Wed Mar 24 12:32pm EDT
Even diehard LSU fans might have had a hard time placing the names of former assistant coach D.J. McCarthy and one-time defensive line signee Akiem Hicks. McCarthy resigned last December after three years in charge of wide receivers, and Hicks never set foot on the field after transferring from a California junior college last spring, leaving the team when his scholarship wasn't renewed at the end of the 2009 season. As of Wednesday morning, though, they're unlikely to forget either name anytime soon, after the motives for Hicks' and McCarthy's untimely departures were made all too clear in the school's 55-page report to the NCAA on a litany of recruiting violations. They include improper contact with three separate recruits, sketchy housing and transportation arrangements and at least one direct (if relatively modest) cash transfer:
"Even after meeting with [Hicks], the staff remained concerned because they could not confirm his housing and transportation arrangements during the summer," the report states.
The report also states it was later learned that Hicks repeatedly lied about his living arrangements. LSU officials learned of the improprieties in early September.
Hicks also received improper transportation before and after his arrival, according to the report, and impermissible housing and reduced rent at an apartment complex in Baton Rouge in the three months before enrolling at LSU.
Much of this improper transportation assistance was facilitated by McCarthy.
The investigation was further complicated when it was learned McCarthy had a second unmonitored cell phone registered under another person’s name, according to the report. ... "A total of … 25 possible telephone recruiting violations have been identified involving Hicks, [name redacted] and one other recruit," the report states.
Specifically, the "improper transportation assistance" refers to "student workers" driving Hicks to and from the New Orleans airport and around Baton Rouge last spring, apparently at McCarthy's behest. Hicks also was allowed to use a truck belonging to an assistant football from an unidentified school (not LSU, according to the Baton Rouge Advocate, and it isn't clear that the coach in question is even on the collegiate level because his name was redacted from the public report). The report says the same coach, who worked at an unnamed LSU summer camp, also gave Hicks "about $350."
The housing snafu involved an apartment rented by a former men's basketball player (also unidentified) who was out of town for the summer, which allowed Hicks to move in at the reduced monthly rate of $495, a nice discount (which the basketball player also reportedly enjoyed under his lease) from the "proper" rate of $1,030. The names of "intermediaries" who helped set Hicks up with the apartment are also blacked out.
Head coach Les Miles is not implicated in the report, but he will have to deal with whatever sanctions come down as a result (which will definitely not include any vacated wins, the most popular penalty for "major" infractions at powerhouse programs lately, because Hicks didn't play in any games). The NCAA hit Central Florida with scholarship losses and probation earlier this year for a huge number of similar "improper contact" violations, though UCF was somehow able to apply the scholarship losses retroactively (which LSU is very unlikely to swing because the Tigers have signed at or above the 25-scholarship limit every year since 2006), and didn't face any additional housing or transportation issues. Those issues alone threaten to cost LSU a handful of scholarships over the next few years, on top of "probation" status, whatever that means. The NCAA will come down from the mountain with its ruling written in stone tablets at an indeterminate point later this year, LSU will subsequently appeal, etc.
More immediately, it's another black eye for Miles, the only current national championship-winning coach who even appears in the same brainwave as the term "hot seat" after coming in with disappointing records in two straight seasons as the last of Nick Saban's recruits exit the premises. Miles hasn't lived up to expectations with a team entirely of his own making, and there was more than a little "Fire Les Miles" sentiment on Tiger message boards following the badly bungled finish at Ole Miss in November. It's hard to imagine higher-ups at LSU thinking anything along those lines at this point, but if you add "probation" to another distant finish behind Saban's burgeoning Alabama Death Star in the SEC West this fall, it's hard to imagine some of the grassroots anti-Miles sentiment not trickling up the ladder, too. He needs a big year.