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NCAA accepts Louisiana-Lafayette self-imposed sanctions in probe

NEW ORLEANS -- The NCAA has largely accepted the Louisiana-Lafayette football program's self-imposed sanctions stemming from an investigation into an ex-assistant coach's effort to arrange fraudulent college entrance exam scores for recruits.

The university investigated the matter itself while cooperating with a parallel NCAA probe and pre-emptively punished itself with a reduction in 11 scholarships spread over three seasons (through 2017-18), recruiting restrictions and voiding all records from the 2011 season, a season during which potentially ineligible students played.

The NCAA also is placing ULL on probation for two years through Jan. 11, 2018, assessing a $5,000 fine, adding more recruiting restrictions next season and vacating certain additional results from 2012-14. It was not immediately clear of the vacated results would include the New Orleans Bowl victories in all three of those seasons.

The NCAA stated the university would have to review which games in those seasons involved participation by players found to have been ineligible.

Former linebackers coach David Saunders, the ex-assistant coach who arranged the fraudulent scores, but who denied wrongdoing and declined to cooperate with investigators, has been placed under an eight-year show-cause order. That means he can't accept a job with an NCAA-member program without appearing, along with officials from the school attempting to hire him, before the NCAA's infractions committee.

The NCAA also found that Saunders funneled more about $6,500 in cash to a student-athlete, first while he was a recruit attending a junior college and after he'd enrolled at ULL. The university had previously disputed that allegation, but the NCAA stated in its report that the student-athlete told its investigators he'd been given the cash by Saunders.

Head coach Mark Hudspeth, who debuted as Ragin' Cajuns coach in 2011 and led the team to four straight New Orleans Bowl victories, has not been implicated in wrongdoing.

The university has not disputed allegations of test-score fraud, which entailed Saunders advising recruits to take their ACTs at a specific test center in Wayne County, Mississippi, where he had a relationship with the supervisor administering the test. That supervisor, Ginny Crager, allegedly agreed to change recruits' answers as needed to produce more favorable results.

The university had stated that it strongly considered self-imposing a postseason ban, but found such a punishment to be "unduly severe to address violations committed by a single individual that were in no way indicative of systematic, program-wide noncompliance with NCAA rules."

Likewise, the NCAA, which complimented ULL's level of cooperation as "exemplary" by called it "a model" for other schools engaged in the infractions process, has not issued a post-season ban on the Ragin' Cajuns.

The NCAA delivered a formal notice of allegations to Louisiana-Lafayette last May 22. A response from the university, dated Aug. 20, stated that Louisiana-Lafayette worked collaboratively with NCAA enforcement staff from the time allegations first surfaced in December 2013 against Saunders, who was also an assistant recruiting coordinator.

The university also noted that Saunders was fired when "it became clear" by October 2014 that violations had occurred. The university stated it immediately withheld student-athletes whose test scores were in question from further participation.