LSU punished for violating recruiting rule after prospect backs out
BATON ROUGE, La. – The LSU football program will have recruiting privileges taken away for the second time in four years.
Because LSU apparently continued to engage in unlimited contact with offensive tackle Matt Womack, a prospective early enrollee from Senatobia, Miss., after he changed his mind about signing with LSU last fall and signed with Alabama, the Southeastern Conference has punished LSU.
The league ruled that LSU can no longer sign early enrollees to financial aid agreements for the next two years, and the SEC is cutting 21 of the program’s 210 evaluation days of high school and junior college prospects in the current year, according to public records obtained by the Baton Rouge Advocate. LSU signed five early enrollees for the class of 2015, including Kevin Toliver II – the No. 3 cornerback in the nation out of Jacksonville, Fla.
LSU athetic director Joe Alleva and football coach Les Miles had no comment on the SEC’s ruling on Thursday, but the school may be considering a possible appeals process.
LSU reported the violation to the SEC on Feb. 3 – the day before national signing day. Womack (6-foot-7, 330 pounds) signed with Alabama the next day. He is considered the No. 67 offensive tackle in the nation and the No. 17 prospect in Mississippi out of Magnolia Heights High School. Among the other schools that offered him scholarships were Florida, Ohio State, South Carolina, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Southern Mississippi, Louisville, Memphis, Louisiana Tech and Louisiana-Monroe.
Womack signed a financial aid agreement with LSU last August with a plan to enroll at LSU in January of 2015. He committed to the Tigers during a visit in July. According to NCAA rules, at the point Womack signed with LSU, LSU coaches and other staff members could have unlimited contact with him since he planned to be an early enrollee. Contact with other unsigned prospects is very restricted in a given year.
That rule has a curious risk or loophole attached, though, because if the signee changes his mind about school A and goes to a school B, school A – or in this case LSU – can be punished for the unlimited contact privileges it had in the first place.
A Sept. 15, 2014, story in Gannett’s Jackson (Miss.) Clarion Ledger quoted Womack’s father, David Womack, saying that LSU was concerned with this very loophole.
“LSU is not using (unlimited contact) because if Matt was to change his mind, LSU would have to report it,” the elder Womack said, foreshadowing what happened.
In the end, Womack’s decision gave Alabama a recruiting win over LSU and gave Alabama and all other LSU recruiting opponents a signing advantage over the Tigers concerning future early enrollees for two years as well as 21 more days to evaluate prospects this year.
In July of 2011, the NCAA sentenced the LSU football program to a year of probation and took away two scholarships for multiple major violations concerning the recruitment, transportation and housing of 2009 defensive end signee Akiem Hicks of Sacramento City Community College in California. Hicks never played for LSU and left after the 2009 fall semester, transferring to Regina College in Saskatchewan, Canada, and was picked by the New Orleans Saints in the third round of the NFL Draft in 2012. He made 41 tackles with two sacks last season.
After the 2009 season, Miles fired LSU wide receivers coach D.J. McCarthy, who recruited Hicks and broke NCAA rules concerning the number of phone calls to him as well as improper housing at other athletes’ residences. McCarthy was the director of player personnel at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla., in the 2014 season after serving as its wide receivers coach in 2012 and ’13.
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The Ocean State University (OSU) compliance staff is preparing hardship waiver applications for a few of its men’s and women’s soccer student-athletes. When determining the first half of the season, does OSU count the conference championship in the calculation?
Yes with conditions. NCAA Staff Interpretation- 2/28/14- Conference Championship in the First-Half-of-Season Calculation for Hardship Waivers in Team Sports (I) – states that, in team sports, a conference championship is counted as one contest or date of competition in determining the first half of the season for hardship waivers, regardless of the number of days or games involved in the championship. If the calculation is based on scheduled contests or dates of competition, the conference championship is counted as one contest or date of competition if it appeared on the institution’s schedule prior to the first scheduled contest or date of competition; however, if the calculation is based on completed contests or dates of competition, the institution must have participated in the conference championship.
[Reference: NCAA Division I Bylaw 126.96.36.199.4.1 (first-half-of-season calculation — team sports)]
The Ocean State University Women’s Basketball coaches want to attend the Junior World Championships in April to evaluate a highly touted prospect. Since this is an elite international event, can the coaches attend even if it occurs outside of a contact or evaluation period?
No. NCAA Official Interpretation- 8/12/11- Coaches’ Attendance at International Junior Competition (I)- states that the legislation permitting coaches to attend elite international events (e.g., Olympic Games, World Championships) outside of a contact or evaluation period applies only to the events specified in the legislation and does not extend to junior level competition (e.g., Youth Olympic Games, Junior World Championships, U19 World University Games) that may be associated with the specified events.
[Reference: NCAA Division I Bylaw 188.8.131.52 (coaches’ attendance at elite international events) and a staff interpretation (5/16/11, Item No. b), which has been archived]
The Ocean State University men’s basketball team won the Ocean Eleven Conference tournament this year. The Conference office will be providing each member of the team with a championship gift. There are three student-athletes on the team that did not attend the tournament. Two have been academically ineligible all year and the other is serving a year in residence for transferring.
Can the Conference office provide a gift to these three student-athletes?
No. NCAA Official Interpretation- 12/12/94- National or Conference Championship Awards to Ineligible Student-Athletes- states that it is not permissible for an institution or conference (or organization approved by either) to provide awards in recognition of conference or national championships to student-athletes who were not eligible to represent the institution in intercollegiate competition during the applicable sport season.
