Texas A&M and head coach Jimbo Fisher have been hit with NCAA violations, including one involving recruiting.
The NCAA announced Thursday that the Aggies program, including Fisher, violated rules between January 2018 and February 2019. Via the NCAA’s “negotiated resolution process,” the NCAA, Texas A&M and Fisher agreed that Fisher and an assistant coach “had impermissible recruiting contact with a prospect at his high school.”
“The conversation was impermissible because it occurred before the completion of the prospect’s junior year in high school,” the NCAA said.
The program also violated countable athletic-related activity rules by “unintentionally” causing football players to “exceed activity time limits by approximately seven hours” during spring and summer activities.
The NCAA ruled that Fisher violated its head coach responsibility rules by failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance “because of his personal involvement in the recruiting violation.” Per the NCAA, Fisher also “failed to monitor his staff” when the program exceeded countable hours.
As a result, the NCAA gave Fisher a six-month show-cause penalty. From the NCAA:
The terms of the show-cause order include a previously served nine-day ban on phone calls, emails or texts with prospects in January 2020; a reduction in off-campus recruiting contact days by three for the December 2019 through January 2020 contact period; a ban on all off-campus recruiting activities for the fall 2020 contact period; additional one-on-one rules education; and a public statement from the head coach addressing the violations.
In a statement, Fisher said:
"As Texas A&M's Head Football Coach, I am responsible for promoting and monitoring for NCAA compliance in our program. While I am disappointed in the violations, including an unintended one that resulted from a conversation with a high school athlete, it is still my responsibility to ensure we are adhering to each and every rule. I am pleased to have this matter completely behind our program and look forward to continuing our efforts to make every aspect of our program one all Aggies can continue to be proud of."
Texas A&M hit with Level II violations
The program, along with Fisher and the involved assistant coach — identified by A&M as Jay Graham, now the running backs coach at Tennessee — were all hit with Level II violations that come with an array of penalties in addition to Fisher’s show-cause. Those include:
One year of probation from July 2, 2020 to July 1, 2021.
A $5,000 fine.
A reduction of football official visits by 17 days during the 2019-20 academic year.
An off-campus recruiting ban for the entire A&M staff for all of November 2019, which reduces permissible evaluation days by 19 for the 2019-20 academic year.
A seven-day off-campus recruiting ban for the football staff during the spring 2020 recruiting period.
A 10-day off-campus recruiting ban for the football staff during the fall 2020 recruiting period.
A six-month show-cause penalty for Graham.
Additionally, the Aggies were forced to end their pursuit of the involved recruit. The program is barred from recruiting prospects from that recruit’s high school for the “2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22 academic years.”
Fisher was hired by Texas A&M in December 2017 and given a 10-year, $75 million contract. He has a 17-9 (9-7 SEC) record through two seasons on the job.
"Since I arrived at Texas A&M, I have seen up close and personal Coach Fisher's commitment to integrity and following the rules. I appreciate his response, including actions taken during the process itself,” Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork said. “As a result, the program moves forward and remains on track in both our short and long-term quest for excellence. This will have no impact on our current or future student-athletes, the 2020 post-season, or our pursuit of championship success on and off the field."
The panel that presided over this case noted that the current recruiting landscape in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic could “impact how the remaining recruiting restrictions are implemented.” Texas A&M is encouraged to “report any challenges with penalty implementation” to the NCAA.
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