The NCAA imposes significant penalties on Florida State for NIL recruiting violations

Thirty months into the era of name, image and likeness, the NCAA has finally brought down the hammer.

The union imposes major sanctions on Florida State football, one of its NIL affiliates and a booster, as well as an assistant coach, for NIL-related recruiting violations in the most serious and unprecedented sanctions handed down in the first two and a half years. From nothing. Multiple sources with knowledge of the decision and sanctions spoke to Yahoo Sports on condition of anonymity.

The sanctions, broad and wide-ranging, are tied to a recruiting event in the spring of 2022 and are part of a decision negotiated between the school and the NCAA.

Florida State assistant coach, offensive coordinator Alex Atkins, was found to have committed two Level 2 violations, which include impermissible recruiting activity and facilitating impermissible contact with a NIL-related enhancer. Atkins allegedly led a potential client and his parents to a meeting with a leadership member of the school's NIL collegiate group, Rising Spear.

During that meeting, according to the NCAA, the booster encouraged the prospect to enroll at Florida State and offered him a nothing opportunity with the group worth approximately $15,000 a month during his first year at the school.

As part of the sanctions, Atkins will be suspended for the first three games of the 2024 regular season and given a two-year probation. The offer reason requires schools that hire Atkins to explain the decision to NCAA officials. Atkins is expected to remain on the FSU staff in his current position.

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In a first of its kind move in the NIL era, the school must separate from the collective representative of the NIL for three years. The school must also separate from the NIL group for one year. As part of the breakaway, the FFA cannot accept assistance from the team and the group cannot contribute to the sporting program in any way. However, the group is free to continue working with FFA athletes in NIL endeavors.

Other penalties Which was confirmed by the NCAA on Thursdayincludes:

– Two years probation.

– A 5% reduction in scholarships during the next two academic years.

– A reduction of seven official recruitment visits for the period 2023-24.

– Ban recruiting communications for six weeks during the next two school years, including next week (January 12-18).

– Prohibiting communication with athletes in the transfer portal from April 15 to 21.

– Reduced 18 evaluation days this spring.

– A fine of 1% of the athletic department’s budget.

The NCAA rules around the NIL are vague. The Association only has a temporary non-foolume policy that provides guidance to programs – a policy that is subject to constant change in this ever-evolving landscape of athlete compensation.

In fact, the organization adopted new guidance just this week on NIL, but these changes are not being applied retroactively. The organization also adopted new recommendations Thursday that allow schools to communicate more with groups and facilitate deals with registered athletes.

The NCAA sanctions are the latest to bring FSU into the news cycle.

The Seminoles became the first undefeated Power Five champions to be left out of the College Football Playoff last season, a move that sparked backlash from Florida politicians and legal challenges. Two weeks after the CFP's decision, FSU filed a lawsuit challenging the ACC's grant of rights in its first significant step to leave the conference.

Meanwhile, the program's coach, Mike Norvell, is one of a small group of coaches believed to be serious candidates for a head coaching job at Alabama following the surprise retirement of Nick Saban on Wednesday. It is unclear how the NCAA investigation into Florida affects Norvell's candidacy. He is not expected to receive any individual penalties.

Florida officials declined to comment when reached Thursday. From the NCAA conference in Phoenix, NCAA officials also declined to comment. However, NCAA enforcement personnel leaders addressed general rule violations related to the NIL during Thursday morning's session of the convention.

Mark Hicks, the NCAA's managing director of development, told a group of officials that the association is focused on “manipulation and inducements” related to the NIL and that they have evidence of violations of recruiting rules. The NCAA has screenshots of text messages from sitting head coaches being sent directly to players competing for other college teams in attempts to get them to transfer schools.

Coaches also reach out to high school coaches for college players as intermediaries, Hicks said. College coaches message high school coaches, “If you go to Johnny and ask him to get in the portal, we'll be interested in him!”

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Athletes do it too.

“There are student-athletes who reach out to coaches and say, 'I'm thinking about getting into the portal.' Would you be interested?'” Hicks said.

Hicks said NCAA officials are learning about new ways universities are encouraging athletes to visit campus, including offering a combination of money, apartment rent, a car and transportation for family members to visit campus.

However, many college athletes have been frustrated by the lack of cases of NIL violations. This is the second neighborhood violations case. Last spring, the NCAA hit Miami with mostly minor penalties related to its enhanced odds of hosting at home.

More cases are not pursued because of a lack of evidence, NCAA leaders have often cited.

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