MSU reports secondary violation involving Sherrill

STARKVILLE — Mississippi State will self-report former coach Jackie Sherrill’s involvement in an April 10 spring football practice as as secondary violation of NCAA rules, athletic department spokesman Joe Galbraith said today.

In a letter addressed to Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive, the school said it would take the following actions:

  • The rule limiting the number of coaches who can work with players will be reviewed during MSU’s monthly compliance meeting with the football staff;
  • New coach Dan Mullen, who invited Sherrill to the practice, will be issued a letter of admonishment and reminded of his obligations in regards to the rules;
  • Sherrill will not be invited to attend future football practices. 

    Sherrill visited practice at the invitation of Mullen, and interacted with players, mainly kickers and holders, on more than one occasion. The school said this violated NCAA bylaw 11.7.2, which limits schools to one head coach, nine assistants and two graduate assistants working with players.

    Midway through the practice, Rockey Felker, MSU’s director of player personnel and high school relations (and himself a former MSU head coach), summoned Sherrill away from the players. Soon afterwards, Sherrill left.

    According to its letter to the SEC, university officials at practice saw Sherrill working with the kickers and notified the compliance office.

    Reporting the incident as a secondary violation does not necessarily mean the NCAA will accept it as such, but it would be rare if that doesn’t happen. The school first reports the particulars of the violation to the SEC, which in turn hands it to the NCAA. The NCAA usually accepts a school’s version of events and its corrective measures.

    Secondary violations are reported routinely by schools and usually carry minor penalties, such as a letter of reprimand or admonishment.

    Bylaw allows for the use of consultants to train the staff, but that consultant can’t interact with players unless he is counted against the limit.

    Asked about Sherrill’s involvement after that practice, Mullen denied that he was interacting with players. “No, I was coaching the players,” Mullen said at the time. “He was sitting there telling me what to tell them.”

    Reached on his cell phone after practice that day, Sherrill said he “wasn’t coaching them. I was trying to coach the coaches how to coach them.”

    Galbraith said today that Mullen will not be made available to comment on MSU’s report.

    Sherrill did not return a phone message.

    Sherrill was MSU’s coach from 1991 to 2003, compiling a record of 75-75-2 in 13 seasons. The Bulldogs won the 1998 SEC Western Division title and appeared in six bowl games during Sherrill’s tenure. He is the school’s career victories leader but the program also was twice placed on probation for NCAA violations that occurred while he was the head coach.

    Sherrill was named in several of the allegations made by the NCAA in 2003 but was cleared of all charges.

    On Dec. 2, 2004, Sherrill filed a lawsuit against the NCAA, two of its investigators and Ridgeland resident Julie Gibert, claiming they forced him out of coaching by conspiring to defame him. The suit is still pending.

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