University of Central Florida Punished for Recruiting Violations

On Tuesday, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) cited the University of Central Florida (UCF) for violating recruiting regulations and barred the school’s men’s basketball team and football team from participating in postseason play for one season. The university’s sports department was also placed on probation for five years and fined $50,000.

“Due to the scope and nature of the findings, the university lacked institutional control,” said Greg Sankey, associate SEC commissioner and an NCAA infractions committee member.

A 2011 investigation found that the University of Central Florida engaged in a number of recruiting violations—including involvement with a third party individual, or a “runner,” alleged to have provided improper benefits to Central Florida prospects and student-athletes. In the Central Florida case, the impermissible benefits that went to UCF prospects and student-athletes included cash payments, tuition and a laptop computer.

According to the investigation, the activities conducted by these runners were known by athletic department staff, including former assistant football coach David Kelly and former athletic director Keith Tribble. Kelly and Tribble resigned last fall from the university after NCAA and UCF officials determined the two had lied about their knowledge of NCAA rule violations.

“It is particularly troubling that Central Florida athletic staff members not only knew, but sometimes encouraged the rule breaking by these third parties by accepting and actively embracing these individuals as a part of the recruiting process,” Sankey said. “The former director of athletics’ acceptance of these individuals served to legitimize them in the eyes of the coaches.”

Furthermore, according to the NCAA infractions report, Tribble and Kelly provided “false and misleading information” during the investigation.

Although Tribble and Kelly committed the most egregious violations, men’s basketball coach Donnie Jones was suspended for three games by UCF for his failure to take steps to prevent rules violations.

Additional sanctions on UCF mandate that: 

  • The men’s basketball team must vacate all wins from the 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11 seasons.
  • There is a reduction of initial football scholarships from 25 to 20 and total football scholarships from 85 to 80 for three years.
  • And there is a reduction of men’s basketball scholarships from 13 to 11 for three years.

This is not the first time UCF has faced sanctions regarding recruiting violations, officials said. From June 2007 to January 2009, the football program made impermissible phone calls to football recruits and received a two-year probation, ending in February 2012.