LAFAYETTE -- After the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions findings on NCAA violations committed by former Louisiana-Lafayette assistant football coach David Saunders were released Tuesday, Cajuns Director of Athletics Scott Farmer addressed the investigation in full for the first time.
Farmer gave a lengthy opening statement and then took questions from local media in a roughly 20-minute interview. The transcript, with reporters’ questions in parentheses, is listed in full below.
Football coach Mark Hudspeth and University of Louisiana at Lafayette president Dr. Joseph Savoie were not present for the press conference, but statements from both are provided below Farmer’s transcript.
DIRECTOR OF ATHLETICS SCOTT FARMER
The (NCAA) Committee on Infractions issued a report today stemming from last year’s allegations involving David Saunders, a former University of Louisiana Lafayette assistant football coach.
The committee’s findings validate that there was no lack of institutional control by the university, no failure to monitor and no lack of head coach responsibility by Mark Hudspeth.
The committee also determined that coach Hudspeth, his staff and his student athletes are not culpable for the NCAA infractions.
Based on these reasons, the Ragin’ Cajuns football program received the lowest level of penalties for Level I violations within the NCAA’s penalty structure, while imposing the most severe penalties on coach Saunders.
In its response to the Notice of Allegations, the university self-imposed penalties, which included vacating the 2011 football season, reducing football scholarships and reducing recruiting activities. The university also proposed that the NCAA place the program on probation for two years.
The NCAA has accepted the self-imposed sanctions by the university. Additional penalties to the university by the committee include vacating any games in 2012-14 in which an ineligible student athlete participated in, which is consistent with their protocol. A $5,000 fine, and an additional year of recruiting restrictions. The penalties do not include a postseason ban. I want to repeat that one again: the penalties do not include a postseason ban.
Due to lack of credible evidence, the university respectfully disagrees with the NCAA’s findings that coach Saunders made cash payments to a student athlete. Under the appeals process, even if the university were to prevail, the result would not likely change the sanctions against the university. Therefore, the university will not appeal this report today.
The university agrees with the findings that resulted in invalid ACT scores, however, due to the failure to detect improper test administration or exam results at one of its Mississippi testing sites, failure to timely investigate the matter and failure to notify the NCAA or UL-Lafayette of exam score improprieties, the university chose to file a lawsuit against ACT inc.
Our university strives to comply with NCAA standards and maintains a comprehensive rules compliance program. Throughout the entire process, we cooperated fully with the NCAA. We committed to finding the truth ourselves through our own investigation, as stated before, self imposing significant sanctions on our football program. We stand behind the professionalism and vigilance of our compliance staff, we stand behind the integrity and accomplishments of coach Hudspeth and the other members of the coaching staff, and we also stand behind the student athletes who played during the Hudspeth era and their many outstanding achievements.
The staff’s professionalism, vigilance and integrity were recognized and appreciated by the Committee on Infractions. In the report, they say, ‘In short, the institutions exemplary cooperation in this case was a model for the kind of relationship and cooperation member institutions should strive for in the infractions process.’ That’s a great quote, that’s an absolutely great quote.
Unfortunately, even with the most vigilant and comprehensive compliance programs, we cannot prevent all acts of misconduct. Still, this has happened in our program, and we take full responsibility.
While victories have been vacated, it is impossible to erase the memories and the spark that was ignited when Brett Baer hit that 50-yard field goal. You can’t ever take that away. That emotion will always be there. As I have always said, the most important thing for any athletics department is to provide coaches what they need to recruit quality athletes and provide athletes what they need to succeed in the classroom and in competition.
Academically, our dedicated student athletes continue to graduate at an incredible rate. We have led the Sun Belt Conference and all public institutions in the state of Louisiana in the last three years in our graduation rate.
We have also built a strong foundation for future success for the entire department with the completion of facility upgrades that include the south endzone at Cajun Field, the soccer/track complex and of course this new 100,000 square foot Student Athlete Performance Center.
In addition to those, several new projects are already underway. The renovation to the baseball stadium started last month and will significantly upgrade the gameday experience at the Tigue. The softball program also recently started construction on a new indoor hitting facility. Following this season the Cajundome will undergo transformation that will improve the fan experience at all men’s and women’s basketball games.
