The NCAA announced this afternoon that Florida head coach Dan Mullen violated rules regarding contact with recruits. As such, there are, predictably enough, punishments in order.
UPDATE: Florida AD Scott Stricklin has released a statement that goes into greater detail about what happened to trigger the penalties.
The University of Florida’s athletic department’s goal is to create a championship experience with integrity. Part of having integrity is accepting responsibility and consequences when we make mistakes. For over a year, we have been cooperating with the NCAA regarding two situations where we needed to be better related to rules compliance in the sport of football.
The first situation involved a group of high school students who stopped by campus on unofficial visits while en route to a 7-on-7 tournament. While today this is allowed under NCAA rules, at the time this occurred it was not permitted. The second involved an interaction between two of our coaches, including our head coach, and a prospective student-athlete at his high school that lasted 15 minutes, which is beyond what is allowed under NCAA rules. Neither of these violations involved impermissible benefits or offers of impermissible benefits, and UF ceased recruiting these athletes once made aware of the circumstances.
The penalties Florida Football faces include a reduction of the number of off-campus evaluations our staff can have, along with a loss of one official visit, and a fine. Nearly all of the punitive measures stemming from these two incidents have already been fulfilled.
The NCAA’s press release was much less detailed and painted a much darker picture, but ultimately did not disagree with anything that Stricklin said:
“The university, the head football coach, an assistant coach and NCAA enforcement staff agreed that the assistant coach and head coach had impermissible in-person contact with a prospect when they met with a prospect’s high school coach while the prospect was in the room. At that meeting, the Florida coaches expressed an interest in recruiting the prospect. Leading up to that visit, the head coach sent the prospect texts about his upcoming visit to the high school and his interest in recruiting the prospect. NCAA rules were violated because off-campus recruiting contacts are not allowed until after a football prospect’s junior year of high school. The violations were Level II.
According to the agreement, members of the coaching staff also had impermissible contact with approximately 127 prospects when seven nonscholastic football teams visited the campus and toured the football facilities on their way to a tournament in Tampa. The assistant coach had incidental impermissible contacts with several prospects. The violations were Level III.”
Before everybody completely freaks out, as Stricklin pointed out, it’s important to note that most of the penalties levied against the Florida program were already served. Thus, this is mainly an academic discussion about how Mullen was punished, as opposed to discussing sanctions that will loom over the program in the foreseeable future. The NCAA report notes that Mullen agreed that he was at fault, and therefore went relatively easy on him.
Among the penalties Dan Mullen has already served, and no longer has to worry about:
- Mullen was fined $5,000. For perspective, he was fined five times that amount for his role in the Missouri brawl.
- Twelve fewer football evaluation days for the 2018-19 academic year.
- Fall 2019 player evaluations were sliced in half from 42 to 21.
- Mullen was barred from recruiting off campus for 30 days during the fall 2019 evaluation period.
- The assistant coach was also barred from off-campus recruiting in October 2019 and a three-day off-campus recruiting ban for the January 2020 contact period.
- Mullen was barred from recruiting for the first ten days of the January 2020 contact period.
- Recruiting calls with football prospects were restricted from April 15 through May 31, 2019.
- Florida ceased recruitment of the prospect in question.
Those are the kinds of punishments that are much better to read about in the past tense, meaning that they’ve already been served, as opposed to remaining obstacles to have to fight past moving forward. However, there are still a few restrictions that are still in effect and that Florida will have to navigate through, including:
- Florida has been barred from recruiting anybody from this high school (located in Seattle, big deal) from the 2019-20 through 2020-21 academic years.
- Florida was placed on one year of probation.
- Mullen was slapped with a one year show-cause penalty. During that period, Mullen is barred from all off-campus recruiting activity during the fall 2020 evaluation period (meaning now) and a four-day off-campus recruiting ban during the fall 2021 contact period.
- A seven-day off-campus recruiting ban for the entire football coaching staff during the spring 2021 off-campus recruiting period.
- A little something that the NCAA calls “One-on-one rules education for both the head coach and assistant coach regarding NCAA contact and evaluation rules.”
The NCAA statement also goes on to note that any punishment that isn’t able to be administered due to COVID-19 protocols will be served at the next available opportunity. This case was part of the negotiated resolution process between the NCAA and the University of Florida as opposed to a formal NCAA hearing. Negotiated resolutions are not appealable, and thus are concrete.
Although this is ultimately not the end of the world for Mullen or Florida, show-cause penalties for coaches or probation orders for programs never really expire. Sure, the NCAA will mandate a specific time frame for these types of orders to be in place, but then after the allotted time elapses, if the coach then goes out and commits another violation, the NCAA isn’t likely to forget about the first one. So if Mullen were to, say, commit a series of “bump” violations in 2023, the NCAA would recall that this wasn’t the first time he was in hot water with their regulations and therefore dole out stiffer punishments than they ordinarily would for a coach who commits a bump infraction. This is why I listed the probation and show-cause penalties as things Florida will have to navigate moving forward as opposed to past tense.
So yes: Dan Mullen, you did survive this, but you do need to be careful going forward.