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 NCAA was going to release its ruling on alleged violations committed by former Louisiana-Lafayette football assistant coach David Saunders on Friday morning.

At the last minute, the NCAA reversed course.

A Friday morning email said the NCAA decision was set to be released by the NCAA at 11 a.m., with subsequent news conferences set for noon and 1:30 p.m. But shortly after 11 a.m., the NCAA announced “the Committee on Infractions call will be rescheduled for a later date.” No later date was provided.

The NCAA’s decision will be based on an investigation that started in 2013 into alleged impropriety by Saunders while on the Cajuns’ coaching staff.

Saunders was accused of four major violations in the NCAA investigation, the most egregious of which was that he orchestrated a scheme to direct prospective student-athletes to the Wayne County (Mississippi) High School testing center where they would be assisted with fraudulent ACT exams.

The NCAA alleged that Saunders arranged for then-exam administrator Ginny Crager to “complete and/or alter” exams so the prospective student-athletes would receive a qualifying score.

The allegations came to light in December 2013, beginning a lengthy investigation by the NCAA, outside counsel for Louisiana-Lafayette and counsel at Ole Miss, where Saunders previously coached. Six athletes were identified in the investigation; their names were redacted from the report.

Saunders also was accused of providing improper monetary benefits to an athlete, an allegation Louisiana-Lafayette stated in its response there was sufficient evidence to support.

The final two allegations were that Saunders knowingly provided false or misleading information to the investigation and that he refused to cooperate during the latter stages of the investigation.

The school offered some self-imposed penalties at the conclusion of the investigation, including the vacation of nine wins from the 2011 season — including the New Orleans Bowl win against San Diego State — restriction in scholarships by 17 over a three-year period and a restriction in official recruiting visits and the amount of time coaches could initiate recruiting contact.

Saunders was fired Oct. 30, 2014, though it was presented at the time as an abrupt resignation. He has since found work at Pearl River Community College, where he recently was promoted to head coach.