NCAA: Florida football penalized for recruiting violations, Dan Mullen not promoting compliance

By Adam Silverstein
December 22, 2020
NCAA: Florida football penalized for recruiting violations, Dan Mullen not promoting compliance

Image Credit: ESPN Images

The NCAA on Tuesday announced that the Florida Gators football program has “violated NCAA recruiting contact rules on two occasions” while also determining that head coach Dan Mullen “did not promote an atmosphere of compliance.” The Gators are thus on one year of probation with Mullen serving a one-year show case penalty.

An agreement reached with the Division I Committee on Infractions notes multiple instances of Florida not complying with NCAA rules.

The first, a Level II violation, involves Mullen and an unnamed assistant coach having “impermissible in-person contact with a prospect” by meeting with a recruit and his high school coach at the same time. Mullen also texted the prospect to setup the off-campus visit prior to the conclusion of the recruit’s junior year of high school, which is not allowed.

The second, a Level III violation, involved coaching staff members admitting to impermissible contact with “approximately 127 prospects when seven nonscholastic football teams visited the campus and toured the football facilities on their way to a tournament in Tampa” with an assistant coach admitting to impermissible direct contact with “several” prospects.

The Gators and the NCAA agreed through a negotiated resolution to those violations as well as the fact that Mullen did not promote compliance because he was personally involved in one of the violations.

“As head football coach of the Florida Gators, promoting an atmosphere of compliance within our program is important to me,” Mullen said in a release. “Following the rules and being committed to doing things the right was is part of my history as a coach, at all levels, and I regret we didn’t do things the right way in this situation. Even though this is an isolated matter, I’m still disappointed in the violations outlined in the report. We’re going to learn from our mistake sand I’m confident this won’t happen again. Most importantly, we’ll keep working for the benefit of our student athletes to make our program one our fans and university can be proud of.”

Among the multitude of penalties accepted by Florida include one year of probation, reduced fall 2019 evaluations (41 to 21), reduced football evaluation days two seasons ago (2018-19), restrictions on recruiting phone calls for about 45 days, one fewer official visit and 14 fewer unofficial visits for 2019-20, a 30-day off-campus recruiting ban in 2019, not being able to recruit the Seattle high school where the first violation took place for two years, a seven-day off-campus recruiting ban for the coaching staff in 2021, a 30-day off-campus recruiting ban for the unnamed assistant coach in October 2019 and three more days in January 2020 and a recruiting ban for Mullen that lasted 10 days in January 2020.

Most notable among the penalties is a one-year show cause penalty for Mullen, who was prohibited from all off-campus recruiting activity during the fall 2020 evaluation period and four days during the fall 2021 contact period. Most of the other punishments have already been observed.

“There is no evidence of systemic compliance issues at Florida, but when isolated circumstances occur they are addressed head on and we accept responsibility for our actions, as evidenced by this instance,” athletic director Scott Stricklin said. “NCAA rules are in place to create fairness and integrity, and the University of Florida has an established history of adhering to those rules. It is important for our coaches and staff to remain diligent and take responsibility for compliance and extricate themselves from potential NCAA violations.”

As Stricklin noted, the Gators do have a long, established record of strong NCAA compliance with an on-campus department routinely noted as one of the most stringent nationwide.

These violations and penalties are relative slaps on the wrist for Mullen and Florida. The Level II violation is not an uncommon mistake in college football circles; however, the Level III violation is slightly worrisome considering that is a quite clear and obvious skirting of rules that should have been known by the recruiting staff.

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