NCAA Announces Recruiting Violations, Penalties for LSU Football

NCAA Announces Recruiting Violations, Penalties for LSU Football

Once again, LSU football finds itself under the NCAA microscope stemming from the topsy-turvy Ed Orgeron era. On Thursday, the NCAA released the list of penalties within the Tigers’ program, stemming from reported recruiting violations committed by former Tigers assistant coach James Cregg.

LSU faces one year of probation, a $5,000 fine, a limit of official visits and a self-imposed one-week prohibition against unofficial visits in the football program prior to the start of the 2022–23 academic year.

The list also includes a one-week prohibition against recruiting communications in the football program prior to the start of the next academic year, a reduction of seven evaluation days in the football program and a three-year show-cause order for Cregg, who is not named in the release. All of the penalties, aside from the year-long probation and show-cause for Cregg, were self-imposed by the program.

“Although the [committee] has encountered more egregious conduct in past cases, the violations in this case represent intentional misconduct that should be of concern to the membership,” the NCAA Division I committee on infractions panel said in its release. “The COVID-19 recruiting dead period was intended to protect the health and safety of prospects, student-athletes and institutional staff. It also leveled the playing field for recruiting at a time when government-imposed COVID-19 restrictions varied across the country.”

If any NCAA program hires Cregg, it must withhold him from any “off-campus recruiting activities unless it shows cause why the restriction should not apply.” Cregg served as offensive line coach and running game coordinator at LSU from 2018–20, helping the team to the College Football Playoff national championship in the 2019 season. 

He was fired in June 2021 over the alleged recruiting violations after Cregg impermissibly met with and gave team gear to a recruit during the COVID-19 recruiting dead period. 

Cregg was not mentioned in a previous NCAA Notice of Allegations focused on both the football and men’s basketball programs, and the governing body had not previously charged the coach with any infractions.

NCAA Committee on Infractions chair Dave Roberts pointed out that the larger LSU infractions case is going through a different adjudicative body, the Independent Accountability Resolution Process, and that it will be “up to them” to decide whether this ruling has any bearing on that case.

However, multiple NCAA infractions experts said the Cregg case likely will be an “aggravating factor” that could increase the risk of greater sanctions in the IARP case. NCAA sanctions can be increased by aggravating factors and decreased by mitigating factors. A history of major violations—Level II or greater—is a common aggravating factor.

“It’s going to be brought up, I’m certain, by the Critical Case Unit (which investigated LSU),” attorney Stu Brown, a veteran of NCAA infractions cases, told Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde. “I could see this being brought up as a negative factor for LSU.”

Brown added that if part of LSU’s argument in the joint men’s basketball-football case for lesser penalties centers on “corrective measures” being taken since the investigation began, a second major concurrent case could undermine that stance.

Cregg filed a lawsuit against the school in August ’21 over wrongful for-cause termination of his contract. Last month, a Baton Rouge judge ruled in favor of Cregg, who was set to receive $492,945.20 from the school, per the Daily Advertiser.

LSU said it intended to appeal the court’s ruling after the August decision.

“We are clearly disappointed in the court’s ruling. We had a coach admit to the NCAA under oath that he contacted and gave athletic gear to a recruit despite being advised by compliance staff of an existing no-contact period with recruits,” the school said in an August statement. “We had a contractual right and obligation to terminate this coach’s contract. Unfortunately, the trial court did not see this the same way. We intend to appeal this decision.”

Cregg currently serves as the offensive line coach for the 49ers in his first NFL stint since 2017.

Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde contributed to this report.

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