Florida Gators sanctioned for NCAA recruiting violations

The program was placed on probation for a year. Dan Mullen was given a one-year show-cause penalty.
Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen has been given a one-year show-cause penalty for violating recruiting rules, the NCAA announced on Tuesday.
Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen has been given a one-year show-cause penalty for violating recruiting rules, the NCAA announced on Tuesday. [ BRYNN ANDERSON | AP ]
Published Dec. 22, 2020|Updated Dec. 22, 2020

The University of Florida’s top-10 football program has been placed on probation for a year and head coach Dan Mullen received a one-year show-cause penalty for violating recruiting rules, the NCAA announced on Tuesday.

The violations stem from two different instances in 2019.

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The first instance, a Level II infraction, occurred that January, according to an agreement released Tuesday by the Division I Committee on Infractions. That’s when Mullen and an unnamed assistant had impermissible in-person contact with a prospect who had not yet finished his junior year of high school.

The Gators coaches met with the player’s high school coach in Seattle while the prospect was in the room and expressed interest in recruiting him during the 15-minute meeting. Mullen had previously texted the recruit about the visit, saying he was “Coming to see you Monday,” and that the prospect was “on the top of my list.”

Because of the violation, UF had to stop recruiting the player and cannot recruit any players from his high school through the end of this academic year.

The second instance, a Level III infraction, took place two months later. UF self-reported that some of its coaches had impermissible contact with about 127 prospects who were on their way to a tournament in Tampa. The players visited campus and toured the Gators’ football facilities. One assistant had impermissible contact with several prospects and posed for a photo with at least one of the seven non-scholastic teams that stopped by.

Because of Mullen’s involvement, he agreed that he did not “promote an atmosphere of compliance.”

“As Head Football Coach of the Florida Gators, promoting an atmosphere of compliance within our program is important to me,” Mullen said in a statement. “Following the rules and being committed to doing things the right way 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 mistakes and 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.”

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UF and the NCAA agreed on the violations and penalties. The Gators are on probation through Dec. 21 and were fined $5,000. The entire staff will be banned from recruiting for seven days during the spring period.

Mullen’s show-cause penalty ties him to the violations, even if he wanted to leave for another school. It also requires UF to prove, or show cause, that Mullen is following the rules and does not deserve further punishment.

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Some of the penalties have already been served, including fewer evaluation days in the fall of 2019 and fewer visits during the 2019-20 academic year. Mullen was banned from recruiting off campus for 30 days during the 2019 fall evaluation period and for the first 10 days of the January 2020 contact period.

“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,” Gators 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.”

No. 10 UF (8-3) is scheduled to face No. 8 Oklahoma (8-2) in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 30.