The NCAA suspended Notre Dame’s football program for a year on Thursday after the sides agreed that a former assistant coach had improper off-campus contact with a high school player in January 2019.
Sources told ESPN Thursday that those involved were former cornerback coach Todd Lyght and linebacker Sav’ell Smalls of Garfield High School in Seattle. Lyght, an All-America cornerback at Notre Dame in 1989, was fired in January 2020.
Smalls, number 15 on ESPN 300 2020, signed with Washington. He was involved in similar violations involving Dan Mullen of Florida and Jimbo Fisher of Texas A&M, which resulted in head coaches being given exhibition reasons for inappropriate recruiting contact last year. The Gators and Aggies were also put on probation for a year and were no longer allowed to recruit Smalls.
The NCAA noted that Kelly was making improper contact with a prospect, including off-campus, in October 2019 when the player recognized the Irish head coach walking through a high school cafeteria in Pickerington, Ohio and prompted him for a photo close. The NCAA said Kelly initially turned it down before finally approving the photo.
In addition to probation, the Fighting Irish were fined $ 5,000 and faced other recruitment restrictions, including one less official visit, 14 days less for unofficial visits, and a seven-day off-campus recruiting ban for the entire coaching staff this spring.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools are currently not allowed to hire coaches off campus or accept potential students for official visits until April 15.
The case of violations was decided during the negotiation process of the NCAA. The school and the NCAA agreed that the case included Level II and III violations.
According to the negotiated resolution, in which neither the coach nor the recruit was named, the assistant coach had improper contact with a player at his high school in Seattle on January 15, 2019, i.e. before July 1 after his junior year. The assistant met privately with the prospect and discussed Notre Dame’s interest in recruiting him, the value of the university’s education, and their defense plans.
The assistant coach also sent 10 improper text messages to a recruit from 2021 before it was allowed under NCAA rules. The NCAA said the coach mistakenly believed the prospect was part of the 2020 class.
The assistant coach received a six-month show from the NCAA through July 20.