Division II football champion coach suspended by NCAA for players' victory cigars, attempted sticker theft
The NCAA devised a unique punishment for a unique violation by Ferris State as it celebrated its Division II football national championship last year.
The Bulldogs notched the back-to-back title on Dec. 17, but the NCAA took issue with two things after it hoisted the trophy, according to the Big Rapids Pioneer's Darren Iozia.
The first: two players smoked victory cigars in the locker room of McKinney ISD Stadium during the celebration, and there was reportedly a similar "incident" after Ferris State won its first title in 2021. The second: a small number of players reportedly attempted to remove some Ferris State temporary wall stickers from the locker room to keep as souvenirs, causing damages.
These very weird violations get even weirder when you remember some other national champions have celebrated with cigars (e.g. Joe Burrow), but the rub for Ferris State was that it had been playing at a Texas high school stadium with a strict no-tobacco policy, per Football Scoop.
Per the Pioneer, Ferris State head coach Tony Annese said he and his staff had explicitly warned their players about the cigars:
"As a coaching staff, each day leading up to the National Championship game, we had reminded our players that smoking cigars in celebration would not be allowed," Annese said. "My team was fully aware that the actions of the two players were inappropriate."
So, what is the penalty for two cigars and attempted sticker theft? In addition to publicly reprimanding the program, the NCAA has reportedly decided to make Ferris State pay $15,383 in restitution to the McKinney Independent School District for stadium cleaning and repairs, a $2,500 fine and a one-game suspension for Annese.
That suspension isn't for Ferris State's first game next season, though. It's for its next NCAA playoff game, which is a punishment you don't often see at the higher levels.
Ferris State reportedly appealed the NCAA's decision and was denied. Athletic director Steve Brockelbank said the school accepts responsibility for its player's actions and pledged to no have issues in the future:
“I continue to be proud of the Ferris State University football program and Coach [Tony] Annese. I understand the concerns raised by the NCAA and we accept the responsibility for our actions and we will work to ensure this does not happen again in the future. I support the efforts that Coach Annese continues to take to improve the football program for the betterment of the students we serve at Ferris State University,” FSU’s Athletic Director Steve Brockelbank said.