LSU’s Tip Of The Iceberg: NCAA Delivers Minor Penalties For Football Recruiting; Major Basketball Sentencing Still To Come

Well, the LSU football program got that out of the way with the NCAA. But there is likely so much more coming with LSU basketball and former coach Will Wade.

The NCAA on Thursday placed the LSU football program on one year of probation and agreed with four self-imposed penalties by LSU. The penalties stem from former offensive line coach James Cregg’s recruitment of 2020-21 five-star offensive tackle Tristan Leigh of Fairfax, Va.

FORMER LSU OFFENSIVE LINE COACH WINS LAWSUIT AGAINST LSU

Cregg met with Leigh during a dead period in 2020 and “provided the prospect with impermissible recruiting inducements,” the NCAA’s Division I Committee on Infractions panel said Thursday.

The self-imposed penalties by LSU that the NCAA will carry through include:

  • a $5,000 fine
  • one less official visit during the 2022-23 recruiting year
  • a week of no unofficial visits
  • a week of no recruiting communication
  • seven less evaluation days during the current recruiting year.
Former LSU offensive line coach James Cregg was the subject of the NCAA ruling on the LSU football program on Thursday. (Getty Images)

The NCAA also gave Cregg a three-year show cause penalty, which means that any NCAA program that hires him must restrict him from any off-campus recruiting activities unless the program can show cause as to why such restrictions should not apply. The violations were considered Level II by the NCAA with Level I as the most serious, which are the voluminous ones that involve the LSU basketball program.

Wade’s program was given a notice of allegations by the NCAA last March that includes five Level I violations directly involving Wade and a sixth involving one of the assistant coaches he hired. Wade could possibly get a show cause penalty lasting several years. The NCAA is expected to sentence LSU concerning its basketball violations before the end of this year.

What’s Next For LSU, Cregg

The show cause penalty involving Cregg is presently meaningless as he is now an assistant offensive line coach in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers and much of his career has been spent in the NFL. It will remain meaningless should he decide to stay in the NFL, where he worked in three stops over six years before LSU as an offensive line coach with the Oakland Raiders, Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers.

Cregg, whose offensive line at LSU was named the best in the nation after the 2019 national championship season, recently won nearly $500,000 from LSU in a wrongful termination lawsuit.

The NCAA provided more details concerning Cregg’s recruiting violations, along with that of other members of LSU’s football program, as follows:

“In September 2020, the mother of a football prospect (Tristan Leigh’s mother) arranged an informal visit to LSU’s campus for 14 prospects. Football coaching staff members were aware that a large group of prospects planned to visit campus, and the day before the prospects arrived, school compliance staff met with football staff — including the former assistant coach (Cregg) and former assistant director of recruiting — to review NCAA recruiting rules, emphasizing that staff could not have any in-person contact with recruits. The mother of one prospect planned to relocate to Baton Rouge if her son attended LSU and requested recommendations for potential neighborhoods to visit.

“The former assistant coach (Cregg) recommended several neighborhoods including his own, provided directions to his neighborhood, and arranged to greet the prospect and his family as they drove through the neighborhood, thus violating dead period rules. During that encounter with the prospect and his family, the assistant coach also provided the prospect with a bag of used LSU gear he had gathered from his house before he left, which violated NCAA rules prohibiting recruiting inducements.

“The following weekend, that prospect and his family returned to LSU’s campus on a previously planned trip. During this second visit, the former assistant director of recruiting picked up the prospect and his girlfriend from their hotel and drove them to the stadium for a tour, which violated NCAA rules for in-person contact during a dead period and also violated countable coaches rules because of the off-campus recruiting contact by a non-coaching staff member. The free transportation to campus also violated NCAA rules prohibiting recruiting inducements. Later that day or the following day, the former assistant director of recruiting returned to the prospect’s hotel and delivered several items of used LSU gear for the prospect, again violating NCAA rules prohibiting recruiting inducements. 

“During that second trip to Baton Rouge, the prospect and his family again drove through the former assistant coach’s neighborhood. The assistant coach was in contact with the prospect’s mother as they approached and stood outside his home to meet the family for a brief conversation — another violation of NCAA rules for in-person contact during a dead period. Both the assistant coach and assistant recruiting director acknowledged that they knew their conduct was impermissible.”

The NCAA Infractions Committee said that LSU’s above violations “represent intentional misconduct that should be of concern to the membership.”

LSU Responds To NCAA Ruling

The Infractions Committee dismissed the Levell III violation (least serious) accusation against former head coach Ed Orgeron.

“The former head coach was at a high school during a designated evaluation period when he was approached by the two prospects,” the NCAA report states. “He shook their hands in a brief greeting and said he was happy to see them but could not further speak with them. Ultimately, the panel concluded that a violation did not occur because the brief exchange did not exceed a greeting.”

The NCAA’s work is not done with the football program as it is still investigating violations by former wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who gave out cash to LSU players moments after it beat Clemson for the national title on Jan. 13, 2020, among possibly other issues.

LSU associate athletic director Michael Bonnette released a statement concerning the NCAA’s ruling and future actions on Thursday.

“Today’s decision of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions involving a former LSU assistant football coach concludes a 21-month cooperative process between the university and the NCAA,” the statement said. “Throughout this processthe university has worked in concert with the enforcement staff to determine the truth and to self impose sanctions. We are grateful to the committee and the enforcement staff for their work and for accepting our self-imposed penalties, and we are pleased to be able to move forward as an institution and as a football program. LSU continues to work through the IARP process regarding other allegations of rule violations.”

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

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