NCAA imposes penalties on Miss. State football program

Links to MSU Infractions (source:
-MSU Public Infractions Report. (.pdf file)
-NCAA news release detailing infractions and penalties
-History of MSU's major infraction cases
-NCAA Infractions Committee teleconference announcing penalties

Associated Press Writer

JACKSON – Mississippi State was placed on four years probation and will lose four scholarships during each of the next two seasons because of rules violations in its football program, the NCAA announced Wednesday.

The infractions committee found that two former assistants and several boosters committed recruiting violations between 1998-2002, but allegations of unethical conduct against former coach Jackie Sherrill were dismissed.

The Bulldogs are banned from playing in a bowl game this year, are allowed just 81 football scholarships for the 2005 and 2006 seasons, and are limited to 45 expense-paid recruiting visits in each of the 2004-05 and 2005-06 academic years _ 11 per year fewer than the maximum allowed by the NCAA.

The school had limited itself to 83 scholarships in the 2005-06 academic year as part of a self-imposed penalty _ down from the NCAA maximum of 85.

The committee found that the case “was processed against the backdrop of swirling rumors and innuendo fueled by media reports and Internet chat boards reverberating with the exchange of insults and threats between supporters of competing teams,” according to a statement issued by the committee.

The university received a letter of allegations from the NCAA on Dec. 2, detailing 13 possible rules violations.

Mississippi State in April admitted to secondary rules violations within the football program, but denied the more serious NCAA allegations of offering to provide cash and other perks to recruits.

The committee found that an unnamed assistant provided transportation and lodging expenses for campus visits for a recruit, and the assistant reimbursed the recruit's family for most of the cost of a rental car and for a hotel room, and a student host provided the player with $30 in cash.

Among other findings, the NCAA determined that another unnamed assistant arranged to pay for two high-school courses so a recruit could become academically eligible.

Also, student-athlete hosts gave cash to recruits on official visits during the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 academic years, and a booster illegally allowed two recruits to stay at a hotel for free, the NCAA ruled.

The committee found that the school reimbursed three recruits from Memphis, Tenn., a total $252 for car expenses in 2001-2002 and 2002-2003, even though their high school coach used his car. Taken together, those two instances are considered major violations, the NCAA said.

It was the school's second brush with major violations in recent years. Mississippi State is considered a repeat offender because the school also lost 13 scholarships after an investigation in 1996.

“Of additional concern to the committee was that both the 1996 case and this case involved the football program and a coaching staff that should have been extra attentive to the heightened consequence a repeat violator faces if it is involved in major violations,” the committee said in the statement.

Visit this afternoon for updates. See Thursday's Daily Journal for complete coverage.

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