A day after a public records request by the Daily Advertiser forced release of documents relating to an NCAA investigation of the UL football program, Athletic Director Scott Farmer declined comment but urged the local media to read the documents “in their entirety. They will answer most of your questions.” Yes, Scott, maybe, and no.
Yes, Scott, the first of the four charges as described in the NCAA Notice of Allegations dated May 22, 2015, should convince everyone that UL assistant coach David Saunders executed “a complex plan for six then football prospects to take the ACT exam at a testing site located a considerable distance from their hometown, as well as arranged for the ACT supervisor at the site to complete/alter the prospect’s answer sheets in such a manner that they would receive fraudulent scores.” Those fraudulent scores would allow the recruits to compete as freshmen and receive financial assistance.
And yes, Scott, the documents clearly demonstrate Allegations 3 and 4 to be true also. When Saunders realized he had been caught lying (No. 3) he clammed up (No. 4). And Saunders was relieved of recruiting duties soon after No. 3 (May, 2014) and fired soon after No. 4 (October, 2014).
And yes again, UL’s response, due 90 days after the Notice of Allegations and dated Aug. 20, 2015, includes examples of the university’s “exemplary cooperation,” a key mitigating factor in determining sanctions. According to its statement UL “worked collaboratively with the (NCAA) enforcement staff to develop information and gather relevant evidence.” UL also accepted responsibility, self-imposed sanctions, and planned corrective action.
But maybe, Scott, UL is wrong to contest Allegation 2, a he said/he said faceoff over whether Saunders gave $6,500 to a recruit. UL says the recruit hated Saunders, and though at times truthful, had “a propensity for storytelling.” Saunders, as we are discovering and UL wants the NCAA to always remember, has a compulsion to lie.
And maybe it’s true the ACT should have flagged suspicious test scores and alerted UL early enough to keep a UL coach from going bad. And maybe the Eligibility Center, formerly the NCAA Clearing House, should have been more vigilant. Remember the old days and complaints about delays at the Clearing House and its bureaucratic sloth? Maybe they had their reasons after all.
And maybe, Scott, it’s all Ole Miss’ fault. That’s where Hudspeth found Saunders when he formed his first staff in January 2011 (the first violation occurred a month later). Why didn’t Ole Miss tip UL off? After all, this mess started in December 2013 when the NCAA and Ole Miss legal counsel asked UL to arrange interviews with Saunders and a UL football player who he recruited when he was an administrative assistant at Ole Miss in 2010. So maybe it’s correct to argue as a mitigating factor that Saunders developed his complex plan at Ole Miss and left a trail of violations that led to UL’s door. Or that Ole Miss also had recruits take the ACT at the same remote site and end up with questionable test scores.
But no, Scott, reading the 100-plus pages didn’t answer all my questions. For example, how are “irregular erasure patterns” calibrated? Or why can’t the NCAA’s mandatory “cooperative policy” be replicated in Congress? And why the heck is a cornerbacks coach as Saunders was listed arranging academic eligibility exams? And then there’s the big one: What did Mark Hudspeth know and when did he know it? Actually that last question is just for curiosity. According to the NCAA it no longer matters. Effective Aug. 1, 2013, “Penalties in the previous structure relied on whether the head coach knew of violations or whether there was a ‘presumption of knowledge.’ But under the new structure, rather than focus on knowledge or the presumption of it, the bylaw was amended to assume responsibility. Accordingly, if a violation occurs, the head coach is presumed responsible, and if he or she can’t overcome that presumption, charges will be forthcoming.”
Sounds like the NCAA has adopted a simple form of deterrence: The one who makes the dough and runs the show should know; that, and they got tired of sifting through page after page of lawyerly prose.