KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The NCAA handed out punishment against the Texas A&M football program, head coach Jimbo Fisher and current Tennessee running backs coach Jay Graham for their role in three "isolated and unintentional violations" between January 2018 and January 2019.
Per a release from Texas A&M, in January 2019, an unintentional, yet impermissible recruiting contact occurred when Fisher and Graham were present in the office area of a high school coach and communicated with a prospective student-athlete, violating NCAA bylaws and resulting in a Level II violation. The NCAA said the conversation was impermissible because it occurred before the completion of the prospect’s junior year in high school.
Graham was an assistant coach at Texas A&M from 2018-2019 before leaving for Tennessee on Jan. 30, 2020.
"As Texas A&M's head football coach, I am responsible for promoting and monitoring for NCAA compliance in our program. 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," Fisher said in a statement on Thursday.
Texas A&M said in the statement they have proactively handled the situation, which included reducing Graham's off-campus recruiting contact by three days in the Dec. 2019 - Jan. 2020 recruiting time-period as well as prohibiting any phone calls, e-mails or text messages from Graham with any prospective student-athlete for nine days in Jan. 2020.
Graham will face a six-month show-cause order. His previous punishments will be included. Moving forward, Graham will face a ban on all off-campus recruiting activities for the fall 2020 contact period and additional one-on-one rules education. This punishment will be served at Tennessee.
“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 Athletics said in a statement on Thursday. "We established and maintain extremely high confidence in Coach Graham’s commitment to compliance and are proud to have him on our staff.”
Fisher and Texas A&M will also face two more violations:
-In seven of 21 weeks in the spring and summer of 2018, the football program unintentionally required football student-athletes to exceed the allowable Countable Athletically Related Activities (CARA) hours by asking student-athletes to arrive early for practices. While the overall maximum number of CARA hours permitted was not exceeded in 2018, during a seven-week period, CARA hour maximums were exceeded. The CARA hour overages during those seven weeks ranged from 13 minutes one week to two hours during another week, totaling seven hours of impermissible activity time over the total seven-week period. The NCAA has designated this a Level III violation.
-Because of his involvement in the Level II recruiting violation, Fisher was found to have violated the principle of head coach control, which requires him to properly create a culture of compliance and properly monitor himself and his staff. This is a Level II violation.
Here is a full list of the agreed upon penalties between Texas A&M and the NCAA:
-A reduction of one paid official visit for a football prospective student-athlete during the 2019-2020 academic year and a reduction of 18 days of unofficial visits for prospective student-athletes in football during 2019-2020 academic year;
-Fisher and Graham will conduct no off-campus recruiting activities during the fall of 2020 permissible contact period; Graham will serve this penalty at his new institution.
-The university will impose a seven-day off-campus recruiting ban for the football staff during the spring 2020 evaluation period, and a ten-day ban during the 2020 fall evaluation recruiting period;
-The university and all of its football coaches are prohibited from any recruiting activities at the involved high school through the spring 2021;
-The university will develop and implement a comprehensive educational program on NCAA legislation to instruct coaches and all athletics department personnel and institutional staff members on their responsibilities regarding NCAA recruiting legislation.
-A one-year probation period from July 2, 2020 to July 1, 2021;
-$5,000 financial penalty