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Virginia football sanctioned by NCAA for recruiting violations

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Coaches took pictures with recruits during evaluation period in 2016

NCAA Football: Richmond at Virginia Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

The NCAA and the Virginia Athletics Department announced that the UVA football team has been sanctioned by the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions for recruiting violations that occurred in 2016.

According to 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.

“I am disappointed these actions occurred during engagements with prospects and resulted in violations,” Coach Bronco Mendenhall said in a statement released through the athletic department. “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.”

The Committee on Infractions approved the following sanctions:

  • Public reprimand and censure for the university.
  • A two-for-one reduction in permissible contacts with each football prospect during the next contact period, reducing the number of contacts per prospect from six to four (self-imposed by the university).
  • A two-for-one reduction in the number of days available for the spring 2017 evaluation period, reducing the number of evaluations from 168 to 150 (self-imposed by the university).
  • Rules education for the football coaching staff regarding the “bump” rule and evaluation period (self-imposed by the university). The university must provide documentation to the Offices of the Committees on Infractions confirming the completion of the rules education.
  • A $5,000 fine.

“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,” said Virginia athletics director Craig Littlepage. “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.”