NCAA hits Florida, Mullen with punishment over recruiting violations

Florida head coach Dan Mullen speaks with players before the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game between Florida and Alabama, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Florida head coach Dan Mullen speaks with players before the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game between Florida and Alabama, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Florida football coach Dan Mullen was hit with a one-year show cause penalty for a pair of recruiting violations that occurred last year, the NCAA announced on Tuesday.

Many of the penalties have since expired for Mullen, who was cited by the NCAA for not promoting an “atmosphere of compliance.”

“As Head Football Coach of the Florida Gators, promoting an atmosphere of compliance within our program is important to me. Following the rules and being committed to doing things the right way is part of my history as a coach, at all levels, and I regret we didn’t do things the right way in this situation,” Mullen said in a statement.

“Even though this is an isolated matter, I’m still disappointed in the violations outlined in the report. We’re going to learn from our mistakes and I’m confident this won’t happen again. Most importantly, we’ll keep working for the benefit of our student athletes to make our program one our fans and University can be proud of.”

The NCAA said that Mullen and an unnamed assistant coach met a recruit who was not yet a junior at the same time that they met with his high school coach. Mullen had texted the player leading up to the visit.

Those types of contact are forbidden until after a recruit’s junior year of high school, the NCAA said. Those violations are Level II in nature.

“There is no evidence of systemic compliance issues at Florida, but when isolated circumstances occur they are addressed head on and we accept responsibility for our actions, as evidenced by this instance,” Gators athletic director Scott Stricklin said in a statement.

“NCAA rules are in place to create fairness and integrity, and the University of Florida has an established history of adhering to those rules. It is important for our coaches and staff to remain diligent and take responsibility for compliance, and extricate themselves from potential NCAA violations.”

Mullen and the coaching staff also had impermissible contact with roughly 127 prospects across seven non-high school teams on their way to a tournament in Tampa. Those players toured the facilities and had contact with the Gators staff, incurring Level III violations.

Mullen was prohibited from all off-campus recruiting activity during the 2020 fall evaluation period and a four-day off-campus recruiting ban next year.

The text from the NCAA reads:

“The Florida football program violated NCAA recruiting contact rules on two occasions, and the head coach did not promote an atmosphere of compliance, according to an agreement released by the Division I Committee on Infractions.

“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.

“The head coach agreed that he did not promote an atmosphere of compliance in light of his personal involvement in one of the violations.”

A full list of the penalties include:

  • One year of probation.
  • A $5,000 fine.
  • Reduced fall 2019 evaluations from 42 to 21.
  • Reduced football evaluation days by 12 for the 2018-19 academic year.
  • Restrictions on all recruiting telephone calls with football prospects from April 15 through May 31, 2019.
  • A reduction in the number of football official visits during the 2019-20 academic year by one and in the number of unofficial visits during the 2019-20 academic year by 14.
  • A one-year show-cause order for the head football coach. During that period, the head coach is prohibited from all off-campus recruiting activity during the fall 2020 evaluation period and a four-day off-campus recruiting ban during the fall 2021 contact period.
  • The university banned the head coach from recruiting for the first 10 days of the January 2020 contact period.
  • A 30-day off-campus recruiting ban for the head coach during the fall 2019 evaluation period.
  • The university ended the recruitment of the prospect.
  • The university will not recruit any prospects from the high school in Seattle from the 2019-20 through 2020-21 academic years.
  • A seven-day off-campus recruiting ban for the entire football coaching staff during the spring 2021 off-campus recruiting period.
  • A 30-day off-campus recruiting ban for the assistant coach in October 2019 and a three-day off-campus recruiting ban for the January 2020 contact period.
  • One-on-one rules education for both the head coach and assistant coach regarding NCAA contact and evaluation rules.

About the Author: