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NCAA violation leads Virginia to self-impose recruiting sanctions

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Virginia is the latest football program to find itself on the wrong side of the NCAA’s bylaws.

UVA announced Friday that the school’s athletic department self-reported a violation by the Cavalier football program involving impermissible contact with potential recruits that has resulted in a Level II violation.  The violations occurred within the first few months after Bronco Mendenhall took over the program.

Below is a portion of the school’s press release:

On May 10, 2016, UVA head football coach Bronco Mendenhall self-reported impermissible contacts that occurred by members of his coaching staff. The contacts took place during the last week of April and the first week of May in 2016.

The violations involved assistant football coaches, after a brief greeting, engaging with prospects to take a photograph. The action was deemed contact beyond the standard greeting and a violation of NCAA bylaw 13.0.2.5.2-Evaluation Period, bylaw 13.1.1.1 – Time Period for Off-Campus Contacts and bylaw 13.17.4.1-Recruiting Calendars-Football.

There were a total of 32 violations involving this action during a two-week period. The number of violations elevated the overall violation to Level II status.

The specific coaches responsible for the violations were not specified.  As for what specifically the unnamed coaches did?  They were verifying heights and weights of recruits.  Seriously.

From the NCAA’s “Public Infractions Decision:”

The violation in this case occurred when the institution’s newly-hired football staff decided to begin personally verifying the height and weight of position-specific prospects before extending scholarship offers to them. The staff made this decision in early 2016 after previously relying on third-party verification of a particular prospect’s height and weight, only to find when he arrived on campus that he was much smaller than expected. By that point, the staff had already extended a scholarship offer to the prospect. To avoid a recurrence of this situation, the staff decided to pose for photographs standing next to prospects in order to personally verify their height and weight. Thus, during the spring 2016 evaluation period, seven members of the coaching staff posed for photographs with a total of 32 prospects at 23 high schools. They distributed the photographs to other members of the football coaching staff via a group text message. The coaches engaged in this conduct from April 28, 2016, to May 6, 2016. They thought this direct, face-to-face contact was permissible because in their opinion it did not extend their interactions with the prospects beyond a standard greeting. The coaching staff was mistaken in this understanding.

By posing for photographs with these 32 prospects at their high schools prior to the end of the prospects’ junior year, the coaching staff engaged in in-person, off-campus contacts during an evaluation period. The parties agreed, and the panel concludes, that these were impermissible contacts in violation of Bylaws 13.02.5.2, 13.1.1.1 and 13.17.4.1.

As  a result of those indiscretions, UVA has self-imposed recruiting sanctions that the NCAA has accepted.

  • Public reprimand and $5,000 fine (standard NCAA penalties for Level II violations)
  • Self-imposed reduction from six to four off-campus contacts for those prospects with whom coaches took photographs
  • Self-imposed reduction of spring 2017 evaluations from 168 to 150
  • Self-imposed additional rules education for the football staff as to what is deemed an impermissible contact

“I am disappointed these actions occurred during engagements with prospects and resulted in violations,” Mendenhall said in a statement. “It is incumbent upon everyone associated with our program to have a complete understanding of the NCAA bylaws and interpretations and it’s my responsibility to ensure that happens. We have already taken steps with our compliance staff to improve our training and rules education to ensure we meet that standard. It is our goal to operate at the highest level of compliance to support the University and positively represent our students, faculty, staff, alumni, supporters and community.”

“I believe we have established a positive culture of compliance regarding the NCAA bylaws and Coach Mendenhall’s response, cooperation with the NCAA and steps to move forward following these violations confirms that commitment,”a statement from athletic director Craig Littlepage began. “This is a reminder to all of our programs of the level of diligence required regarding our dedication to compliance. We are committed to abiding by all NCAA rules and I expect our entire athletics department to operate with that goal in mind.

Iowa loses RB James Butler ‘at least through the bye’

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Iowa sat Akrum Wadley for much of Saturday’s 31-14 win over North Texas after he was flagged for a (frankly ridiculous) excessive celebration penalty for high-stepping his way to the Kinnick Stadium end zone. (The score was wiped off the board, but Iowa completed the drive with a touchdown anyway.) The Hawkeyes will have no choice but to give him carries now.

Running back James Butler (20) has injured an elbow that will keep him out for the next few weeks.

“I think James will be out through the bye week,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said, via Hawkeye Report. “It will be a couple of weeks before we get him back.”

