Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Auburn contact with prized recruit could rise to standard of major violation, experts say (UPDATED)



Yesterday, IBCR reported that Auburn University likely violated its agreement with the Southeastern Conference and NCAA regarding the school’s report and self-imposed sanctions after the 2010 Tiger Prowl affair.

As explained yesterday, Auburn released reams of documents regarding multiple secondary violations discovered over the last two years, including violations revealed during an investigation into the Tiger Prowl visits the football program used as a recruiting tool in Spring 2010.

The documents show that Auburn agreed to self-impose a 60 day restriction on staff contacts—both on- and off-campus—with prized Hueytown Quarterback Jameis Winston. The restriction was to begin the first week of November 2011 and run through January 2012. Both the SEC and the NCAA agreed to deal and the matter was dropped from further consideration.

However, as also reported here yesterday, the prospective student-athlete told recruiting analysts that Auburn coaching staff visited him in his home Sunday night, in apparent violation of the terms of that agreement:


Ms. McKeeman confirmed to us via email that Winston was her source for the report and that the report was accurate.

This would appear to violate the terms of the agreement reached between the school, the SEC, and the NCAA, and NCAA compliance experts believe that this could rise to the standard of a major violation, but that the SEC may seek to mitigate any potential penalties as a result.

“The standard of a major violation is nebulous—it is basically all other violations not secondary,” says Dr. David Ridpath, NCAA compliance expert and professor of Sports Administration at Ohio University. “A couple caveats are—was there a competitive advantage gained and was there intent to break the agreement, or was there a reckless disregard for the rules.”

“This could be considered major, but it is often in the eye of the beholder. If this visit took place—there appears to be intent to violate and a disregard for the rules. If this kid signs with Auburn—then there would be a competitive advantage. That does not mean it would automatically be a major violation because the NCAA is very inconsistent on application plus you can never underestimate the influence of the SEC in the mitigation of violations,” said Ridpath.

The SEC has so far declined comment. The NCAA has yet to return messages seeking comment and clarification. Auburn University cannot comment because the coaching staff cannot publicly discuss the prospective student-athletes it is pursuing.

“The best option for Auburn is to simply back off of Winston’s recruitment altogether and plead ignorance of the terms of the agreement in a report of a secondary violation,” said a college recruiting and compliance analyst. “If he never signs a letter of intent and never reaches the campus, it’s not that big of a deal, really. But if the school signs the prospect and it’s shown that they broke an agreement not to make contact with him, that would be a thumb in the eye of the NCAA. It sure wouldn’t go down well in Indianapolis.”


UPDATE: al.com’s Evan Woodbery has a published report in which the Antonor Winston acknowledges that Auburn coaches Gus Malzahn, Curtis Looper and Trooper Taylor visited the family Sunday night.

This confirms Laura McKeeman’s report Monday afternoon and reported here later that night.

Woodbery’s story also acknowledges the existence of self-imposed restrictions that limited the Auburn staff’s contact with Winston through January of 2012.

What remains unclear is what—if anything—has changed since November 4, when the school released the documents in response to media open records requests.

What is clear? At the time of the initial violation in 2010, Winston was a high school junior. NCAA rules state that the Auburn staff was prohibited from having off-campus contact until November of his senior year—2011. This is the reason why the self-imposed penalties for the staff’s contact with Winston are different from the dates of the other penalties described in the report.

If those restrictions haven’t been lifted, then the coaches’ visit last Sunday would represent a violation of a standing agreement. 

There’s nothing to be gained by pushing this story any further. The key information is now in the news stream and nothing sanitizes better than sunshine. Further, Auburn officials are at a disadvantage over this story because by rule they cannot publicly discuss recruits or recruiting activities.

We’ll continue to follow developments but at least for the time being, we’re calling this one CONFIRMED.

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ColorOfGrey said...

I'm confused. It says Saban did the exact same thing. Wouldn't Alabama be in just as much trouble as Auburn?

David L. said...

No, because Auburn was under the agreement not to make contact with the prospect until January 2012. That agreement was a penalty self-imposed for a secondary recruiting violation.

Since Alabama committed no secondary violations in connection with Winston, Saban was free to visit.

Any and all other schools recruiting Winston could also contact and visit him. The only one that couldn't was Auburn.

Bamaforever said...

Auburn would be very wise to back away from Winston and plead a mistake was made, other wise any continued contact with him would confirm a willful intent to violate the agreement they made with the NCAA in regard to Winston and their past sins with him. The NCAA will not view this in a positive position at all and would in all probability upgrade this violation to major.

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