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Notre Dame Football Recruiting: What do the NCAA penalties mean for the Irish?

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Snitches get new jobs, apparently

Mike Miller/One Foot Down

By now you have probably seen that the NCAA Committee on Infractions has found the Notre Dame Fighting Irish guilty of some rule-breaking and levied out some penalties. If not, here’s the press release from the NCAA:

The university, former assistant football coach and NCAA enforcement staff agreed that the former assistant coach had impermissible contact with a prospect when he met privately with the prospect at his high school before July 1 after the completion of his junior year of high school. During that meeting, the former assistant coach expressed the school’s interest in recruiting the prospect. The former assistant football coach also had exchanged impermissible text messages with another prospect on 10 occasions.

The case also involved a Level III recruiting violation involving the head football coach. Specifically, after initially declining a request, the head football coach impermissibly posed for a photo with another prospect while visiting the prospect’s high school during the fall evaluation period.

This case was processed through the negotiated resolution process. 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.

The university and the enforcement staff used ranges identified by the Division I membership-approved infractions penalty guidelines to agree upon Level II-mitigated penalties for the university and Level II-mitigated penalties for the former assistant coach. The report contains the full list of penalties as approved by the Committee on Infractions, including:

*One year of probation.

*A $5,000 fine.

*A six-month show-cause order for the former assistant football coach, including a one-game suspension at any employing member school.

*Reduced football official visits for the 2020-21 academic year by one.

*Reduced football unofficial visits by 14 days for the 2020-21 academic year.

*A seven-day off-campus recruiting ban for the entire football staff during the 2020-21 academic year.

*The university ended the recruitment of the prospect.

*The university will not recruit any prospects from the high school in Seattle from the 2019-20 through 2021-22 academic years.

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 mystery of who was all involved was solved rather quickly on Twitter and in other spaces of the internet. The former Notre Dame assistant was Todd Lyght and the player in Seattle was Garfield High School’s 5-Star linebacker Sav’ell Smalls. Brian Kelly’s selfie was with newly signed Lorenzo Styles Jr. from Pickerington Central High School in Ohio.

todd lyght notre dame football One Foot Down/Mike Miller

As it turned out, both the Florida Gators and Texas A&M Aggies were also hit by the NCAA in December for the SAME thing with Sa’vell Smalls — who eventually signed with the Washington Huskies. All three cases involving Smalls, in part, also implicate Garfield coach Joey Thomas, who was in his office with Smalls and the 3 different schools’ coaches at different times. Thomas is now a defensive analyst for Willie Taggart at Florida Atlantic. During this period, Taggart was the head coach for the Florida State Seminoles, and Smalls was being heavily recruited by FSU.

Without providing the speculation, you can go ahead and draw your own conclusions on this whole thing.

So what does this mean for Notre Dame and their recruiting effort moving forward? Mostly, it just looks worse than it really is. It’s not like the Irish were handing recruits White Castle bags of cash on their visits to Notre Dame.

The key phrasing in all of this is at the end when it mentions the COVID-19 circumstances. As of right now, recruits and schools don’t have real idea when the NCAA is going to allow official visits or off-campus recruiting.

As far as I am aware, Notre Dame has never been in danger of using up all of its official visit tokens, so losing ONE for ONE cycle is nothing — even when they are allowed to actually have official visits. The 14 day unofficial part has to do with events like junior day when coaches and recruits can talk while on campus. Again... there are a fair number of days available, so this is more of a matter of scheduling than anything else. Seven days off the road? While that’s a bit of a ding, it’s more like an inconvenience than brutal punishment.

All of this is fairly light, as well as a gigantic joke.

While I recognize that there needs to be rules in regards to recruiting, what we’re talking about here is 15 minutes and 5 seconds worth of rule breaking that provides no special benefit to the recruit — and more importantly... it happens all the damn time. The Joey Thomas involvement is the thing that sticks out the most. It’s a short story that reminds people of the recruiting shenanigans of the old SWC.

These incidents certainly “tarnish” the image of Notre Dame for those that care about the smallest of details, but there’s nothing here that screams “out of control” or egregious.

It’s the cost of doing business when recruiting 5-Star players.