The NCAA will hold a press call on Friday afternoon to discuss an NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions’ decision regarding the Florida Gators football program.
Though the organization would not comment on the nature of the decision other than to note that it will be released one hour prior to the call at 1 p.m., Florida sent out the following statement:
“We have not received the report yet, but we will receive it later today. However, this is a final resolution to a matter that we dealt with last June regarding one of our former assistant football coaches.”
Then-wide receivers coach Joker Phillips resigned on June 11, 2014, after just one year on the job, citing “personal reasons” factoring into his decision to step down.
Within hours of the announcement, multiple outlets reported that Phillips resigned due to a possible recruiting violation; OnlyGators.com confirmed that he was turned into the NCAA for a “bump” violation by a representative of Miami. 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.
Yahoo! Sports reported a day later that Phillips’s resignation came on the heels of the NCAA receiving “a photo of the coach sitting in a restaurant with a high school recruit during a mandated dead period in recruiting.” Citing three sources, it was further reported that “the photo was turned over to the NCAA by an individual with ties to the Miami Hurricanes athletic program.”
Furthermore, “should the NCAA determine Phillips improperly recruited during a mandated dead period, it could be considered a major NCAA violation.”
John Infante of the Bylaw Blog looked deeper into how Phillips’s alleged recruiting violation may affect the program and then-head coach Will Muschamp. Using the NCAA’s new enforcement structure, Infante boiled the incident down to a Level II or Level III breach of conduct, the former being more severe or “significant.”
A Level III violation must be “isolated or inadvertent in nature” while providing “only a minimal recruiting, competitive, or other advantage, or provide no more than a minimal impermissible benefit.”
Such a violation would move to Level II if it exceeded either of those rules, though “in-person, off-campus contacts during a dead period” is listed under a list of Level III violations released by the NCAA, effective Aug. 1, 2013.
Whether Phillips is found to have committed a violation at either level, he and Muschamp could both face penalties that go as far as suspensions handed down by the NCAA.
Infante believed that “Florida’s vaunted reputation for compliance” and quick action in dismissing Phillips will allow the Gators to be tagged with a Level III violation while Phillips gets dealt an individual Level II violation, if said violation is deemed to have occurred.
Muschamp should also be able to avoid suspension as long as he proves “that he monitored his program effectively and that he has promoted an atmosphere of compliance,” another reason the quick Phillips dismissal could benefit Florida.