Despite the NCAA's Committee on Infractions leveling a "failure to monitor" charge and finding the Gamecocks "responsible for impermissible recruiting, extra benefits and preferential treatment," a postseason ban was not among the penalties handed down by the NCAA Friday following its investigation into South Carolina football.
The Gamecocks likely have their compliance department to thank for that. The official statement issued by the NCAA announcing the penalties stated that "When determining the penalties, the committee noted the university's cooperation in the investigation, which went beyond standard expectations, and the university's self-imposed penalties."
The NCAA added few punishments to those penalties, which had been announced by South Carolina last December. They include the loss of six scholarships over the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 seasons and recruiting classes, three years of probation, and recruiting restrictions that include the loss of 26 official visits for 2012-2013.
The Gamecocks can not exceed 82 total scholarships on the football roster or sign more than 22 recruits for 2013 and 2014--one of the few alterations from the self-imposed penalties, which spread the losses out over three years.
The university will also pay a self-imposed $18,500 fine and face similar recruiting restrictions in the track program.
South Carolina did not contest the findings of the NCAA's investigation, which confirmed that several football players had been living at the local Whitney Hotel for a rate -- $15 a day -- far below the standard rate for the hotel, as well as receiving loans and deferred payments not typically available to the general public. The amount of impermissible benefits given to athletes by the hotel totaled approximately $47,000.
The NCAA also found that "two boosters provided more than $8,000 from their foundation for recruiting inducements and extra benefits to football prospects and student-athletes."
The COI writes:
These boosters also were involved in recruiting contacts. The committee noted that while some of the motivation and purpose for establishing the foundation were well-intentioned, it was clear that some efforts were aimed at assisting the university in its recruitment efforts. The benefits from the boosters included cash, gift cards, entertainment and funding of multiple unofficial visits.
Both the hotel and the boosters in question have been officially disassociated from the program.
Since it has to be asked: did the Gamecocks get off light? Considering the financial level of benefits, the number of athletes involved, and the serious "failure to monitor" charge, a postseason ban wasn't out of the question. But the NCAA has always placed a premium on cooperation and openness, two areas where the Gamecock compliance department has received high marks from the COI.
"It was obvious to the [NCAA] that the university wanted to get to the truth. In some cases, they went beyond what the NCAA was doing," COI chair Britton Banowsky said. "This has been one of the best cases I have seen from a process standpoint."
So while the Gamecocks may count themselves fortunate things weren't worse, it's also not a surprise to see the NCAA decline to drop the proverbial hammer.
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