BUFFS

Coach Prime’s Buffs committed 11 NCAA violations in first season

Jan 25, 2024, 1:03 PM | Updated: 1:08 pm

Deion Sanders’ use of social media and what was filmed while in his first year coaching the Colorado Buffaloes got him into a bit of hot water.

Though seemingly inadvertent and generally benign, the Buffs have been dinged for 11 minor NCAA violations since Coach Prime was hired in December 2022. The infractions were reported by USA TODAY Sports on Thursday and show just how complex the 452-page NCAA rulebook can be. These minor violations are common; Alabama reported nine minor violations, Ohio State two and the Buffs had five more in non-football sports.

In the Sanders’ program’s case, all of their issues were self-reported, which the NCAA considers a sign of integrity. Those violations show how Sanders’ star, bravado and not-hard-to-find-ness have clashed with the governing body of college sports.

“The University of Colorado Boulder Athletic Department is committed to complying with NCAA regulations and will continue to educate our coaches, student-athletes, and staff to ensure that we remain in compliance, “a statement from CU to USA TODAY said. “We take all infractions seriously, regardless of the severity, and in these specific cases, these minor infractions were all self-reported to the NCAA.”

Perhaps the most notable situation impacted by these rules and the best example of how minute the details can be relate to Cormani MccLain‘s recruitment. The top cornerback in the class of 2023 flipped to Colorado from Miami late, and was one of Sanders’ biggest recruiting wins. Before he signed in February, McClain visited Boulder in January of 2023 and participated in what the NCAA calls a “gameday simulation” that is forbidden by rule 13.6.7.9.

“The prospective student-athlete was lined up in an athletic stance, while wearing a uniform on the field, lined up across a coaching staff member (Sanders),” the report stated.

The picture was posted by a third party which also violated a rule of publicity of official recruiting visits.

“The head coach historically poses like this with celebrities and others as he was a former professional cornerback,” according to documents in the case. “The head coach was not aware that this would trigger a gameday simulation.”

Colorado staff members got a lesson in the rules after the case and the coaching staff had their permissible contact with MccLain reduced. The Buffaloes also had their football evaluation days in 2022-23 lessened by three.

In May, the football program hosted a football camp for transfer portal players with over 350 participants. Seven were later found to not be in the portal, putting Colorado at risk of tampering. The recruits were mostly from smaller colleges and were declared permanently ineligible at Colorado. While the school imposed a two-week ban from all recruiting activity from June 15 to June 28 and a one-day recruiting ban on all recruiting activity with transfer recruits beginning on the first day of the portal window in December 2023.

Also in May, an Instagram Live from Sanders where recruit Aaron Butler—who ended up at Texas—verbally committed to play for the Buffs, got the team in trouble. Butler was featured in the live stream for two minutes, which breaks NCAA rules and the Buffs pulled all their coaches from the recruiting trail for a week as a result.

During the season, a recruit on an unofficial visit snuck into a premium seating area and filmed it. The Rules had to be explained to some staff members and the prospect is ineligible to play for the Buffs unless he pays the school $475 for the ticket to the area he accessed.

A few weeks later, former NFL lineman and Forever Buff Matt McChesney got Colorado in trouble with the NCAA. McChesney, who runs a popular training center for high school athletes, has a possible prospect for a son in the class of 2028. McChesney and his son were on the field before kickoff then snuck into the Buffs locker room without the coaching staff’s knowledge for the pregame speeches. This again broke the gameday simulation rule. McChesney had his field access revoked for the rest of the year, while Colorado had its future time reduced with McChesney’s son as well reduction of recruiting days by two for the next cycle.

In a way this all is actually good because Colorado’s been seemingly so diligent with self-reporting, it shows the institution is maintaining strong control over its programs.

“This demonstrates the effectiveness of our established compliance systems which are the basis of our department’s positive partnership with the NCAA,” Colorado said in its statement to USA Today.

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