NCAA Penalizes Florida State for NIL-Related Violations

The NCAA announced Thursday that a Florida State assistant football coach violated its recruiting rules in April 2022 by transporting a transfer prospect and his family to a meeting with a school booster.

At that meeting, the booster—who was affiliated with a name, image and likeness (NIL) collective connected to the school—offered the recruit a $15,000-per-month NIL opportunity, according to the NCAA report. Boosters are generally not allowed to meet with prospects nor propose NIL deals in an attempt to attract a player.

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The decision represents the NCAA’s most severe punishment yet for a school violating its NIL-as-inducement ban.

FSU agreed to a list of penalties for the infraction, including a three-game suspension and two-year show-cause for the coach (who has been identified by other outlets as offensive coordinator Alex Atkins), temporary dissociation from the booster and collective involved, and specific restrictions on recruiting visits or communication during this academic year.

In addition, FSU accepted a $5,000 fine plus 1% of the school’s football budget and a 5% reduction in football scholarships over a two-year period (amounting to a total reduction of five scholarships.) The university will also be on probation for two years. In 2021-22, the school reported spending $54.6 million on football, 10th among public universities, according to Sportico’s college financial database.

Atkins was also cited for giving false or misleading information as part of the investigation. According to reports, the player involved was former Georgia offensive tackle Amarius Mims, who recently announced he was entering the NFL Draft, while the collective identified was Rising Spear. The NCAA found no culpability for head coach Mike Norvell.

“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,” 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.”

Notably, because the case was resolved with a negotiated resolution, it cannot be appealed, nor can it set a precedent for other cases.

More than two years after the NCAA lifted its ban on college players monetizing their NIL, the organization has moved towards adapting its infractions system to prevent NIL money being used as so-called “inducement” during conversations with high-school athletes or potential transfers. This week’s announcement represents the first time the NCAA has forced a school to cut ties with an NIL collective. It previously levied smaller penalties on the University of Miami in a similar case.

However, industry insiders reacted to Thursday’s news by pointing out how common they believe FSU’s behavior to be.

“If an FSU assistant introducing a transfer to a school collective is the new standard of cheating then I think we can go ahead [and] vacate the entire 2023 season,” Yahoo columnist Dan Wetzel wrote online, in response to the news.

Sports-focused lawyer Darren Heitner took a similar stance, asking, “What does the NCAA do now? Does it punish every school where NIL rules violations has occurred? There will be more major conference schools with penalties than those without.”

The decision came one day after the NCAA’s Division 1 Council approved new NIL rules, effective in August, that establishes a voluntary registration database of NIL service providers, disclosure requirements for athletes and new educational components.

For FSU, the news continues a months-long run at the center of conversations about college sports’ evolution. In December, the school was left out of the College Football Playoff despite an unbeaten record, prompting new discussions of a potential split with the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Seminoles then went on to lose to Georgia, 63-3, in the Orange Bowl.

Previously, Florida State began talks with JPMorgan Chase over how to possibly infuse private capital into its athletic department, though the school has not been forthcoming with records related to that process.

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