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Florida head coach Dan Mullen reacts during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. Mullen was given several more chances Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, to walk back bizarre comments about wanting to pack 90,000 screaming fans inside Florida Field during the coronavirus pandemic. He declined each of them, brushing aside criticism and insisting he's focused on defending national champion LSU. (AP Photo/Thomas Graning)

Gator Football Penalized for NCAA Recruiting Violations

Just in time to celebrate a trip to their first Cotton Bowl.

Florida Gator football head coach Dan Mullen received a one-year show cause for recruiting violations, the NCAA announced Tuesday. Florida football received a one-year probation as well.

In a statement, the NCAA said Mullen “did not promote an atmosphere of compliance, according to an agreement released by the Division I Committee on Infractions.” Mullen agreed with this statement, per the report.

There were two violations by Florida.

First, when there was unpermitted in-person contact with a high school player before the player was eligible to be recruited off campus. NCAA rules state that off-campus contact cannot start until after the athlete’s junior year of high school. The NCAA declared this a Level II violation.

Next, Florida’s coaching staff had contact with 127 high school players, whom were on their way to a tournament in Tampa. These players, from seven non-scholastic football teams, visited UF’s campus and toured the football facilities. The NCAA declared this a Level III violation.

The Penalties

The report contains the full list of penalties as approved by the Committee on Infractions, including:

  • One year of probation.
  • A $5,000 fine.
  • Reduced fall 2019 evaluations from 42 to 21.
  • Reduced football evaluation days by 12 for the 2018-19 academic year.
  • Restrictions on all recruiting telephone calls with football prospects from April 15 through May 31, 2019.
  • A reduction in the number of football official visits during the 2019-20 academic year by one and in the number of unofficial visits during the 2019-20 academic year by 14.
  • A one-year show-cause order for the head football coach. During that period, the head coach is prohibited from all off-campus recruiting activity during the fall 2020 evaluation period and a four-day off-campus recruiting ban during the fall 2021 contact period.
  • The university banned the head coach from recruiting for the first 10 days of the January 2020 contact period.
  • A 30-day off-campus recruiting ban for the head coach during the fall 2019 evaluation period.
  • 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 2020-21 academic years.
  •  A seven-day off-campus recruiting ban for the entire football coaching staff during the spring 2021 off-campus recruiting period.
  • A 30-day off-campus recruiting ban for the assistant coach in October 2019 and a three-day off-campus recruiting ban for the January 2020 contact period.
  • One-on-one rules education for both the head coach and assistant coach regarding NCAA contact and evaluation rules.

If an opportunity to serve a penalty is not available due to circumstances related to COVID-19, the penalty must be served at the next available opportunity, according to the NCAA.

Responses to the Penalties

The following people have sent out official statements on the matter.

Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin said, “There is no evidence of systemic compliance issues at Florida, but when isolated circumstances occur they are addressed head on and we accept responsibility for our actions, as evidenced by this instance.  “NCAA rules are in place to create fairness and integrity, and the University of Florida has an established history of adhering to those rules. It is important for our coaches and staff to remain diligent and take responsibility for compliance, and extricate themselves from potential NCAA violations.”

UF President Kent Fuchs released a statement.

“The University of Florida places a high value on integrity and we are committed to compliance. I’m confident that we have the right processes and people in place to deliver the highest standard of honesty and compliance.”

Lastly, Mullen released his own comments.

“As Head Football Coach of the Florida Gators, promoting an atmosphere of compliance within our program is important to me. Following the rules and being committed to doing things the right way is part of my history as a coach, at all levels, and I regret we didn’t do things the right way in this situation. Even though this is an isolated matter, I’m still disappointed in the violations outlined in the report. We’re going to learn from our mistakes and I’m confident this won’t happen again. Most importantly, we’ll keep working for the benefit of our student athletes to make our program one our fans and University can be proud of.”

Nothing has been vacated. For those wondering, the Gators are still in the Cotton Bowl next Wednesday. This is unrelated.

About Harrison Smajovits

Harrison is a sports coordinator at ESPN 98.1 FM/850 AM WRUF. He served as a beat writer for Florida Gators football for the 2019 and 2020 seasons. He also contributes to WRUF's Gainesville Sports Center segments and makes appearances on the Clash on Harp on Sports. Harrison has been a content writer for WRUF since January 2019 as well.

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