The NCAA's investigation into the relationship between a Mississippi State booster and a Bulldog recruit has concluded with the program being placed on two years' probation and a loss of two scholarships for the next two seasons.
The NCAA's Committee on Infractions announced Friday that it had found the booster "made recruiting contact with a top football prospect and provided impermissible benefits," and that "a former assistant football coach ... fail[ed] to report the booster's activities when he became aware of them and provid[ed] false information during his first two interviews with the NCAA."
As a result, the Bulldogs were placed on probation until June 2015. The NCAA accepted the school's self-imposed loss of two football scholarships for both the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 seasons. Other penalties include "reductions in ... official paid visits, the number of in-person recruiting days and a one-year show-cause order for a former assistant coach."
That former assistant is ex-Bulldogs wide receivers coach Angelo Mirando, who resigned abruptly just before the start of the 2012 season. Reports have identified the recruit as redshirt freshman defensive back Will Redmond from Memphis East High School, and the booster as a man named Robert Denton Herring. Redmond's 7-on-7 coach, Byron De'Vinner, reportedly told the NCAA he had seen Herring providing Redmond with cash and other benefits.
From the NCAA's announcement:
The booster befriended a top Mississippi State recruit and began arranging for him to use cars, gave him cash and provided other benefits. During the recruitment, the booster exchanged more than 100 phone calls with the recruit, assisted the recruit in securing a car to drive to a campus visit and provided cash to the recruit on multiple occasions. Additionally, the booster and his friend provided a car to the recruit for approximately $2,000 below the actual value of the car. Prior to taking an official visit to a different university, the booster told the recruit that if he did not take the visit, the recruit would be paid $6,000.
The COI also found that Mirando "developed a friendship with the booster, became aware of the improper recruiting activity but did not report it to university officials."
COI chairman Britton Banowsky, the Conference USA commissioner, said that the sanctions weren't more serious because the infractions -- while technically "major," as opposed to "secondary" -- were "narrow in scope and very straightforward."
The Memphis Commercial-Appeal reported that Redmond has been forced to repay $2,660 in benefits and will be forced to sit out he Bulldogs' first five games of the coming season.
Mirando resigned only two weeks before the Bulldogs' 2012 opener, with Mississippi State confirming that it was working alongside the NCAA to "examine a potential recruiting irregularity." The NCAA had been making an inquiry into allegations surrounding Memphis-area high school football, one that saw then-Auburn running back signee Jovon Robinson ruled ineligible over a falsified transcript.
In the end, the two-scholarship loss likely won't cause any real impact on the Bulldogs' on-field performance. But it's nonetheless a black eye for both the school and the entire SEC, a league that under Mike Slive has taken great pains to cast aside its corrupt, win-at-all-costs reputation ... and keeps finding itself dragged back into the NCAA's courtroom.