August response to the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations it says “the violations were isolated to a single staff member.”

The Cajuns also say he has fully cooperated with NCAA’s and their own in-house investigation.

With the NCAA’s investigation now complete, the university has no reason to believe Hudspeth will be found to have had any prior knowledge of Saunders’ activities.

The NCAA can, however, consider Saunders’ status as a UL assistant coach at the time as it weighs punishments for the program that could include further postseason bans, a further reduction in scholarships and recruiting activity and further vacating of prior victories.

“While Saunders committed these violations independently, he did so while acting in his capacity as an institutional staff member,” the NCAA said in its assessment that Saunders committed “multiple violations” and that one or more violations “caused ineligibility or substantial harm to a student-athlete or a prospective student-athletes.”

“Therefore,” the NCAA adds, “the enforcement staff has identified this as a potential aggravating factor that may be attributed to the institution.”