Updated at 7:30 p.m.
Florida Gators sophomore defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd has been suspended for two games and must “arrange repayment” of $2,700 to charity before he is eligible to return to the field, according to a decision handed down by the NCAA on Thursday.
Floyd, who sat out Florida’s Sept. 3 season opener against Florida Atlantic, will also be forced to miss Saturday’s game against UAB before he can return to action against Tennessee on Sept. 17 if all conditions are met.
The university declared Floyd ineligible for violations of NCAA preferential treatment rules, including receiving $2,500 cash over several months from an individual not associated with the university. Floyd used the money for living expenses, transportation and other expenses. In addition, he received impermissible benefits prior to enrollment, including transportation and lodging related to unofficial visits to several institutions. University of Florida was not one of these schools.
Based on the mitigating circumstances in the case, the withholding condition was reduced from a potential four games to two. In its decision, the reinstatement staff cited the totality of Floyd’s circumstances, including his personal hardship that led to the impermissible benefits being provided to the student-athlete by someone other than a legal guardian or family member.
NCAA vice president Kevin Lennon said the organization’s decision on Floyd came after great deliberation. “We examine each situation carefully and consider all elements related to a student-athlete’s individual circumstances and the violation,” he said. “This gives us the flexibility to tailor the conditions of reinstatement that take into account all details and are in the best interest of the involved student-athlete.”
University of Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley commented on Floyd’s situation in an official statement released by the school.
“It is important to note that Sharrif brought this matter to our attention and we reported the facts to the NCAA this past February. We were comfortable with the information we provided, yet the NCAA staff interpreted that there were violations. In accordance with NCAA rules, we declared him ineligible for the season opener and requested restoration of his eligibility. Sharrif has been extremely forthcoming throughout the process and the NCAA has commented on his honesty and openness.
“Sharrif grew up in an environment where he didn’t have the things most of us take for granted – food, shelter and clothing. In the absence of parents, there were kind people, in no way affiliated with the University of Florida, who were not boosters or sports agents, that helped him along the way to provide those things that he would otherwise not have had. This is not an issue about his recruitment to the University of Florida or any other University.
“Sharrif Floyd is an outstanding young man and we are very proud that he represents our program. We are all disappointed that he had to deal with this situation, but he will move forward and be stronger for this.”
Gators head coach Will Muschamp expressed his displeasure in the NCAA’s ruling in another official statement released by the school Thursday evening.
“I’m angered, disgusted and extremely disappointed that Sharrif will have to miss two games.
“In my opinion Sharrif is getting lumped into what is bad about college athletics. As we indicated in the statement Saturday night his issue was not related to sports agents, University of Florida boosters or his recruitment to Florida or anywhere else.
“Sharrif is what is good about college athletics – his life is about survival, struggle, disappointment and adversity. I have recruited kids that did not know where they would sleep that night or what they would eat. Growing up, Sharrif was one these kids. Sharrif’s life is also about triumph, honesty, integrity, determination, perseverance and character. The NCAA stated that he received preferential treatment; there is nothing preferential about his life.
“He grew up with only his great grandmother and still sends her Pell Grant money so she can pay her bills. How many kids do you know that would do that? I know one – Sharrif Floyd.
“I want to make it clear that this issue is not about sports agents, Florida boosters or his recruitment to Florida or anywhere else. The issue is about his survival and the only reason the NCAA, the SEC and the University of Florida were aware of these issues is because Sharrif brought them to our attention last February. He came forward because, as I said before, he is honest and because of his integrity.
“The toughest day that I have had as a head football coach at Florida was the day that I had to tell Sharrif that he could not play in our game vs. FAU last week. I took away part of his family.
“He had tears in his eyes and said ‘What have I done wrong?’ I told him he did nothing wrong. It wasn’t any easier to tell him today that he would be missing Saturday’s game.
“I have two sons at home- if they end up like Sharrif I will consider myself a successful father.”
The NCAA’s official statement on Floyd’s punishment does not specifically state where or from whom the $2,500 in preferential treatment came from.
When handing down a penalty, the organization takes into account “the type of violations and value of benefits, if a significant competitive advantage was gained, [and] the student-athlete’s responsibility for the violations.” The Gators took the proper steps and declared Floyd ineligible on their own before requesting reinstatement, an action that allowed the NCAA to review the request and form a decision.