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Texas A&M football program, Jimbo Fisher hit with NCAA penalties

Texas A&M football program, Jimbo Fisher hit with NCAA penalties

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Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher and the football program were penalized by the NCAA on Thursday for recruiting and athletic violations that resulted in a one-year probation until July 1, 2021.

A&M also has to pay the NCAA a $5,000 fine and the program lost an official paid visit for the 2019-20 year for the violations that occurred between January 2018 and February 2019.

The NCAA and Texas A&M agreed that Fisher and an unnamed assistant had impermissible off-campus recruiting contact with a recruit at his high school, which is a Level II violation. The football program also unintentionally had players take part in countable athletically related activities (CARA) beyond NCAA mandated weekly limits. A&M in a release identified the coach as former running backs coach Jay Graham, who was hired by Tennessee in late January, and stated that the impermissible activity time totaled seven hours in the seven-week period, which is a Level III violation.

The NCAA also said that Fisher, because of his involvement in the Level II recruiting violation, had violated the principle of head coach control, which requires him to create a culture of compliance by properly monitoring himself and his staff. That was a Level II violation.

“As Texas A&M’s head football coach, I am responsible for promoting and monitoring for NCAA compliance in our program,” Fisher said in a release. “While I am disappointed in the violations, including an unintended one that resulted from a conversation with a high school athlete, it is still my responsibility to ensure we are adhering to each and every rule. I am pleased to have this matter completely behind our program and look forward to continuing our efforts to make every aspect of our program one all Aggies can continue to be proud of.”

The NCAA gave Fisher a six-month, show-cause order from July 2 through Dec. 31. A&M had banned Fisher from making any phone calls, emails or text messages with recruits for nine days in January. Fisher had three fewer contact days recruiting off-campus from December 2019 to January 2020, and he will be banned from all off-campus recruiting activities for the entire fall 2020 contact period.

"Since I arrived at Texas A&M, I have seen up close and personal Coach Fisher's commitment to integrity and following the rules,” said A&M Athletic Director Ross Bjork, who started work July 8, 2019, after getting hired from Ole Miss. “I appreciate his response, including actions taken during the process itself. As a result, the program moves forward and remains on track in both our short and long-term quest for excellence. This will have no impact on our current or future student-athletes, the 2020 postseason, or our pursuit of championship success on and off the field."

A&M said in its release that the NCAA acknowledged Fisher had never had any Level I, II or major violation in his career, and that he and the university took steps to expedite the resolution.

“I am grateful to the coaches and staff for acknowledging their mistakes and for taking appropriate actions to address issues, even before any decisions were made by the NCAA,” A&M President Michael Young said. “The ongoing commitment to compliance is essential. Coach Fisher and his staff have taken responsibility, implemented corrective actions, and have our full and total support.”

A&M provided additional education to the football staff, also imposing closer administrative oversight of the team activities to make sure they don’t exceed CARA limits moving forward. A&M also ceased recruitment of the student-athlete in question and didn’t recruit anyone else from that school. A&M also reduced Graham’s off-campus recruiting contact by three days from December 2019 to January 2020. Graham also was prohibited from any phone calls, emails or texts with recruits for nine days in January. Graham will do no off-campus recruiting during the fall of 2020 at Tennessee. Graham was hired by Jeremy Pruitt who was Fisher's defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach in 2013 with the Seminoles winning the national title in Pruitt's lone season in Tallahassee. 

The Vols knew of Graham's situation with the NCAA.

“During the process of hiring coach Jay Graham, we were made aware of the circumstances at his previous institution, and we vetted it thoroughly in accordance with NCAA and SEC bylaws,” Tennessee said in a release. “We established and maintain extremely high confidence in Coach Graham’s commitment to compliance and are proud to have him on our staff

Graham was Fisher’s running backs coach at Florida State from 2013 to 2017 and was one of three coaches Fisher brought to A&M, along with tight ends coach Tim Brewster and wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig.

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