GSU avoids major penalties with NCAA

NCAA has cleared Grambling State University of any significant wrongdoing in a wide-ranging investigation that stretched over three football seasons. GSU was cited for five secondary offenses, but avoided the steep penalties involving scholarships or postseason play that are typically associated with major infractions.

“We will redouble our efforts, in terms of educating our coaches about these rules,” said Athletics Director Troy Mathieu. “We have pledged to do everything that’s reasonable and prudent to avoid this situation in the future.”

The NCAA determined that the violations occurred within the football program between 2004-06, all during the tenure of former coach Melvin Spears. They are:

Denying a student athlete a hearing after canceling his scholarship.

Non-certified assistants conducting strength and conditioning sessions.

A graduate assistant improperly observing seven-on-seven passing drills.

Two separate instances of providing small, but improper benefits to student athletes, one by a booster and another by two now-departed coaches.

The investigation was under way when Mathieu took over at Grambling in 2006, with investigators arriving on campus during his third day. It continued through the university’s subsequent separation from Spears and through the hiring process to replace him.

Over that span, Grambling has also had two other ADs, including an interim director.
Spears has since filed a wrongful termination lawsuit, which is still pending.

“They needed to be thorough in their process,” Mathieu said of the NCAA. “We tried to be as cooperative as we could be along the way, and were careful never to speculate on how it might end.”

Grambling’s penalties are already being enforced. Voluntary summer conditioning workouts were cut by one week over the summer.

Those sessions will be limited to seven weeks again in the summer of 2008. Official football recruiting visits are being reduced from 52 to 45 for the 2007-08 academic year and recruiting trips will be slashed by 10, from 42 to 32.

The NCAA accepted Grambling’s suggested punishment, saying in correspondence that since the school’s “actions in this case were substantial and meaningful, no further action should be taken in the matter.”

Mathieu said Grambling will also conduct regular training and education meetings for coaches and other athletics personnel so that they are familiar with NCAA regulations.

“We’re pleased to put this behind us,” Mathieu said. “Now, we can focus on the future of this department.