Former Morehead State, Southern Miss and Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall has been thwacked by the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions (COI) with a 10-year show-cause penalty. His hopes of ever coaching at the D-I level again are essentially kaput.
You must be asking, Tyndall must have done some pretty egregious stuff then, huh?
Though he’s still denying it, the answer is basically: yeah. The 10-year penalty by the NCAA matches its worst ever — the same amount handed down on former Baylor coach Dave Bliss, who tried to concoct a fictional narrative around one of his murdered players, that said player was a drug dealer, when in fact that player was being paid by Bliss.
Tyndall’s behavior in this case isn’t nearly as abhorrent as Bliss’, but the pattern established by the NCAA in its investigation uncovers torrential amounts of academic fraud in addition to a solid dose of benefits in the form of cash and prepaid credit cards. And then, once the NCAA came knocking, Tyndall hurt himself even further in multiple attempts to bung up the investigation. The COI’s report is embedded at the bottom of this story. Here’s a CliffsNotes-like version of what Tyndall, and members on his staff, were found to have done wrong.
- The NCAA’s report states that Tyndall told one of his assistant coaches and two of his graduate assistants to do online coursework for a total of seven recruits in his two years at Southern Miss.
- Assistant coaches and graduate assistants drove to help and/or complete online coursework for multiple players for junior-college players. Or, sometimes, members of Tyndall’s staff completed the work remotely, in places as far away as California, Jamaica (more on that below) and Pennsylvania, which was reportedly the hometown of one of the USM staffers. According to the NCAA’s findings, “The staff members who completed the online work gave updates to the full coaching staff in private meetings.”
- The work was done because the JuCo players in question did not previously qualify to play immediately at Southern Miss. So in the summer of 2012, the violations began when online coursework was completed for two players who subsequently became eligible at USM.
- Not only that, but at least one of the players in question who was the beneficiary of academic fraud was provided “with expenses related to competition during those two seasons.” This came in the form of $6,314 from said player’s high school coach to help that player pay for his schooling after initially not qualifying for a scholarship. A similar arrangement was made for another USM recruit who did not qualify from the get-go for a scholarship, yet received $2,200 in cash and prepaid credit cards.
- A woman from Jamaica — who used the online handle “Rockabuskie” — was helping to complete assignments. Yes, Jamaica. She was an acquaintance of one of the GAs, and according to the NCAA’s findings, she did 31 psychology and contributed to six English homework assignments for a Southern Miss recruit while he was at a JuCo in Florida. The player’s own JuCo coach told the NCAA he was “was as far away from graduating as any kid I’ve ever had that did graduate.”
Here’s an example, per the NCAA’s findings, of what was happening at Southern Miss under Tyndall’s rule. Directly from the report:
“In November 2014, former assistant coach A phoned student-athlete 8 at the direction of [Tyndall]. He made the call shortly before student-athlete 8’s interview with the enforcement staff for the purpose of telling student-athlete 8 to claim that he had paid for his own online courses. Subsequently, during the interview , student-athlete 8 initially insisted that he had paid for his own online courses and completed the academic work himself. However, later in the interview he provided detail regarding his recruitment. He was first contacted by the former head coach during either August or September 2013 about possibly attending USM. Within approximately a month, he began receiving calls from former assistant coach A. Later that autumn, former assistant coach A told student-athlete 8 that he (student-athlete 8) was signed up for three online courses and that he didn’t have to worry because ‘it was going to be taken care of.’ From that point into December 2013, former assistant coach A phoned student-athlete 8 approximately every other week.”
- One of Tyndall’s former coaches wound up hurting his former coach in the form of an email. Per the NCAA’s report, the assistant confirmed over email something in regard to a player’s academic progress. “Halfway done with psychology working on his English,” the assistant wrote, to which Tyndall replied, “Cool don’t say anymore bout that on here!!”
- The scheme was so elaborate, Southern Miss had a GA travel as far as California to do schoolwork for a player who wound up never even attending USM.
This is a wildly elaborate plan the NCAA says Tyndall had to get the GA to California to do coursework for a JuCo. pic.twitter.com/RVLc8S8f0a
— Jon Solomon (@JonSolomonCBS) April 8, 2016
- Tyndall further hurt himself after the fact. The NCAA found him guilty of using a separate cellphone to try to obstruct the case. He also forged a document that, according to him, showed his compliance director cleared the nature of the cash payments from former high school coaches to USM recruits. The compliance director could not corroborate Tyndall’s story.
- Tyndall tried to delete information related to the case while the investigation was ongoing. From the NCAA’s report, which you can read in full below: “From August to November 2014, as the investigation progressed, the former head coach under took three types of actions designed to disrupt the investigation, including, most strikingly, the destruction of information relevant to the investigation. The former head coach: (1) instructed the DOBO to fabricate a document purportedly showing that the USM compliance office had approved, two-plus years earlier, student-athlete 3’s high school coach paying student-athlete 3’s educational expenses; (2) participated in numerous phone and text conversations with individuals involved in the investigation at significant times, often using a cell phone registered in his mother’s name that he did not divulge until his third interview; and (3) deleted all emails from an account associated with another institution, even though he was aware that the emails were relevant to the investigation and would be of interest to the enforcement staff.”
The NCAA busted Tyndall’s staff based on handwriting analysis as well. The amount of infractions combined with Tyndall’s repeated attempts to eliminate evidence from the case is what led to the COI handing down one of the biggest punishments on a coach in NCAA history.
NCAA’s case against Donnie Tyndall, Southern Miss