Former Florida wide receivers coach Joker Phillips committed a Level II NCAA violation by having impermissible contact with a recruit last summer, the NCAA announced on Friday. But Florida won't face any further penalties related to the violation.
A former University of Florida assistant football coach visited a prospect off-campus before NCAA rules allow for recruiting contact, according to a decision issued by a Division I Committee on Infractions panel. The contact with the prospect resulted in the school receiving a recruiting advantage. In its decision, the panel noted that contacts of this nature exceed the boundaries of permissible recruiting and are a serious issue for the membership.
Before the former coach talked with the prospect, he was notified by a recruiting service reporter that the prospect would be waiting outside of his high school when they arrived. Once the former coach was at the high school, he spoke with the prospect, let him know the school wanted the prospect to be a part of their football program and got the prospect’s social media contact information.
The panel determined the former coach’s contact with the prospect was a Level II violation because it was not inadvertent and provided more than a minimal recruiting advantage. Specifically, the former coach was able to get the prospect’s contact information at a time when coaches who were following the rules were unable to have the same level of contact.
Phillips is never mentioned by name in the report, but, well, it's him.
Translated from NCAAese: During a "dead period," Phillips staged inadvertent contact with — or "bumped" into — a prospect, thanks to a tip about where that prospect would be. This is a no-no in recruiting, because the NCAA has rules about when college coaches can and can't talk to high school players about making the most important decisions of their lives.
But Florida acted swiftly to deal with Phillips's violation:
Penalties and corrective actions self-imposed by the school and adopted by the panel include:
- A suspension of the former coach from all off-campus recruiting for 30 days beginning on April 10, 2014.
- The end of recruitment of the prospect involved in the contact.
And between those self-flagellations and Phillips's eventual "resignation" from his position, the NCAA's Division I Committee on Infractions was evidently satisfied.
The school immediately suspended the former coach and ended recruitment of the prospect. The panel determined the corrective actions and penalties self-imposed by the school were appropriate and assigned no additional penalties or measures.
Basically, this is the story: Joker Phillips did something dumb, Florida swiftly did something smart in response to learning of Phillips doing something dumb, and the NCAA decided that Phillips did a dumb thing and Florida did enough to not require further penalty.
Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley released a statement on the NCAA's decision, reiterating his program's commitment to doing things "the right way every day":
"The University of Florida Athletic Association takes pride in the culture of compliance it has built over the years. Integrity is one of the core values of our organization – we act in a fair, ethical and honest manner and we strive to do things the right way every day.
That is why we took quick and decisive action after we learned of a recruiting contact rule violation involving one of our assistant football coaches in January 2014. We stopped recruiting the involved student-athlete, we removed the assistant coach from all recruiting activities, and later secured his resignation.
We thank the NCAA Committee on Infractions for their thoughtful deliberation. We look forward to putting this issue behind us and we will continue to operate with the highest level of integrity and compliance."
The NCAA could have chosen to further penalize Phillips for this violation, but did not announce any such punishment. With Phillips now in the NFL, as an assistant with the Cleveland Browns, it seems likely this is the final note on this matter.