The NCAA yesterday placed the University of Florida football program on three years probation, took away 10 scholarships each of the next two seasons and banned the Gators from appearing on live television or going to a bowl game for three seasons. It is the stiffest penalty involving a football team in recent NCAA history.
The NCAA said the third year of the penalty would be canceled if the university complies with NCAA rules and follows recommendations for the next two years.
But the final NCAA penalty would be more severe than the sanctions imposed on Clemson two years ago, and they were considered to be the toughest on a football program in recent years. Not only is Florida limited to giving no more than 20 scholarships, instead of 30, each of the next two seasons, its total scholarships must be no more than 85 next season, instead of 95, and 75 for the 1986 and '87 seasons.
Because of redshirted players, Clemson still had almost 90 players on scholarship during its entire probation, a reason the Tigers were a preseason No. 1 choice in some national polls this year.
In the NCAA's 16-page confidential report delivered to university President Marshall Criser yesterday and released later in the afternoon under the state's sunshine laws, Florida was found guilty of 67 violations of NCAA rules, including direct payment of $935 by former coach Charley Pell to one of his players. The NCAA also found Pell guilty of controlling a $4,000 slush fund used for illegal scouting and supplementing assistant coaches' salaries.
Pell, who came to Gainesville from Clemson, was fired by Florida Sept. 16 after the veracity of Pell's statements to NCAA investigators was questioned.
In its report, the NCAA also found Florida guilty of violating rules on the sale of complimentary tickets, on recruiting, on extra benefits to athletes, on illegal tryouts, on out-of-season practice, on coaching staff limitations and on ethical conduct, plus questionable practices in certifying compliance with NCAA rules.
The university has 15 days to appeal to the NCAA Council the penalties imposed by the NCAA Infractions Committee. Since the council's next meeting is not scheduled until Jan. 15, an appeal would enable Florida to play in a bowl game this season.
The Gators were 1-1-1 when Pell was fired. Now they are 5-1-1 under an interim coach, Galen Hall, and could become contenders for a major bowl game by defeating Auburn on Nov. 3. The deadline for an appeal is Nov. 7. In a statement yesterday, Criser said that because of the state's sunshine laws he has not had time to determine whether an appeal will be made.
In Gainesville, Hall told United Press International, "This is something that has been hanging over this team's head for a couple of years. They've met, talked about it and accepted it."
The NCAA also asked Florida, and the university has agreed, to:
*Fire assistant coaches Joe Kines and Dwight Adams at the end of this season.
*Have seven "representatives of athletic interests," mainly boosters, disassociate themselves from the football program until the probation is completed; in addition the NCAA sent letters to 12 boosters, including New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, advising them to take precautions so as not to be involved in even "the most minor" violations in the future.
*Restructure the athletic department, so the football coach reports to the athletic director and not the university president, as occurred under Pell.
*Impose a stricter policy over complimentary tickets, already done by the university.
*Tighten controls over coaches using vouchers.
*Put control of the football dormitory and the team dining room in the hands of the business office, instead of the football office.
The Infractions Committee said it would review the case in two years and, pending a staff report, cancel the probation's last year if the Gators were in compliance.