[References: 184.108.40.206 (conference and national championships) and staff minute 12/07/88, item c]
A few student-athletes were asked to participate in this month’s poll in the campus newspaper. The poll is “A few of my favorite things…” where students list their favorite restaurant, clothing store, etc.
Is it permissible for the student-athletes to participate in this student poll since they will be asked to list commercial establishments?
Yes with conditions. NCAA Staff Interpretation- 2/20/15- Student-Athlete Providing Opinions on a Commercial Product or Service (I)- states that a student-athlete may provide an opinion about a commercial product or service, as long as no individual associated in any manner with the commercial product or service is involved in directing the student-athlete to issue the opinion, and the student-athlete does not receive any benefits from any source in conjunction with his or her opinion.
[References: NCAA Bylaw 220.127.116.11 (advertisements and promotions after becoming a student-athlete) and an official interpretation (10/06/94, Item No. 2, which has been archived)]
Many of the athletic fields on Ocean State University’s (OSU) campus are still buried in the snow. The cleanup is too much for the limited facilities staff, so many of the student-athletes have had to help clear and line the fields for practices and games.
If the coaches are supervising the student-athletes with this field preparation, does the time spent have to count as a countable athletically related activity?
No. NCAA Official Interpretation- 12/21/11- Student-Athlete Performing Required Field or Facility Preparation or Maintenance (I)- states that field or facility preparation or maintenance that is performed by a student-athlete, related to practice or competition and required, supervised or monitored by a coaching staff member is not a countable athletically related activity.
[References: NCAA Division I Bylaws 17.02.1 (countable athletically related activities), 18.104.22.168 (daily and weekly hour limitations — playing season), 22.214.171.124 (weekly hour limitations — outside the playing season); and a staff interpretation (10/20/11, Item No. a), which has been archived]
Ocean State University men’s basketball coaches wants to provide an expense paid campus visit to a highly recruited prospect that has not yet signed a National Letter of Intent. This prospect wants to take the visit during the first couple of days in April, which is a quiet period.
Is it permissible for the prospect to take an official visit during a quiet period? Can the coaches have off-campus contact with the prospect during this visit?
Yes and yes. NCAA Staff Interpretation- 2/19/15- Contact and Ground Transportation to/from Bus or Train Station or Airport during Official Visit Outside a Contact Period (I)- states that at any time other than a dead period and, in women’s basketball, during the July evaluation periods, institutional staff members may have contact with a prospective student-athlete within 30-miles of the institution’s campus during the prospective student-athlete’s official visit.
Further, ground transportation provided by any member of the institution’s athletics department staff for a prospective student-athlete, his or her parents, relatives or legal guardians for an official visit between the campus and any bus or train station or airport outside of the 30-mile radius of the institution’s campus is not considered a contact.
[References: NCAA Division I Bylaws 13.02.4 (contact), 13.02.5.2 (evaluation period), 13.02.5.4 (quiet period), 13.02.5.5 (dead period), 126.96.36.199 (general restrictions — staff members and governing board), 13.1.5 (contacts), 188.8.131.52 (sports other than football and basketball), 184.108.40.206 (football), 220.127.116.11 (men’s basketball), 18.104.22.168 (women’s basketball), 22.214.171.124.2 (additional restrictions – July evaluation periods), 126.96.36.199 (from airport or bus or train station) 13.6 (official visit), 188.8.131.52.2 (July evaluation periods – women’s basketball) and 184.108.40.206 (meals on official visit)]
Ocean State University (OSU) women’s lacrosse coaches were approached by a local Division I institution to participate in a scrimmage during the championship season. OSU is already at their maximum 17 dates of competition. As long as no score is kept during the scrimmage, can OSU participate and not have to count it as a date of competition?
No. NCAA Bylaw 17.02.5 states that a date of competition is a single date on which any game(s), match(es), meet(s), exhibition(s), scrimmage(s) or joint practice session(s) with another institution’s team takes place, regardless of its formality, between an intercollegiate athletics team or individual representing a member institution and any other team or individual not representing the intercollegiate athletics program of the same member institution. (Revised: 1/10/91)
Swish is a senior basketball student-athlete at Ocean State University (OSU). This weekend Swish has the opportunity to be the first in OSU history to score 2000 points. When he reaches this milestone, the coaches would like to give Swish a game ball for his accomplishment. Is this permissible?
Yes. NCAA Staff Interpretation- 9/13/13- Recognition of Accomplishments in a Particular Contest or Event (I)– states that an institution may provide a memento of nominal value (e.g., game ball, t-shirt, hat, etc.), which may not include cash or cash equivalents, to a student-athlete in recognition of an accomplishment in a particular contest or event as a benefit incidental to participation.
[References: 16.1.4 (types of awards, awarding agencies, maximum value and numbers of awards) and a staff interpretation (11/27/96, item a), which has been archived]
Classes are not in session today at Ocean State University (OSU) in observance of President’s Day. The softball team played a double header yesterday, so the student-athletes were unable to go home for the long weekend. Today is the softball team’s once per week required day off. Is it permissible for OSU to provide the student-ahtletes with some form of reasonable entertainment today?
Yes. NCAA Bylaw 16.7 states that an institution, conference or the NCAA may provide reasonable entertainment (but may not provide cash for such entertainment) to student-athletes in conjunction with practice or competition. [R] (Revised: 1/19/13 effective 8/1/13)
The4/3/14 NCAA Working Group on Collegiate Model- Rules Q&A- RWG 16-6- states:
Question: May entertainment be provided during the required day off during the playing season?