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Irish football violates NCAA recruiting limits, receives probation

| Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Notre Dame football program received one year of probation, a $5,000 fine and additional recruiting-related penalties after the NCAA Committee of Infractions reached an agreement with the University regarding recruiting violations committed by a former Irish assistant coach and head coach Brian Kelly, the NCAA announced in a press release Thursday. 

According to the release, the unnamed assistant had “impermissible contact” with a recruit at a Seattle, Washington, high school by privately meeting with the prospect “before July 1 after the completion of his junior year of high school.” The assistant also “had exchanged impermissible text messages with another prospect on 10 occasions,” the release said. 

Kelly, only identified as “the head football coach” in the release, “impermissibly posed for a photo with another prospect while visiting the prospect’s high school during the fall evaluation period” after initially denying the request, the release said.

“This case was processed through the negotiated resolution process,” the release said. “The process was used instead of a formal hearing or summary disposition because the University, the involved coaches and the enforcement staff agreed on the violations and the penalties. The Division I Committee on Infractions reviewed the case to determine whether the resolution was in the best interests of the Association and whether the agreed-upon penalties were reasonable. Negotiated resolutions may not be appealed and do not set case precedent for other infractions cases.”

According to the release, Notre Dame and NCAA enforcement staff agreed to use level-II mitigated penalties to punish both the University and former assistant coach, respectively.

In addition to the probation and fine, the release noted that Notre Dame football will have its official visits reduced by one and its unofficial visits reduced by 14 days for the 2020-21 academic year, and the entire football staff will also serve a seven-day off-campus recruiting ban during the same period. Notre Dame ended the recruitment of the prospect who met with the former assistant and will be unable to recruit any prospects from the Seattle high school through the 2021-22 academic year, according to the release. 

If hired by another school, the former Irish assistant coach must serve a one-game suspension and be suspended from all recruiting activity during the next available recruiting period, according to a report from the Associated Press via the Washington Post. Under a six-month show-cause order, the former assistant’s new school would be required to explain to the NCAA Committee of Infractions why the assistant should not be subjected to those penalties.

“If an opportunity to serve a penalty will not be available due to circumstances related to COVID-19, the penalty must be served at the next available opportunity,” the release said.

The one-year probation does not affect Notre Dame’s eligibility for a bowl game during the 2021 season, including selection for New Years’ Six or College Football Playoff contests.

“Any violation of NCAA rules is unacceptable and Notre Dame Athletics takes full responsibility for its actions in this regard,” Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said in a statement released shortly after the NCAA’s announcement. “While we made clear to the NCAA our view that the agreed-upon penalties exceeded the nature of the infractions, we accept the final outcome of the case. In addition, the assistant coach involved is no longer employed by the University.” 

Kelly and the Irish have reached the College Football Playoff in two of the last three seasons. In 2020, Notre Dame went 10-0 in the regular season as a temporary member of the ACC before falling to both Clemson and eventual national champions Alabama in the conference championship game and Rose Bowl semifinal, respectively.

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