NCAA investigation: UL forfeits 22 football victories

UL Lafayette

LAFAYETTE, La. (The Daily Advertiser) – Kiss another New Orleans Bowl victory goodbye.

UL on Thursday morning revealed the number of football victories it will vacate as the result of an NCAA investigation into its football program: 22 in all.

The Ragin’ Cajuns originally self-vacated their entire 9-4 season from 2011, including a New Orleans Bowl win over San Diego State.

Now – as ordered by the NCAA, and after taking their allotted time to determine which games five ineligible players took part – they said they have vacated eight of their nine victories from 2011, four from 2012, eight from 2013 and two from 2014, including their 2011 and 2013 New Orleans Bowl wins.

UL went 9-4 in all four of those seasons.

The Cajuns also must forfeit their 2013 Sun Belt Conference co-championship.

“While it is disappointing to vacate these victories and championships, we finally put this chapter behind us and will continue to grow our championship football program,” UL athletic director Scott Farmer said in a statement. “We stand behind the integrity and accomplishments of (head coach) Mark Hudspeth, members of his coaching staff and each of our student-athletes who played football during the Hudspeth era.”

The NCAA previously did not find Hudspeth to be at fault.

UL avoided a future bowl ban but was saddled with added sanctions when in January the NCAA issued a final ruling on its lengthy investigation into alleged recruiting violations and payment to a player by former assistant coach David Saunders.

The NCAA’s Committee on Infractions ruled then that Saunders, now the head coach at Pearl River Community College in Mississippi, “violated NCAA rules by arranging fraudulent college entrance exam scores for five prospects,” and that he also denied his involvement and failed to cooperate in the investigation.

The university agreed with the findings that resulted in invalid ACT scores and chose not to appeal the ruling, UL athletic director Scott Farmer said in January.

UL countered, though, by filing a lawsuit seeking damages from ACT Inc. for allegedly failing to detect improper test administration or results.

The NCAA also found after a year-and-a-half-long probe that Saunders paid one unidentified student-athlete “$6,500 over two semesters,” something UL has denied throughout the process.

Beyond accepting the penalties initially self-imposed by the Cajuns, which also included recruiting restrictions and a reduction in football scholarships by 11 over a three-year period, the NCAA in January levied additional sanctions including “two years of probation, a $5,000 fine, additional recruiting restrictions and an eight-year show-cause order” for Saunders.

It did not take away any added football scholarships, however.

Show-cause means that if Saunders is hired by an NCAA member school during that period, he and the school must appear before the Committee on Infractions.

The NCAA also ruled in January that UL must vacate all football games from 2012 through 2014 in which ineligible student-athletes participated.

That is what led to Thursday’s announcement.

According to what the NCAA called “facts of the case,” Saunders “developed a relationship with an administrator for a college entrance exam test site, which ultimately led to five prospects obtaining fraudulent exam scores.”

The NCAA identified that administrator as Ginny Crager, a now-retired Wayne County (Mississippi) High teacher.

Officials from UL appeared before an NCAA Committee on Infractions last November at Indianapolis, Indiana.

The NCAA issued a four-count notice of allegations earlier in 2015, and UL subsequently responded.

Saunders was fired by UL during the 2014 season, after he allegedly failed to cooperate with investigators.

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