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Notre Dame football on probation for two recruiting violations, report says

Eric Hansen
 |  South Bend Tribune

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Three college football programs, including Notre Dame, are now on probation for recruiting violations in connection with former Seattle area prospect Sav’ell Smalls, according to ESPN.

The Seattle Kennedy Catholic standout eventually signed with Washington. Texas A&M and Florida were the other two schools penalized, per ESPN, with those penalties and findings being previously announced.

Notre Dame was cited for a second violation, like the first considered relatively minor, involving a student-athlete at Pickerington (Ohio) Central High School.  

The assistant coach in question is former Notre Dame cornerbacks coach Todd Lyght, according to ESPN. Lyght met with Smalls at Seattle Garfield High in January 2019, according to ESPN. Smalls later transferred to Kennedy Catholic.

The case also involved a Level III recruiting violation by coach Brian Kelly. Per the NCAA report, Kelly initially declined a request to pose for a photo with another prospect while visiting the prospect’s high school during the fall evaluation period. He then relented, resulting in the violation.

The NCAA announced the penalties and the details Thursday. The Fighting Irish played in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, losing to Alabama in the national semifinal.

“This case was processed through the negotiated resolution process. The process was used instead of a formal hearing or summary disposition because the university, the involved coaches and the enforcement staff agreed on the violations and the penalties,” the NCAA said in a release.

Those penalties are:

  •  One year of probation.
  • A $5,000 fine.
  • A six-month show-cause order for the former assistant football coach, including a one-game suspension at any employing member school.
  • Reduced football official visits for the 2020-21 academic year by one.
  • Reduced football unofficial visits by 14 days for the 2020-21 academic year.
  • A seven-day off-campus recruiting ban for the entire football staff during the 2020-21 academic year.
  • The university ended the recruitment of the prospect.
  • The university will not recruit any prospects from the high school in Seattle from the 2019-20 through 2021-22 academic years.
  • If an opportunity to serve a penalty will not be available due to circumstances related to COVID-19, the penalty must be served at the next available opportunity.

“Any violation of NCAA rules is unacceptable and Notre Dame Athletics takes full responsibility for its actions in this regard,” Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick said in a statement.

“While we made clear to the NCAA our view that the agreed-upon penalties exceeded the nature of the infractions, we accept the final outcome of the case. In addition, the assistant coach involved is no longer employed by the university.”

According to the NCAA release, the university, former assistant football coach and NCAA enforcement staff agreed that the former assistant coach had impermissible contact with a prospect when he met privately with the prospect at his high school before July 1 after the completion of his junior year of high school.

During that meeting, the former assistant coach expressed the school’s interest in recruiting the prospect. The former assistant football coach also had exchanged impermissible text messages with another prospect on 10 occasions.

Follow Eric Hansen on Twitter @EHansenNDI.

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