News of the appeal decision leaked last Friday, with two UCF officials confirming that the Knights would be eligible for a bowl this fall. In a release issued by the school, UCF President John Hitt praised the decision.
“We are pleased with this ruling and applaud the NCAA for handling our appeal with care, competency and professionalism,” Hitt said in the statement. “Our football program looks forward to competing for an American Athletic Conference championship and a bowl berth.”
UCF was hit with hefty sanctions after the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions determined the school committed major recruiting infractions and suffered from a “loss of institutional control.” UCF athletics director Keith Tribble and wide receivers coach David Kelly resigned when the NCAA outlined violations committed by the school.
UCF officials accepted a long list of sanctions, including a men’s basketball postseason ban and scholarship reductions in both men’s basketball and football. The school self-imposed other penalties. However, UCF President John Hitt opted to appeal the football ban, because he said school officials felt the punishment was excessive. UCF did not appeal any of the other NCAA penalties.
In its official report, the Infractions Appeals Committee writes that, "the committee agrees with UCF's assertion that the Committee on Infractions does not adequately distinguish between the factors on which the football and basketball bans are based."
The report indicates that the rationale for the football ban is "so intricately woven with factors only supportive of the basketball postseason penalty," and that the committee "does not make it clear the extent to which the finding of a lack of institutional control is based on the infractions in football as opposed to the infractions in basketball."
"As such," the report reads, "the committee determines these ambiguities within the infractions report in favor of the institution and concludes the penalty in question was based in significant part on irrelevant factors resulting in an abuse of discretion."
The report also states that a side-by-side comparison of the basketball infractions and penalties with that of football "appears inconsistent relative to the disparities in conduct and material factors applicable to each program," and as such found the football penalty "excessive."Knights coach George O’Leary was the main proponent behind the decision to appeal the bowl ban, and his team now appears to be eligible for the postseason in its first year in the American Athletic Conference.
“I think it was great news for UCF, the UCF football program and the fan base with the appeal committee reversing the decision on the postseason ban. President Hitt decided to appeal this ban and I’m glad for UCF and the football program that it turned out in our favor," O'Leary said in a statement.
“We’re certainly happy with this outcome,” UCF athletic director Todd Stansbury said in a statement. “We appealed the postseason ban for football because we felt it went beyond what was supported by the facts, and we’re pleased the Infractions Appeals Committee agreed with us.
“With the appeal process behind us, we’re ready to move forward. Our first season in the American Athletic Conference, including the opportunity to play in a bowl game, is right around the corner. It’s an exciting time for the Knights.”