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 220.127.116.11.2-Evaluation Period, bylaw 18.104.22.168 – Time Period for Off-Campus Contacts and bylaw 22.214.171.124-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, 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52.
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.