Big NCAA penalties for UL-Lafayette: Cajuns vacate 20-plus wins, two bowls, 2013 Sun Belt title _lowres

Advocate staff photo by LESLIE WESTBROOK -- Scott Farmer, director of athletics at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, speaks during a press conference Tuesday, January 12, 2016, at the UL-Lafayette Athletic Performance Center in Lafayette, La.

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Last updated: 12:24 p.m.; March 3, 2016

LAFAYETTE — The University of Louisiana at Lafayette finally knows the full scope of its penalties following an NCAA investigation into alleged improprieties committed by former football assistant coach David Saunders.

When the NCAA ruling was handed down in January, it said the Cajuns would determine which games an ineligible player competed in, and vacate those games which they won.

Thursday, the University released which games those were. The Cajuns will vacate 22 total wins, including New Orleans Bowl championships in 2011 and 2013, and a shared Sun Belt Conference championship in 2013.

The University will vacate eight wins from the 2011 season, four from 2012, eight from 2013 and two from 2014. As of Thursday afternoon, it is still unclear which contests would be vacated.

“While it is disappointing to vacate these victories and championships, we finally put this chapter behind us and will continue to grow our championship football program,” Director of Athletics Scott Farmer said in a statement. “We stand behind the integrity and accomplishments of Coach Mark Hudspeth, members of his coaching staff and each of our student-athletes who played football during the Hudspeth era.”

The NCAA accused Saunders of orchestrating a scheme to have prospective student athletes take an ACT college entrance exam at the Wayne County Testing Center in rural Mississippi, where their tests would be altered by former Wayne County exam administrator Ginny Crager to receive passing grades.

There were six student athletes identified in the NCAA findings – five of which made their way to Louisiana-Lafayette’s campus. Through its own investigation, the University agreed with the NCAA’s findings and subsequent penalties.

The NCAA also alleged that Saunders provided improper cash benefits to a recruit, purposely provided false or misleading information to the investigation and then failed to comply during the investigation’s later stages.

The University did not agree with the NCAA in the case of the cash benefits based on lack of what it believed to be credible evidence – it was based on the recruit’s testimony, which the University did not find to be reliable, and receipts of cash payments – but it chose not to fight the ruling in an appeal.

Thanks to the University’s involvement in the investigation and the belief that Saunders was acting on his own accord, the NCAA Committee on Infractions determined that there was no lack of institutional control, no failure to monitor and no lack of responsibility on Hudspeth’s part, and thus levied the lowest possible penalties for multiple Level I violations.

Saunders is now the head coach at Pearl River Community College, but has an eight-year show cause order against him, meaning he and Louisiana-Lafayette would have to appear before the Committee on Infractions if Saunders was hired for a Division I job between now and 2024.

With the vacated wins now being removed from the official record book, Hudspeth’s win total as the Cajuns’ head coach dipped from 40 to 18.

Hudspeth declined to comment on the vacated wins through a team spokesman.

“Since Coach Hudspeth’s arrival in 2011, the football staff and student-athletes have shown their dedication to winning through their hard work and indomitable spirit,” Farmer said. “Although games were vacated due to the actions of one person, our fans, student-athletes and coaches will remember the excitement and pride they felt.”