NCAA Announces Recruiting Violations, Penalties for LSU Football

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Once again, LSU football finds itself under the NCAA microscope stemming from the topsy-turvy Ed Orgeron era. The list of penalties within the Tigers’ football program was released by the NCAA on Thursday. It is a result of recruiting violations that were reported to have been committed by James Cregg, former Tigers assistant coach.

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 ban on recruiting communications in football program before the start of next academic year, a reduction in seven evaluation days in football program, and a three year show-cause order against Cregg, who isn’t named in the release. The program imposed all penalties except for Cregg’s year-long probation and show cause.

“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 wasn’t mentioned in the NCAA Notice of Allegations that covered both the football and men’s basketball programs. The governing body hadn’t previously charged him with any infractions.

NCAA Committee on Infractions chair Dave Roberts noted that the larger LSU case involving infractions is currently being heard by an independent adjudicative body, The Independent Accountability Resolution Process. It will be up to them to decide if this ruling has any impact 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 or decreased by aggravating factors. An accumulation of major violations, Level II or higher, 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 by the court’s decision. “We had a coach confess to the NCAA that he reached out to recruits and gave them athletic gear, despite being informed by compliance staff that there was a no-contact period for recruits,” the school stated in an August statement. “We had a contractual obligation and right to terminate the coach’s contract. The trial court didn’t see it 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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