NCAA chooses not to penalize Florida Gators for impermissible recruiting contact violation

By Adam Silverstein
February 20, 2015

The Florida Gators were not penalized by the NCAA on Friday for an incident that occurred on Jan. 23, 2014, when former wide receivers coach Joker Phillips violated a recruiting rule with a “bump.”

A “bump” in college recruiting is when a coach converses with a high school recruit outside of the allowable time periods at a “chance encounter,” whether the interaction was intended by the coach or not. The NCAA and Phillips agreed that he and a recruiting prospect “engaged in a conversation which exceeded a casual greeting” on the athlete’s high school campus that included recruiting conversation and the athlete “entering his social media contact information into the assistant football coach’s phone.”

The NCAA concluded that an unnamed Florida assistant (Phillips) “visited a prospect off-campus before NCAA rules allow for recruiting contact” that gave the Gators a recruiting advantage and “exceed[ed] the boundaries of permissible recruiting and are a serious issue for the membership.”

Before the former coach talked with the prospect, he was notified by a recruiting service reporter that the prospect would be waiting outside of his high school when they arrived. Once the former coach was at the high school, he spoke with the prospect, let him know the school wanted the prospect to be a part of their football program and got the prospect’s social media contact information.

The NCAA determined that the violation was of the Level II variety “because it was not inadvertent and provided more than a minimal recruiting advantage;” however, Phillips “was able to get the prospect’s contact information at a time when coaches who were following rules were unable to have the same level of contact.”

The assistant coach denied knowing that his contact with the prospect was impermissible. He claimed he had misinterpreted NCAA recruiting legislation and that the contact was permissible if it was short, the conversation was limited and he did nothing more than
collect the prospect’s contact information.

When [Florida] personnel informed the assistant coach on March 19, 2014, that he was going to be interviewed by the [NCAA] enforcement staff, they did not tell him what he was going to be interviewed about. Yet the assistant coach reacted by telephoning the recruiting service provider to ask if they had done anything wrong. The assistant coach did not reach out to anyone else to discuss the impending interview. The assistant coach’s reaction shows that, at the very least, he realized that something about the contact may have been inappropriate.

Florida was not penalized by the NCAA due to corrective actions it took immediately after learning of Phillips’s violation. “The school immediately suspended the former coach and ended recruitment of the prospect,” wrote the NCAA in a release.

Furthermore, “The panel determined the corrective actions and penalties self-imposed by the school were appropriate and assigned no additional penalties or measures.”

Phillips resigned from Florida on June 11, 2014, after just one year on the job, citing “personal reasons” factoring into his decision to step down. The NCAA’s report notes that UF “requested his resignation based on his conduct.”

Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley responded to the NCAA’s decision moments after it was announced publicly on Friday.

“The University of Florida Athletic Association takes pride in the culture of compliance it has built over the years. Integrity is one of the core values of our organization – we act in a fair, ethical and honest manner and we strive to do things the right way every day.

“That is why we took quick and decisive action after we learned of a recruiting contact rule violation involving one of our assistant football coaches in January 2014. We stopped recruiting the involved student-athlete, we removed the assistant coach from all recruiting activities, and later secured his resignation.

“We thank the NCAA Committee on Infractions for their thoughtful deliberation. We look forward to putting this issue behind us and we will continue to operate with the highest level of integrity and compliance.”

Though Florida was not penalized further, the miscue was determined to be a major violation, making it the Gators’ first since 1990, according to CBSSports.com‘s Jon Solomon. UF had gone the longest in the Southeastern Conference without a major NCAA violation.

6 Comments

  1. Sgt. Friday says:

    A sensible decision since Phillips was fired and UF did not continue recruiting the player. I do think Phillips may have a hard time regaining a college job since it appears that he was being devious and was not forthcoming when he was caught. He knew what he was doing, and he knew it was wrong. Let’s hope the new set of coaches does not include a bad apple like Phillips, because the next time UF is found guilty of a major violation, sanctions can be expected.

    • Michael Jones says:

      I disagree. Don’t believe that Phillips was a “bad apple” at all. And judging by the reactions of the local area high school coaches where the kid was being recruited played, what Phillips didn’t wasn’t uncommon in the highly competitive recruiting arena.

      We lost a lot when we lost The Joker. I think we over-reacted when we “secured his resignation” as Foley so proudly announced. Hell, the guy was trying to get us good football players (and, NO, before you knuckleheads get started, I am NOT saying that cheating is OK, only that what Phillips did was de minimis and the punishment should have fit the crime . . now go look up “de minimis,” gatorboi . . you’ve come so far with your vocabulary, don’t quit on me now).

      • BRLgator says:

        It was considered a MAJOR recruiting violation; UF’s first in about 25 years. That is not “de minimis,”. But I also do not think Joker is/was a bad guy.

    • Daniel M. says:

      Kindly change your name to Captain Troll.

  2. Fatback says:

    Should have asked NCAA to vacate the last two years

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