Exam fraud, recruit payments among NCAA accusations against UL-Lafayette, ex-assistant coach David Saunders _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BRAD BOWIE -- Former Louisiana-Lafayette assistant football coach David Saunders

LAFAYETTE — The second major allegation from the NCAA against former Louisiana-Lafayette assistant coach David Saunders — that Saunders supplied illicit cash payments — relies on conflicting testimony between two people and records of cash payments being made at the university’s cashier’s office.

UL-Lafayette made it clear in its response that it did not think the unnamed player’s testimony was reliable, based on its previous dealings with that player, and that the cash payment records can in no way be traced to Saunders.

It’s for these reasons that the university did not agree with the second allegation — the only one of four allegations that it did not agree with after a lengthy investigation.

If there are two people whose testimony would be called into question in the entirety of the response by Louisiana-Lafayette, it would be Saunders and the unnamed player identified in allegation No. 2.

Specifically, the university’s response to the second allegation was that it “does not find the testimony being relied upon by the enforcement staff to support Allegation 2 to be credible, nor persuasive.”

The following is based on both the NCAA Notice of Allegations and the UL-Lafayette response. The Advocate’s requests to speak to Saunders through Pearl River Community College, where he currently coaches, were declined.

First, the alleged impropriety: The NCAA Notice of Allegations stated Saunders “knowingly provided then football prospective student athlete (redacted) with improper inducements in the form of cash payments to fund (redacted) living and educational expenses while he was enrolled at a two-year institution” to total about $5,000.

The NCAA continues by saying Saunders provided an additional $1,500 while the unnamed player was at UL-Lafayette.

Those allegations are formed off the player’s testimony and payment records that roughly match the amounts described.

During a January 2014 interview, the player said Saunders provided “probably … about $5,000” while he was enrolled at a two-year institution. After he enrolled at UL-Lafayette, he claimed to receive “like $1,500” from Saunders.

The NCAA enforcement staff then relied on the player’s student account records from January through September 2012 — presumably from both UL-Lafayette and the two-year institution — to corroborate his statements that Saunders provided cash payments.

According to the university’s response, the student account records show between January and July, when the player would’ve been enrolled at the two-year institution, that he “made six in-person cash payments ... totaling $7,133.”

Saunders allegedly met him in the parking lot outside the university’s cashier’s office where he would give him an envelope full of cash. He would wait in the parking lot until the player returned with a receipt for the payment.

According to the school’s response, Saunders denied both providing cash “for any reason” and being in the parking lot while the player was making the payments.

After the player arrived at UL-Lafayette, he said, according to the UL-Lafayette response, “They tried to get one of the boosters to help me pay for my classes for UL. He never came through and helped me. He just helped me pay one payment.”

The UL-Lafayette records show the player made two payments that semester, both for housing, in the amounts of $814 and $1,200 according to the university’s response.

The player indicated the booster furnished the money for Saunders, and Saunders delivered it to the player. The player’s description of the booster “fit a well-known and regarded representative of the institution’s athletics interests” according to the school’s response.

Along with the statements and factual records laid out, UL-Lafayette said in its statement that it could not take the player’s testimony as fact. At several points in its response, it calls into question the credibility of his statements.

In its response, UL-Lafayette points out that the first mention of the cash benefits came during “a 41/2 minute rant that began with the reasons he was ‘pissed at coach Saunders’ for ‘screwing him over.’ ” It also points out inaccuracies in his testimony over the manner in which he left the team.

The university said the booster denied giving money to Saunders and, “Given (redacted) character and propensity for storytelling, the University finds the representative to be a far more credible witness.”

When outlining the allegation that Saunders provided $5,000 while the player was at junior college, UL-Lafayette’s response said “given (redacted) other activities at that time (redacted) it is not unreasonable to assume he had access to money and/or the ability to generate money from some source other than Saunders.”