A former Air Force football assistant coach violated NCAA recruiting violations during the COVID-19 dead period, according to a decision by the Division I Committee on Infractions. The assistant coach also violated ethical conduct rules when he provided false or misleading information during the enforcement investigation and encouraged prospects to do the same.
In September 2022, the school and four individuals reached an agreement with the enforcement staff about the violations and penalties and requested the Division I Committee on Infractions to publicly acknowledge the infractions case so they could immediately begin serving penalties while awaiting the committee's final decision.
The recruiting violations in this case occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, during which Air Force closed its campus to all prospective students. Several former Air Force assistant football coaches believed they were at a recruiting disadvantage and suggested having coaches from the U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School host prospects for campus tours. The former director of recruiting and player personnel contacted the Air Force compliance department to determine whether that arrangement would be permissible and was informed that it was not, as the prep school coaches are institutional staff members of the academy and are subject to the same NCAA restrictions.
In September 2020, the Air Force admissions office began offering "windshield tours," which allowed admitted prospective students to register online and participate in a self-guided driving tour of campus (with the requirement that they remain in their vehicles at all times). Despite the advice from compliance, four former football coaches began a practice of using the prep school coaches on the "windshield tours." Joining in this practice, the former assistant coach instructed four prospects to sign up for windshield tours and provided contact information for the prep school coach, who was asked to arrange a tour with the prospects. During those tours, prospects accessed the football stadium, locker rooms, athletics department weight room and indoor athletics facility. The assistant coach did not notify the football head coach or the compliance office about these arrangements.
The tours violated NCAA rules because they occurred during the COVID-19 recruiting dead period, which prohibited in-person recruiting contacts by any institutional staff (which in this case includes the prep school coach).
After the prospects' visits, the assistant coach instructed some of them to not post about their visit on social media and, if asked by the school, only state that they had participated in a windshield tour. When asked about two prospects who were seen in the football stadium, the assistant coach denied having knowledge of and involvement in the arrangement with the prep coach. After the assistant coach was questioned by compliance staff, he contacted another prospect and instructed him to tell Air Force and NCAA enforcement staff that he had only taken a windshield tour.
Because the coach provided false or misleading information during the investigation and encouraged the prospects to do the same, the panel concluded that he violated ethical conduct rules.
The panel classified the case as Level I-aggravated for the former assistant coach. In addition to the penalties agreed to by the school and the other individuals in September, the committee used the Division I membership-approved infractions penalty guidelines to prescribe:
- A three-year show-cause order for the assistant coach who contested the case. During that period, any NCAA member school employing him must restrict him from all athletically related activities unless it shows cause why the restrictions should not apply.
Members of the Committee on Infractions are drawn from the NCAA membership and members of the public. The members of the panel who reviewed this case are: Norman Bay, attorney in private practice; Steven Madva, attorney in private practice; Gary Miller, president of Akron and chief hearing officer for the panel; Vince Nicastro, deputy commissioner and chief operating officer of the Big East; and Dave Roberts, special advisor to Southern California.
A joint statement from U.S. Air Force Academy superintendent Lt. Gen. Richard Clark and director of athletics Nathan Pine was issued Friday about the NCAA report:
“The U.S. Air Force Academy held steadfast to our core values and beliefs throughout this process and are grateful to bring this matter to conclusion. Beginning with self-reporting the violations, we have worked collaboratively with the NCAA Enforcement staff and Committee on Infractions on our negotiated resolution to ensure that those individuals responsible for the violations were identified and held accountable and that the Academy took full responsibility as an institution. We also worked with the NCAA to ensure the penalties were significant and commensurate with the violations. While the release of the full report and its details is disappointing and not in keeping with our expectations, we are confident that our football program will do better moving forward.”
A news release from the Academy added that until this self-reported violation, the Academy has never had a level one or level two violation.