Our facilities are not the only area of athletics growth. Season tickets for all sports are the highest in the department’s history. The RCAF also set a new record in 2015 for the annual fund contributions for the seventh consecutive year.
I want to thank our donors and our fans for their support throughout this process. Your passion has been an integral part of our success and will continue to be as we move forward. As Ragin’ Cajuns we are strong, we persevere, and as our fight song says, we fight on. Our greatest days are still ahead.
I want to thank (University of Louisiana at Lafayette president) Dr. (Joseph) Savoie and coach Hudspeth for all their help and cooperation during this process. Both of them are out of town today and unable to attend. That’s why they’re not here. Dr. Savoie is on his way to the NCAA annual convention and coach Hudspeth is at the Football Coaches Association convention interviewing possible offensive coordinators. Both of them wanted to be here and they wanted me to express that.
Thank you for your continued support of the Ragin’ Cajuns. As we said in October when we last got in front of you on this subject, when it was over, we would open it up for questions, and we’re going to do that. But a couple things in short: First of all, in order to comply with FERPA rules, we cannot and will not identify our student athletes that are referenced in this report, so please don’t even ask me about them, don’t ask any of the coaches about them, sports information – we’re not going to talk specific names. Second thing, when we’re done today, we’re done. This draws an end to this case. It is over with, it will be history to us, and we will move on. We told you before, we will not let this define us. It is significant, we took it serious, but now it’s time to move on and continue to build a great program at UL.
(Without being able to read the lawsuit this quickly what are you expecting? What does the lawsuit ask for, what are you hoping for?)
I encourage you just to take the time when we’re done here and go through that very thoroughly. I think all that is going to be answered very clearly there. If you have questions after that, then we’ll get those to our …
(Would you be so kind as to summarize it?)
Well obviously we think there is another entity that could have stopped some of this from taking place on our campus. An entity that presidents around the country rely on to validate scores that are used for entrance into universities and for scholarships and so on and so forth. We feel that they somewhat slipped up on that responsibility.
(How much do you think not retaining coach Saunders mitigated the penalties that you guys received?)
Wow. I think it was a factor, I definitely think it was a factor. How much? I can’t get into the Committee on Infractions’ head, I don’t know, I wasn’t behind closed doors with them. I think they knew we acted appropriately throughout the whole investigation, and when he failed to cooperate with us we made the appropriate decision.
(There’s reference to possibly vacating some wins from the 2012-14 seasons. I asked Mrs. Cartwright about that today, and she said it’s a reinstatement issue. I think in y’all’s original response, it said they completed their necessary coursework to become eligible. Is that not the case with this, and when might we know about this?)
I don’t know if I fully understand exactly what you’re asking me, but let me answer it this way. It’s pretty standard in athletics, in athletics at any level, if you play an ineligible player, you forfeit the game. Again, that’s high school, that’s whatever. So what the NCAA is telling us, if we had an ineligible player, we need to vacate those games they played in. We, at the beginning in our response to the Notice of Allegations, we only vacated 2011. We did not even really talk about ’12, ’13 and ’14. What this report today says is, go back, see who played ineligible in ’12, ’13 and ’14, and we’ve got to vacate those wins. I don’t know exactly how many games that is at this point in time. Our compliance staff will go through that with the NCAA. I will tell you this: It’s not the whole season of any of them. It’s parts of the season, but it’s not the whole season.
(Their response was that the university had to apply for reinstatement for those student athletes. Now that they may not be playing here anymore, can you guys apply for reinstatement after the fact?)
No. You cannot do that. No. And I think, and we’re getting way into the weeds, that was only two athletes, I believe, that they were talking about, and I think it was only in 2014. But no, we cannot go back, to answer your question.
(This report was supposed to be released last week. Was there anything between the university and the NCAA in the meantime?)
It’s in there also. It’s somewhere. It might’ve been in a memo. There was a simple clerical error last week that was discovered. They looked at it, went, ‘Holy cow, you’re right. That is a mistake.’ They didn’t just want to take it out and go ahead and issue it last Friday at 11 o’clock. They wanted to go back and make sure that sentence that was put in there didn’t influence the committee one way or the other. They did their due diligence, I appreciate them doing that, that’s why it took a few extra days.
(I understand why this couldn’t be disclosed, but who does the university believe paid for the ACT exams?)
