FSU Petitions NCAA to Reduce and Rescind NIL Sanctions

The Violation

In January 2024, the NCAA’s investigation went public regarding a Florida State University assistant football coach’s violation of name, image, and likeness-related NCAA rules. The infraction occurred when the coach participated in the facilitation of prohibited recruiting contact between a prospective transfer player and an NIL collective booster in the spring of 2022.

The prospective student was in the NCAA Transfer Portal and communicated with the assistant coach to set up an official visit to FSU. During the official visit, the assistant coach facilitated transportation of the prospect and his parents to an off-campus meeting with a booster, who was also the CEO of a NIL collective. In this meeting, the booster offered the prospective athlete a NIL deal with his collective worth approximately $15,000 per month during his first year at FSU. The booster then exchanged communication via cell phone with the prospect and his mother following the conclusion of the meeting. The prospect withdrew his name from the Transfer Portal and remained at his original school without entering into the NIL deal with the booster.

The assistant coach knowingly provided misleading information regarding his involvement with the meeting between the booster and the prospective college athlete. He denied facilitating the meeting but disclosed that he was the source of transportation for the athlete and his mother to the impermissible meeting. The assistant coach knowingly providing untruthful and misleading information resulted in a Level II violation with the NCAA.

FSU and NCAA enforcement staff agreed that various recruiting rules were violated when the meeting between the booster and prospect took place, as boosters are not authorized recruiters and cannot have in-person, off-campus contact with prospects, according to the NCAA. Additional violations include the contact via cellphone with the prospect and his parents and the impermissible recruiting inducement proposed by the booster. 

FSU, NCAA enforcement staff, and the assistant coach agreed upon the violations and penalties set by the Division I Committee on Infractions panel, including Level II-standard penalties for FSU and Level II aggravated penalties for the assistant coach.

The full list of penalties that were approved by the Committee on Infractions includes:

  • Two years of probation
  • A two-year show cause order for the assistant coach, including a suspension from the next three regular-season games, a two-week restriction on recruiting communication, and required attendance at a NCAA Regional Rules Seminar attendance.
  • A restriction from off-campus recruiting during fall 2023 for the assistant coach.
  • A three-year disassociation from the booster. 
  • A one-year disassociation from the collective.
  • A $5,000 fine plus 1% of the football budget.
  • A 5% reduction in football scholarships over the two-year probationary period, amounting to a total reduction of five scholarships.
  • A reduction in official (paid) visits in the football program in the 2023-24 academic year by seven. The school also will not roll over six unused official visits from the 2022-23 academic year.
  • A reduction in football recruiting communications for a total of six weeks during the 2023-24 and 2024-25 academic years.
  • A reduction in the number of in-person recruiting days during the 2023-24 academic year by six evaluation days during fall 2023 and 18 during spring 2024.
Nov 18, 2023; Florida State Seminoles fans during the game against the North Alabama Lions at Doak S. Campbell Stadium. Photo courtesy: Morgan Tencza-USA TODAY Sports via Imagn

FSU Pushes Back

As of May 17, 2024, Tomahawk Nation News disclosed that FSU is petitioning the NCAA to reduce and rescind such penalties against the university due to the “impermissible recruiting contact” NIL violations charged back in January.

The NCAA was taken to court the following month regarding enforcement of NIL, and U.S. District Judge Clifton Corker of the Eastern District of Tennessee granted an injunction preventing the NCAA from penalizing schools over infractions. NCAA president Charlie Baker announced their agreement with the decision “to pause and not begin investigations involving third-party participation in NIL-related activities.”

According to the Associated Press, “the antitrust suit challenges NCAA rules against recruiting inducements, saying they inhibit athletes’ ability to cash in on their celebrity and fame.”

“There will be no penalty for conduct that occurs consistent with the injunction while the injunction is in place,” Baker said via the AP.

The issue is the contradiction between the NCAA’s fundamental principle model of amateurism prohibiting third parties from paying or inducing recruits to attend their school.

FSU agreed to serve some of the penalties but is claiming that they are not required to pay the $5,000 fine plus 1 percent of the football budget, comply with the reduction of scholarships, limited recruiting activities, and many other penalties.

Yahoo Sports obtained FSU’s three-page letter sent to the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions outlining points of reconsideration of such penalties, including the argument that the court’s preliminary injunction cannot require FSU or the NCAA to enforce the penalties at this time.

While the NCAA pauses its investigations, other schools that were facing investigations related to NIL violations are benefitting from the pause while FSU has to fight its way out from under a pile of penalties. FSU’s letter reads, “Similar or more egregious violations involving prospective student-athletes and other institutions’ collectives/boosters occurred during the same time period as the violations in the FSU case and some of those violations were being actively investigated and processed.” “Those institutions stand to benefit from the ‘pause’ in the enforcement of shifting NCAA Policy and related legislation.”

Florida State continues to push back following the state of Florida’s joining of the suit with Tennessee and Virginia against the NCAA for restraining the organization from enforcing their own NIL rules. Included in the letter writes, “FSU should not be the only institution penalized simply because it was the first in the queue, the violations for which it is responsible were more limited, and it cooperated fully to resolve the case.”

As NIL continues to transfigure NCAA athletes, the Associated Press concluded, “NIL wasn’t meant to be a stand-in for paying college athletes, but that’s what it has become.”

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