Alabama State University’s football program was placed on five years’ probation by the NCAA on Wednesday and must forfeit all games won in the 2000 and 2001 seasons, including the 2001 Southwestern Athletic Conference championship.
The NCAA also banned Alabama State from playing in the postseason in 2009, including the SWAC title game.
The Committee on Infractions found the Hornets program guilty of 17 rules violations that allegedly occurred in the football program from 1999-2003. The violations include changing grades, allowing ineligible players to play and practice, conducting offseason workouts that are not allowed by NCAA rules and members of the coaching staff making illegal contact with recruits.
The NCAA findings were announced by Dennis Thomas, commissioner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
The university’s executive vice president, John Knight, said the violations involved actions “you never like to see take place.”
“This is an experience we can learn from and build a quality athletic program at Alabama State,” Knight said.
Thomas said some of the violations involved academic fraud, which he said is considered one of the NCAA’s “most serious violations.” The infractions also included lack of institutional control by Alabama State and failure to monitor by former head coach L.C. Cole.
The violations occurred under Cole, who was fired by Alabama State in 2003. Cole was hired last week as head coach at Stillman College in Tuscaloosa.
The NCAA report also ordered Stillman College to require Cole to attend regional compliance seminars in 2009 and 2010.
Stillman athletic director Curtis Campbell said in a statement that the college supports Cole and studied his past before hiring him.
“We did our due diligence,” Campbell said. “We contacted the NCAA several weeks ago and were told there was no show-cause penalty on Coach Cole at that time. In addition, I contacted professionals knowledgeable of his work at prior institutions and discovered nothing that would have disqualified him from consideration.”
Cole’s lawyer, Jeremy Walker, said his client took issue with some of the findings but was pleased that the investigation had finally ended “after five years of slogging through the NCAA process.”
“Coach Cole is looking forward to his new job at Stillman College and closing the book on an unpleasant chapter in his life,” Walker said in a statement Wednesday night.
The violations wiped out all of ASU’s wins under Cole in 2000 and 2001. ASU went 6-5 in 2000 and 8-4 in 2001, when the Hornets won the SWAC.
Current Alabama State coach Reggie Barlow said Wednesday that he is committed to following NCAA rules and running a clean program.
“We’ve talked to all of our coaches about being accountable,” Barlow said. He said his staff’s motto is “ask before you act” to make sure actions are within NCAA regulations.
Many of the NCAA’s penalties have already been imposed by Alabama State on itself, including limiting the number of scholarships and official paid recruiting visits during past seasons.
Knight said Alabama State has spent about $500,000 to make sure the school is following NCAA rules. He said those expenses include hiring three compliance officers.
“We have put a number of things in place to make sure this doesn’t happen again at this institution. If we find anybody violating NCAA rules and regulations they will be immediately terminated,” Knight said.
Barlow said Hornets’ players, particularly those that will be seniors next season, are disappointed they will not be able to play for the SWAC championship in 2009.
“I hate that for our seniors,” Barlow said. “A lot of them were taken aback by it.”
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