“Yes! My JUCO transfer ‘passed’ his math class!” (Photo credit: Rogelio V. Solis/AP)

Anybody who follows college sports even semi-closely is inured to scandal. These guys are taking sham classes, those ones are getting free dealership cars, that one is getting money slipped under the table by an agent. But even beyond the sheer mind-numbing quantity of “scandals,” the NCAA is an immoral garbage heap, players should get paid market rate for their services, and high-level athletics never should’ve been paired with higher education in the first place. Who gives a shit about any of this?

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Now that we have that out of the way, hoo boy look at what Southern Miss was doing! The NCAA just published a 47-page Public Infractions Decision against the University of Southern Mississippi, and it’s a doozy. Let’s just look at some of the highlights of what the men’s basketball program was up to.

The former head coach directed members of his staff to complete fraudulent coursework for seven prospects so they could be immediately eligible to compete. The activity began within six weeks of the former head coach starting at the university, involved the majority of the former coach’s staff and involved approximately half of the prospects the university recruited during a two-year period. The former head coach directed two graduate assistants and a former assistant coach to travel to two-year colleges to complete coursework for prospects.

This “former head coach” (it’s Donnie Tyndall, who coached Southern Miss from 2012-2014) straight-up had his assistants fly to California to do homework for junior college transfers to make them eligible.

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But were they any good at covering up the tracks of their academic fraud? (Emphasis mine.)

Graduate assistants A and/or B also involved graduate assistant B’s acquaintance in completing student-athlete 7's academic work. The metadata established that graduate assistant B’s acquaintance completed and submitted some of student-athlete 7's assignments. The acquaintance attended college with graduate assistants A and B in Pennsylvania. She is from Jamaica and used the online alias “Rockabuskie.” The metadata showed Rockabuskie as the author or modifier of 16 of student-athlete 7's psychology assignments. Thirty-one of the psychology assignments were submitted to the other institution from Jamaica at a time when student-athlete 7 was attending his two-year institution in Florida.

No, no they were not.

But it can’t just be academic fraud, right? Money has to be involved here.

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The former head coach also facilitated cash and prepaid credit card payments to two prospects from former coaches. One former high school coach mailed the money directly to the former head coach, who would then deliver the money to the student-athlete for university bills. The former head coach stated that he discussed the arrangement with the compliance director; however, the compliance director did not recall this discussion. A year later, the former head coach used a similar arrangement for the second student-athlete and his prep school coach. He did not check with compliance to ask if the arrangement would break NCAA rules. The former prep school coach was employed by an NCAA school at the time of the investigation and did not provide certain information when requested by investigators, contrary to NCAA rules.

You don’t have to be an NCAA compliance expert to know that, no, NCAA rules do not allow former prep coaches now employed by rival schools to mail you money to distribute to your players.

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What did Tyndall and his staff do to try to cover-up their infractions?

In order to disrupt the investigation, the former head coach instructed a staff member to fabricate a document purportedly showing that the university approved the payments from the student-athletes’ former coaches. The former coach used this document to justify his facilitation of the payments, without noting that it had been created more than two years after he stated it was.

The former head coach failed to promote an atmosphere for compliance when he deleted emails relevant to the investigation, provided false or misleading information during interviews, contacted other individuals involved with knowledge of the investigation and directed the academic misconduct.

“Failed to promote an atmosphere for compliance” one hell of an NCAA Orwellianism, but I can’t say it’s misused here. Trying to implement a broad-based, ham-handed cover-up certainly is not promoting an atmosphere of compliance.

So what punishments did some of these jamokes get?

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  • A 10-year show-cause order for the former head coach from April 8, 2016, through April 7, 2026. During that period, if the former head coach is employed by an NCAA school, he must be suspended by the employing school from all coaching duties. Following that period, any NCAA school that hires the former head coach must suspend him for the first 50 percent of the first season he is employed.
  • An eight-year show-cause order for the former associate head coach from April 8, 2016, through April 7, 2024. Any NCAA school employing the former associate head coach during that time must appear with him before a Committee on Infractions panel.

This means that Tyndall—who was hired at Tennessee after leaving Southern Miss, and promptly fired when the university was notified by the NCAA of the extent of the claims against Tyndall—functionally won’t be allowed to coach college basketball until halfway through the 2026-27 season, at the earliest. The only other person to ever get a 10-year show cause penalty was former Baylor coach Dave Bliss, who helped cover-up the murder of one of his players (Patrick Dennehy) by another (Carlton Dotson). Tyndall’s graduate assistants and prep school coach involved were handed hefty bans as well.

And to the NCAA’s (very small measure of) credit, they mostly ripped into the individuals involved here, and didn’t punish future Southern Miss coaches and players who had nothing to do with Tyndall. The school has already served a self-imposed two-year playoff ban, and on top of that the NCAA only added three years of probation, a vacation of some wins, and a few minor hits to Southern Miss’s recruiting.

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You can read the full 47-page report here, and the executive summary here.