We don’t believe anyone paid for it. I mean, we just asked for records from coach Saunders and that’s one of the things that he refused to give us. But we don’t believe that anyone, that we paid for it, that coach Saunders paid for it, we don’t have any knowledge.
(Could coach Saunders not have allowed the testing center to release that information by signing a release?)
We asked him to sign over if he had any involvement, the ACT could release that information to us if he had involvement. If someone over here paid, they couldn’t have done that. But if he had involvement, they could have released the information.
(So in light of what, if I remember correctly, you guys maintained in the response, it’s that he did not orchestrate what happened, what’s your position on that now that the NCAA has ruled? What was his level of involvement as far as the university is concerned?)
I think ours is the same as the NCAA’s. We know certain things. We know that he told recruits to travel a great distance away to go take an ACT at a certain site. And after taking the ACT at a certain site, their test scores significantly increased. That’s what we know.
(Do you know whether or not he paid to facilitate?)
We have no idea. We have no knowledge of that, there’s no proof of that, we have no idea what happened. We just know that he orchestrated getting them to that site, and they came away with very good scores.
(Do you know whether or not he directed it to happen, regardless of whether there was any extra payment involved or not?)
We do not know. It’s just very unusual for students to travel that many hours away from their home site to take a test.
(A couple questions. The NCAA made it very clear that the former assistant coach concealed his activities, and yet they held the university responsible. Did they give any suggestions on how the university should know an assistant coach is concealing activity?)
No, absolutely not, and that’s why we don’t have a failure to monitor or a lack of institutional control. They’re just punishing us because he was our employee, period. Period. They do believe, and they stated in the report, that he acted on his own. That it wasn’t orchestrated by the head coach or the recruiting coordinator. There was nothing the compliance office could’ve done to really find this out. But he’s still an employee of ours and we’re responsible for that.
(It also mentioned in the report that you can’t recruit in South Florida. What’s the definition of that?)
I’m from central Florida, so I’d say anything below I-4, but I don’t really know. I don’t know. We are not anywhere near it, so I guess coach, if he wants to get close, we’ll have to get an official interpretation of that. But we’re nowhere near it right now.
(Understanding that you cannot name anyone, is there anyone on the current roster who has to be reinstated?)
Everybody involved in this case has already gone through reinstatement and is reinstated. Everybody.
(When y’all officially received word from the NCAA what was going to happen today, what was y’all’s reaction hearing what they thought of this case?)
There’s a lot of varied reaction and varied emotion. I think the first thing is that we all took a huge sigh of relief that we didn’t have a postseason bowl ban. Let’s be honest, that would’ve been a significant thing. That made us feel good about all the hard work that we had done. I think they did add some more recruiting restrictions to us, which those are significant. We can get around them, not get around them, we can work through those, we can survive those, but it’s still a significant hit to us. Personally, it’s over is one of my emotions. I mean this has been over two years, it’s a long time, so that’s one of them. You still have a lot of anger that one employee had us go through all this. One employee tarnished this great institution, this great department. There’s a variety of emotions, but bottom line is that we now can close the book on it, move forward and keep building the program.
(How much do you estimate, beyond what the self-imposed fine, the additional $5,000 fine, how much this ended up or will end up costing the university both monetarily and in terms of man hours?)
Wow, I haven’t even thought that way yet. I don’t know, I can’t even guess that right now. We’ve put a lot of man hours into it from Dr. Savoie all the way down. We put a lot of hours into it. But no, I can’t throw a number out there. I wouldn’t have any idea.
(Ballpark, tens of thousands, six figures?)
Probably six figures, just throwing it out there.
STATEMENT FROM COACH MARK HUDSPETH
“Even though we do not agree with the full findings, we are thankful that this chapter is behind us and we are ready to move on with building a championship program. We are grateful to all of our fans who have supported our program and we look forward to getting back to work in preparation for the 2016 season.”
STATEMENT FROM PRESIDENT DR. JOSEPH SAVOIE
“We are pleased that the Committee on Infractions recognized that the University did not have involvement in or knowledge of Level 1 violations and imposed on us the lowest level of penalties. Further, the Committee recognized our full cooperation and determination to get to the truth surrounding the allegations.”
“UL Lafayette will continue to comply with NCAA standards and remains committed to maintaining a comprehensive rules compliance program.”