In 2016, the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (UMHB) in Belton, TX saw its football team have an impressive season, then repeat its performance again the following the year. Between the two, the team racked up 29 wins and one Div. 3 National Championship, but it now appears that it was all for nothing. The NCAA is stripping the team of all its wins from both years, including the championship, because its head coach let a couple of players drive his car.
Head coach Pete Fredenburg reportedly let players use his car, a 2006 Subaru, on three separate occasions. Once occurred prior to the 2016 season and one during, and the third happened in the 2017 season. The school later reported the incidents to the NCAA, without being prompted to do so, leading to the organization’s decision.
The NCAA has rules on what is and what isn’t allowed between coaching staff and players. Lending a vehicle falls in the “don’t do it” list, even if the action is for a short period of time. The third time Fredenburg let a student-athlete drive his car, it was for less than hour – primarily because it ended up breaking down.
After UMHB acknowledged its errors to the NCAA, the organization decided it needed to take action, resulting in its decision to yank the school of its victories. That was on top of punishment UMHB had already placed on itself, including a two-year probation, enhanced compliance training and a $2,500 fine against the coach. Fredenbug also received a three-month suspension without pay and a three-game suspension by the team, which he served in 2018.
Fredenburg regrets his actions and admits that he was wrong, even though he hadn’t set out to break any rules. He said in a statement, “I spent my entire career as a football coach investing in kids. In this instance, I unintentionally broke NCAA rules. I regret this and accept responsibility.”
UMHB believes the penalty the NCAA is imposing is excessively harsh and is appealing the decision. If it fails in its attempt, it will give up all the wins and make its performance from both years completely irrelevant.
The president of UMHB, Randy O’Rear, is hopeful that the organization will have a change of heart, especially given the self-imposed penalties the school put on the football program. He explains, “Although the university recognized the seriousness of the violations it has self-reported, it respectfully disagreed with the Committee on Infractions decision to add to our self-imposed sanctions the vacating of wins and records for the 2016 and 2017 football seasons.”
He adds, “In light of all the circumstances surrounding this case and as a matter of principle for all the student-athletes who had no part in the infractions, we requested an expedited hearing on that one issue of disagreement. We have worked diligently with the NCAA during the last 20 months to complete this matter in a cooperative and honorable way, and we will continue to do so during the appeal process.”
If the infractions had occurred at any other time in history, perhaps the penalty wouldn’t have been as severe. The NCAA is suffering from a major PR nightmare thanks to a massive scandal involving dozens of teams that have allegedly, for years, been involved in illegal payments to scouts and sports recruits in order to bring those players to their schools. The attention being given that scandal makes any other violation stand out, as well, and UMHB has, unfortunately, been caught up in the chaos.
If the NCAA’s Infractions Appeal Committee doesn’t approve UMHB’s request to lower or eliminate the penalties, it’s not completely the end of the world for the school. It once again showed its gridiron prowess last season, taking the 2018 National Championship.