NCAA rules former UL coach acted unethically

Photo Credit: KLFY

The NCAA has ruled that former University of Louisiana at Lafayette assistant football coach David Saunders violated its rules by, “arranging fraudulent college entrance exam scores for five prospects and then denying his involvement,” according to a news release issued today.

Officials accepted the university’s self-imposed penalties and own imposed additional sanctions. UL will have to vacate the Ragin’ Cajuns entire 2011 season, including its win over San Diego State in the New Orleans Bowl.

The university will also reduce its football scholarships by 11 over a three-year period and restrict recruiting opportunities.

The following is a release from the NCAA: 

A former University of Louisiana at Lafayette assistant football coach violated NCAA rules by arranging fraudulent college entrance exam scores for five prospects and then denying his involvement, according to a decision issued by a Division I Committee on Infractions panel. The former assistant coach also failed to cooperate in the investigation.

The panel accepted penalties self-imposed by the university, including scholarship reductions, recruiting restrictions and a vacation of football records. Additional penalties include two years of probation, a $5,000 fine, additional recruiting restrictions and an eight-year show-cause order for the former assistant coach. During the period, if he is hired by an NCAA member school, he and the school must appear before the Committee on Infractions.

According to the facts of the case, the former assistant coach developed a relationship with an administrator for a college entrance exam test site, which ultimately led to five prospects obtaining fraudulent exam scores. Each of the prospects was directed by the former assistant coach to take the exam at a rural Mississippi high school. Without aid from the former assistant coach, the prospects would not have known about the location because each had to travel a great distance to reach it.

In previous exams, four of the five prospects’ scores did not meet NCAA standards for initial eligibility. After taking exams at the location, each of the five prospects scored significantly higher and the scores made them all initial qualifiers under NCAA rules. Ultimately, the college entrance exam provider cancelled four of the five prospects’ scores. The provider cited unusual increases in exam scores from previous exams taken by the prospects and substantial erasure patterns. When the prospects became student-athletes at the university and participated in competition before the violations were discovered, they competed while ineligible.

The panel found the former assistant coach violated NCAA ethical conduct rules during the interview process when he denied his role in arranging the entrance exams and falsifying scores. He also failed to cooperate with additional requests during the investigation. He participated in two interviews, and then declined to participate in a third interview or give his telephone records. During the investigation, the former assistant coach also refused a request by the school to sign a document that would have allowed the exam provider to turn over records to the university about who paid for the five prospects’ exams.

The panel noted that while the university likely could not have stopped the former assistant coach because he concealed his activities, ultimately a university is responsible for its employees.

The former assistant coach also provided a total of $6,500 to a football student-athlete over the course of two semesters. The student-athlete said the coach gave him the money while he was both a prospect and when he later enrolled at the university. The former assistant coach directed the student-athlete to take an envelope of cash to the university’s cashier’s office, and then bring a receipt as proof that he paid the money to his student account.

Penalties and corrective actions self-imposed by the university and accepted by the panel 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 include:

  • A two-year probation period from Jan. 12, 2016, through Jan. 11, 2018.
  • An eight-year show-cause order for the former assistant coach 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. The three-week ban should occur during the same three weeks as the university-imposed ban during the 2015-16 season.
  • An additional vacation of records for the 2012-2014 seasons in which student-athletes competed while ineligible. The university will identify the games impacted following the release of the public report.

Members of the Committee on Infractions are drawn from NCAA membership and members of the public. The members of the panel who reviewed this case are Michael F. Adams, chancellor, Pepperdine University; John Black, attorney in private practice; Carol Cartwright, chief hearing officer and president emeritus at Kent State University; Alberto Gonzales, dean of the law school at Belmont University and former attorney general of the United States;  Joel Maturi, former University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, athletics director; Gary Miller, chancellor at University of Wisconsin-Green Bay; and David Roberts, vice president for athletics compliance at the University of Southern California.

Click here to see the NCAA’s full decision

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