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LSU Football Hit With Recruiting Sanctions

The SEC stuck LSU with a pair of recruiting violations today for "breaking" a ticky tacky rule.

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Ross Dellenger of the Baton Rouge Advocate broke the news that LSU would be hit with sanctions:

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, but he decided not to enroll at the school. That makes at least some of LSU’s unlimited contact with the prospect illegal.

As a refresher, recruits can now sign Financial Aid Agreements with prospective schools, which then permits unlimited contact by coaches. The agreement binds the school to the recruit, but not vice versa. It was seemingly put into place to reduce coaches from "pulling" a scholarship to a player. However, recruits exercising the use of the form are known to file multiple, as was the case with Louisiana safety Laurence "Hootie" Jones, last season, who signed FAA papers to both LSU and Alabama.

The NCAA quickly recognized the loophole and made amendments.

So, in December, the NCAA, in an attempt to close this loophole before it became a giant mess, ruled that only the program that first signs a prospect to a financial aid agreement is allowed to publicize the signing and text or call at free will. In theory, it should fix the problem. There's not much incentive to accept a recruit's second signature when only the first school reaps the reward.

Two graphs later, ESPN Columnist Mitch Sherman editorializes:

Sounds like a controversy waiting to happen.

Enter controversy.

Dellenger reports former LSU commit Matt Womack, who signed a National Letter of Intent with Alabama in February, signed LSU's FAA papers. However, Courtney Cronin from the Clarion Ledger reported that Womack's father told her that LSU was NOT offering Womack the FAA papers:

It's important to remember that the recruit remains officially unnamed, and will likely remain that way. It's unclear if any other athletes signed a Financial Aid Agreement with LSU and wound up signing with another school. LSU signees Kevin Toliver II, David Ducre, Justin McMillan and Hanner Shipley all signed FAA papers, but also inked with LSU. How would the NCAA know who did and didn't? According to Sherman, in the piece linked above:

...So, in December, the NCAA, in an attempt to close this loophole before it became a giant mess, ruled that only the program that first signs a prospect to a financial aid agreement is allowed to publicize the signing and text or call at free will...

And how exactly does the NCAA know with whom a recruit signed first? The organization plans to leave it largely up to the recruiting media to sort it out. (emphasis added)

Way to pass the buck, NCAA. Even by the NCAA's porous standards of rule reinforcement, this seems exceptionally absurd.

So let's get this straight. The NCAA is enforcing a rule that they do not plan to actually administrate, but are now carrying out punishments on said rule which they did not administrate. Got it.

This reeks to high heaven.

From the report, LSU proceeded in precisely the correct fashion here. Recruit signed papers, LSU commenced contact that they were allegedly allowed, recruit opted to sign elsewhere, so LSU tries to get out ahead of the situation, self reports the violation and STILL gets slammed with a loss of 10% of evaluation days in 2015 AND the inability to extend FAA papers for two years!?

To be clear, this isn't about Matt Womack or any other recruit. Recruits should be afforded more flexibility to own the recruiting process, just as eventual Georgia commit Roquan Smith took advantage of this year, after committing to UCLA on national television, only to find out hours later that their defensive coordinator was leaving the school.

If LSU did indeed commit impermissible contact, then punishments are certainly warranted. But in this case, they seem trapped by a loophole created by a governing body who failed to properly establish a strong set of rules.

As it stands, LSU is now penalized for some seemingly shoddy rule making, despite even doing their best mea culpa in self reporting, typically an action that will lead to a lessening of punishment. Instead, this seems like an awfully harsh penalty for something that was technically not even truly forbidden, no?

The school likely won't give any comment of substance on the matter. And I doubt LSU can do much to fight this without concern for drawing more attention from the NCAA, exactly the type of situation they'd like to avoid. But this news coming on the heels of the strange story about Silas Nacita and Baylor, sure look like a couple of public black eyes for the NCAA in my book.