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Former LSU assistant coach hit with 3-year show-cause for NCAA recruiting violations

"Although the [committee] has encountered more egregious conduct in past cases, the violations in this case represent intentional misconduct that should be of concern to the membership," the NCAA said.

The NCAA on Thursday released the findings from an investigation into recruiting violations committed by former LSU staff members.

The violations are, honestly, pretty minor in scale (something the NCAA acknowledge in its report) but brazen in their execution.

On two separate occasions, a former assistant coach (offensive line coach James Cregg) met with the mother of a recruit outside of his home as she toured his neighborhood to prep for a possible move to Baton Rouge during the COVID-induced recruiting dead period of 2020. He also gave her (used) LSU gear during one of the visits.

In September 2020, the mother of a football prospect arranged an informal visit to LSU's campus for 14 prospects. Football coaching staff were aware that a large group of prospects planned to visit campus, and the day before the prospects arrived, school compliance staff met with football staff — including the former assistant coach and former assistant director of recruiting — to review NCAA recruiting rules, emphasizing that staff could not have any in-person contact with recruits. The mother of one prospect planned to relocate to Baton Rouge if her son attended LSU and requested recommendations for potential neighborhoods to visit. The former assistant coach recommended several neighborhoods including his own, provided directions to his neighborhood, and arranged to greet the prospect and his family as they drove through the neighborhood, thus violating dead period rules. During that encounter with the prospect and his family, the assistant coach also provided the prospect with a bag of used LSU gear he had gathered from his house before he left, which violated NCAA rules prohibiting recruiting inducements.

Additionally, a former recruiting staffer gave a recruit and his girlfriend a ride to Tiger Stadium.

The following weekend, that prospect and his family returned to LSU's campus on a previously planned trip. During this second visit, the former assistant director of recruiting picked up the prospect and his girlfriend from their hotel and drove them to the stadium for a tour, which violated NCAA rules for in-person contact during a dead period and also violated countable coaches rules because of the off-campus recruiting contact by a noncoaching staff member. The free transportation to campus also violated NCAA rules prohibiting recruiting inducements. Later that day or the following day, the former assistant director of recruiting returned to the prospect's hotel and delivered several items of used LSU gear for the prospect, again violating NCAA rules prohibiting recruiting inducements.

During that second trip to Baton Rouge, the prospect and his family again drove through the former assistant coach's neighborhood. The assistant coach was in contact with the prospect's mother as they approached and stood outside his home to meet the family for a brief conversation — another violation of NCAA rules for in-person contact during a dead period. Both the assistant coach and assistant recruiting director acknowledged that they knew their conduct was impermissible.

The NCAA's take was that the actions were such a brazen violations of the rules in place at that time that it had to come down on LSU, yet the actual actions within the violations were so minor that it accepted the school's self-imposed slaps on the wrist, and as a result the whole affair is already behind both the NCAA and the LSU football program.

LSU was hit with one-year probation, a $5,000 fine, a limit of 55 official visits for the 2022-23 cycle, a one-week ban on unofficial visits, a one-week dead period for all recruiting communications, and a 7-day reduction of the 2021 fall evaluation period. All but the one-year probation were self-imposed. 

Cregg was hit with a 3-year show-cause; any school employing Cregg must restrict him from off-campus recruiting unless it can show cause why the ban should not apply. Cregg is now the assistant offensive line coach for the San Francisco 49ers. 

"Although the [committee] has encountered more egregious conduct in past cases, the violations in this case represent intentional misconduct that should be of concern to the membership," the panel said in its decision. "The COVID-19 recruiting dead period was intended to protect the health and safety of prospects, student-athletes and institutional staff. It also leveled the playing field for recruiting at a time when government-imposed COVID-19 restrictions varied across the country."

Finally, LSU fielded an allegation of a Level III violation against a former head coach. During an evaluation period, the former head coach was approached by two prospects, shook their hands, and then explained NCAA rules barred him from any further conversation. The panel decided that did not constitute a Level III violation and took no action.

One wonders if that will cross Ed Orgeron's mind today as he counts his $17 million on a beach somewhere.