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Southern Utah “failed to monitor its football program,” the NCAA said in announcing a tampering violation

Head coach DeLane Fitzgerald was suspended for one game and received additional recruiting penalties.

(Courtesy of Southern Utah Athletics) Southern Utah Thunderbirds football coach DeLane Fitzgerald gives instructions during the team's annual spring game.

The NCAA has taken action against Southern Utah University for manipulating possible transfers.

Head coach DeLane Fitzgerald committed two transfer portal violations and will now be suspended for one game, the NCAA announced Wednesday. That includes a year of probation, a $5,000 fine and several recruiting penalties over the next two years.

Fitzgerald was caught making contact with two recruits immediately before they entered the transfer portal.

Sometime after Jan. 1, 2023, he called a recruit for 17 minutes, the NCAA said. The recruit eventually entered the portal and committed to SUU.

Fitzgerald texted another player asking for game tape, but the recruit said he would not enter the portal according to the NCAA.

The NCAA said Fitzgerald “violated the head coach's accountability rules” and the university “failed to monitor its football program.” It also said SUU did not adequately teach coaches the transfer portal rules or “establish sufficient processes to confirm that no improper contact has occurred before student-athletes enter the transfer portal.”

SUU finished 6-5 in FCS last year. It went to Provo to start the season and lost 41-16 to BYU. But it held the Cougars to 46 rushing yards. Fitzgerald takes over the Thunderbirds in 2022 and enters his third season.

In addition to the fine and suspension, SUU will be barred from speaking to recruits for two weeks during a recruiting period in 2024 (one of those weeks has already been served). Fitzgerald will also face a two-year hearing.

Rumors say transfer portal tampering is rampant in college football, with coaches complaining that other, much larger programs are contacting players before they're in the portal.

Anna Harden

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