A Nevada transfer with two 1,000-yard seasons to his credit, Butler was a graduate transfer addition to the Hawkeyes, announcing his transfer on July 4. He ranks second on the club with 36 carries for 158 yards thus far in 2017, carrying a season-high 16 times for 74 yards before the injury.

Butler’s carries figure to go to fellow senior Wadley and freshmen Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin. Wadley leads the club with 60 carries for 258 yards and a touchdown, and Young and Kelly-Martin have combined to rush 30 times for 152 yards and two scores. Young made his debut in Wadley’s absence in the second half Saturday, rushing 19 times for 78 yards.

The 3-0 Hawkeyes host No. 4 Penn State on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, ABC), then visit undefeated Michigan State the week after (4 p.m. ET, FOX). Iowa will host Illinois before its Oct. 14 bye week.

Lincoln Riley to earn $3.1 million a year as OU head coach

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Lincoln Riley won’t be paid nearly as much as Bob Stoops was as Oklahoma’s head coach, but he’ll earn significantly more than he did as the Sooners’ offensive coordinator.

Oklahoma approved and released Riley’s new deal on Tuesday, a 5-year contract that pays him $3.1 million annually and rises $200,000 a year. Stoops made $5.5 million in his last season, according to USA Today, while Riley earned $900,000 as offensive coordinator.

Perks include 25 hours of private airplane use, not one but two private golf club membership, and bonuses ranging from $25,000 for winning Big 12 coach of the year honors to $250,000 for a national championship.

Riley is 3-0 in his young tenure, already proving himself to be a tremendous bargain for the Sooners.

SEC releases 2018 schedule

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The SEC released its 2018 slate on Tuesday, beginning the weekend of Sept. 1 and running through the SEC Championship on Saturday, Dec. 1. It would be entirely pointless to break down winners and losers of the ’18 slate considering we don’t really even know who’s good yet in 2017 — other than Alabama — and we especially don’t know who will be good in ’18 — other than ‘Bama, of course.

But we can point out some dates that look interesting as we sit here on Tuesday, Sept. 19, the year of our Lord 2017. And, no, intra-divisional games don’t count, since they are played every year.

  • Auburn vs. Washington — Sept. 1 (at Atlanta)
  • Alabama vs. Louisville — Sept. 1 (at Orlando)
  • LSU vs. Miami — Sept. 1 (at Dallas)
  • Tennessee vs. West Virginia (at Charlotte)
  • Clemson at Texas A&M — Sept. 8
  • Vanderbilt at Notre Dame — Sept. 15
  • Florida at Mississippi State — Sept. 29
  • Tennessee at Auburn — Oct. 13

Consult the full schedule here. 

Louisville-Ole Miss 2021 Chick-fil-A Kickoff opener made official

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After reports had signaled it, it’s a done deal.

The “it” in this case is Louisville opening the 2021 season against Ole Miss, with the two programs confirming Tuesday that they will square off in one of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff games that year.  The game will be played at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, although a date and kickoff time are still to be determined.

The 2021 game will mark the first-ever meeting between the football teams.  Each has made one previous appearance in the Kickoff Game, Louisville in 2015 (31-24 loss to Auburn) and Ole Miss in 2014 (35-13 win over Boise State).

“To have the opportunity to play in this game again for the second time is a huge win for our program,” Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich said in a statement. “We are honored to be welcomed back by the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, which is a tremendous testament to our loyal fan base, who helped pack the stadium in 2015. Our fans have a great history of traveling, and to have the opportunity to play a great program like Ole Miss in this brand-new facility will certainly be a hot ticket for the fans. Gary Stokan and the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl group do a tremendous job with this game and we appreciate them selecting Louisville for what has become the premier game to kick off the season.”

“We are thrilled to once again be part of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff. We always set the goal to end the regular season in Atlanta, so it’s only fitting that’s where we begin it,” Jurich’s Ole Miss counterpart, Ross Bjork, said in his. “With our strong alumni base in Georgia, Rebel Nation will arrive in full force to experience this premier matchup in the nation’s finest new stadium. In addition, the Atlanta market is a key recruiting area for our staff, and this trip offers a tremendous opportunity to compete in front of those prospects.”

Earlier this month, it was confirmed that Alabama and Miami would square off in the other Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game the opening weekend of the 2021 season.