FSU football sanctioned by NCAA after NIL, recruiting violation

Florida State football has become one of the first major programs to be punished for breaking recruiting rules related to name, image and likeness (NIL).

The Level II violations announced Thursday stem from an April 2022 visit from a recruit in the transfer portal. During the unnamed prospect’s visit, offensive coordinator Alex Atkins facilitated an off-campus meeting with a booster who was also the CEO of a third-party NIL collective. That meeting included an offer of $15,000 per month as a recruiting inducement, according to facts agreed upon by the Seminoles and NCAA in a negotiated resolution.

Though NCAA rules and state law allow for players to be paid by outside groups for their name, image and likeness, those deals cannot be pay-for-play agreements or inducements to sign with or stay at a school. The player did not transfer to FSU or accept any money from the collective.

Atkins wasn’t at the meeting, according to the resolution, but took the recruit and his family there. He then “knowingly provided false or misleading information” about his actions to the NCAA’s enforcement staff on two separate occasions. That was a violation of “ethical conduct rules.”

Atkins has been suspended for next season’s first three games and received a two-year show cause penalty. He has led the massive, successful overhaul of FSU’s offensive line and is regarded as a rising star in the profession and future head coaching candidate.

The Seminoles’ punishments include:

• Two years of probation and a five-scholarship deduction during that time.

• A fine of $5,000 plus 1% of the football budget.

• Recruiting sanctions, such as a reduction in official visits this academic year, the loss of 24 in-person evaluation days and a ban on recruiting communication during the first week of the spring transfer portal window.

• Disassociating itself from the unnamed booster and that collective.

Coach Mike Norvell is not mentioned in the NCAA’s report and was not accused of wrongdoing. The NCAA said Norvell “set clear expectations regarding compliance” and “actively monitored them.”

That’s notable in part because of the timing. Norvell is expected to be one of Alabama’s top targets to replace Nick Saban, who announced his retirement Wednesday. It’s unclear whether this investigation would affect his candidacy or his potential interest in leaving a program under probation.

“We are pleased to reach closure to this situation and view this as another step in strengthening our culture of compliance at Florida State University,” Seminoles athletic director Michael Alford said in a statement. “We take all compliance matters very seriously, and our full cooperation with the NCAA on this case is a clear example of that commitment. We remain committed to compliance with all NCAA rules including disassociation of the booster and the collective.”

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