A recruit’s decision not to enroll at LSU after signing a financial aid agreement has the football program in some hot water.
LSU is banned from signing early enrollee recruits to financial aid agreements for the next two years, and the program will be stripped of 10 percent of its recruiting evaluation days in 2015, according to public records obtained by The Advocate.
The penalties, handed down by the Southeastern Conference and reported by the school Feb. 3, stem from a violation that occurred this fall involving an unnamed recruit.
The recruit signed a financial aid agreement with LSU, intending to enroll early in January and giving the school unlimited contact with him. But he decided not to enroll at the school. That makes at least some of LSU’s unlimited contact with the prospect illegal.
Matt Womack, an offensive tackle from Mississippi, signed a financial aid agreement with LSU in August intending to enroll at the school in January. Instead, Womack de-committed — as hundreds of prospects do each year — and signed a National Letter of Intent with Alabama in February.
LSU officials declined comment.
Financial aid agreements, instituted by the NCAA in the fall of 2013, allow high school seniors who plan to enroll early to sign with that school starting Aug. 1 of their senior years.
A financial aid agreement doesn’t bind the player to that particular school like a National Letter of Intent does, but it affords coaches of that school unlimited contact with the signee — contact that would otherwise be considered against NCAA rules.
The NCAA modified the financial aid agreement (FAA) in April. It continued to allow schools “relaxed recruiting rules” for prospects who signed a financial aid agreement, but it also warned schools that they could be penalized for recruiting violations if that prospect did not eventually enroll in that school.
David Womack, Matt Womack’s father, told The Clarion-Ledger in the fall that LSU coaches were not planning to contact his son on an unlimited basis because Matt wasn’t completely firm on enrolling early or on his commitment to LSU.
“LSU is not using (the FAA) because if Matt was to change his mind they would have to report it,” David Womack told The Clarion-Ledger.
It’s unclear whether any other recruit — outside of Womack and the four early enrollees — signed financial aid agreements with LSU in the fall. Either way, the Tigers are paying the price for a teenager’s decision.
LSU will lose 21 of 210 evaluation days in 2015 (17 in the spring and four in the fall). An evaluation day is defined by the NCAA as any off-campus activity designed to assess the academic qualifications or athletics ability of a recruit, including any visit to a recruit’s school or the observation of a recruit participating in any practice or competition.
What’s bigger than the loss of evaluation days? While prospects can still enroll early, LSU cannot issue financial aid agreements to them for two years, a serious disadvantage. During the same time, other schools can sign prospects to FAAs, thus receiving unlimited contact with them.
For example, LSU’s four early enrollees in the 2015 recruiting class signed FAAs. Fullback David Ducre, quarterback Justin McMillan, tight end Hanner Shipley and cornerback Kevin Toliver II were able to take phone calls, home visits and other unlimited recruiting contact from LSU coaches this fall.
Over the same time period, coaches had to follow strict NCAA rules when contacting other recruits and eventual signees, like Warren Easton receiver Tyron Johnson or Catholic running back Derrius Guice.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter: @DellengerAdv.