Hired by the NFL’s Cleveland Browns last month, Joker Phillips is still making news at the collegiate level.
Friday afternoon, the NCAA announced it has concluded that “[a] former University of Florida assistant football coach visited a prospect off-campus before NCAA rules allow for recruiting contact,” i.e. a dead period. While not named in the release, that assistant is Phillips, who was the Gators’ wide receivers coach at the time.
Because the school immediately suspended Phillips — he resigned a short time later — and ended its recruitment of the unnamed prospect, the NCAA decided that no further punishment was warranted.
Phillips had spent the 2013 season as Florida’s receivers coach before abruptly resigning his position in June of last year. It was subsequently reported that Phillips was photographed eating in a restaurant with a football prospect during a recruiting dead period, which would be an NCAA violation. It was also reported that it was someone with ties to the Miami Hurricanes who turned over evidence of the incident to the NCAA.
From The Association’s release:
Before the former coach talked with the prospect, he was notified by a recruiting service reporter that the prospect would be waiting outside of his high school when they arrived. Once the former coach was at the high school, he spoke with the prospect, let him know the school wanted the prospect to be a part of their football program and got the prospect’s social media contact information.
The panel determined the former coach’s contact with the prospect was a Level II violation because it was not inadvertent and provided more than a minimal recruiting advantage. Specifically, the former coach was able to get the prospect’s contact information at a time when coaches who were following the rules were unable to have the same level of contact.
“The University of Florida Athletic Association takes pride in the culture of compliance it has built over the years,” a statement from UF athletic director Jeremy Foley began. “Integrity is one of the core values of our organization – we act in a fair, ethical and honest manner and we strive to do things the right way every day.
“That is why we took quick and decisive action after we learned of a recruiting contact rule violation involving one of our assistant football coaches in January 2014. We stopped recruiting the involved student-athlete, we removed the assistant coach from all recruiting activities, and later secured his resignation.
“We thank the NCAA Committee on Infractions for their thoughtful deliberation. We look forward to putting this issue behind us and we will continue to operate with the highest level of integrity and compliance.”
This was, though, considered a major violation, the first for the Gators since 1990. That was the longest current stretch of any SEC school. That honor, though, now belongs to Vanderbilt, which hasn’t been slapped with a major NCAA violation since 1992.