NCAA punishes SFU football, Villarrial for violations

For the second time in less than four months, the Saint Francis football program has been punished by the NCAA, this time for what the governing body deemed as violations of ethical conduct rules.

The Red Flash were slapped with two years’ probation and other penalties by the NCAA on Thursday for providing extra benefits to players and for recruiting violations. The ruling comes on the heels of the football program failing to meet NCAA academic requirements and receiving a one-year postseason ban in May.

The NCAA’s public report lays out offenses by the Saint Francis head coach and a part-time assistant coach, although neither is named. Rules violations, the report states, occurred “from the summer of 2011 through the spring of 2013.”

Chris Villarrial has been head coach of the Red Flash for that entire period, and he remains in that position as the team gets set for its season opener Saturday at Fordham.

It is not clear who the part-time assistant coach is in this matter. The language of the NCAA penalties appears to indicate he is still on the football staff.

The NCAA findings concluded: “The head coach, part-time assistant coach, two additional assistant football coaches and a booster arranged for or provided approximately $1,450 in lodging, transportation and meals to student-athletes and a student-athlete’s mother. Additionally, the head coach and an assistant coach participated in impermissible recruiting activities.”

Along with the two years’ probation, Saint Francis’ penalties are:

* A two-year show-cause order for Villarrial and one-year show-cause order for the part-time assistant coach.

* Villarrial will be suspended for the first two conference games this season, Oct. 11 and 18. The part-time assistant coach will be suspended for the first conference game, which the NCAA report states is an “institution imposed” penalty.

* A reduction of one football game from this year’s schedule (which was self-imposed by Saint Francis).

* A ban on off-campus recruiting by part-time coach unless approved by high-ranking officials in the athletic department (self-imposed by the school).

* A fine of $5,000.

Check Saturday’s Mirror for more details on this story.