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UMHB forced to vacate 2016 National Championship, university says

The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor announced Thursday sanctions handed down from the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions over rules violations.

BELTON, Texas — The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor announced Thursday sanctions handed down from the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, a year-and-a-half after announcing it had self-reported violations.

These sanctions are in addition to self-imposed penalties from March of 2018, which included a two-year probation period for the football program, enhanced compliance training, and a $2,500 fine. Head Coach Pete Fredenburg also received a three-month suspension without pay and a three-game suspension at the beginning of the 2018 season.

The additional penalty from the NCAA requires UMHB vacate all wins from the 2016 and 2017 seasons, including the 2016 national championship.

"The NCAA is a bully oraganization," former UMHB QB Blake Jackson, who was 2016 Stagg Bowl MVP, said. "....This whole process is sad, it's just sad. Coach Fred is a great man, not just a great coach, he's a great man."

Jackson said he felt the issue should have been dealt with when UMHB self-imposed penalties in the spring of 2018.

"I hope the appeal process shows in the favor of UMHB," Jackson said.

According to university president Randy O'Rear, the football program is the only athletic program implicated.

“As members of NCAA Division III and the American Southwest Conference, the university treats compliance with the rules governing its athletics programs very seriously,” the school said in a press release.

The school also said in the press release:

 “UMHB learned of potential rules violations in its football program in March 2018 and immediately launched an in-depth investigation.”

The COI report from the NCAA outlines, in detail, how the investigation came to be. According to the report, a UMHB professor, serving as faculty athletics representative, overheard students joking in May 2017 about the un-named players' receiving a car, however it states she dismissed it as hearsay at the time.

On March 1, 2018, the professor was meeting with a student overheard joking 10 months earlier for something unrelated. During the meeting, the report said she asked about the car and confirmed a player had been provided a car to use, Fredenburg's 2006 Subaru.

That's classified as a major NCAA violation.

"The rules regarding impermissible benefits have some complexitites, especially if the same benefits are available to somebody outside of athletics," Fredenburg said at a Thursday press conference. "In this case, I misinterpreted the rule and misapplied it in this situation. I didn't ask anyone, even after I was questioned by a staff member. I made a serious mistake."

Fredenburg said the car was a spare he wasn't actively using. The COI report states he paid liability insurance on the vehicle, with the NCAA valuing the impermissible benefit to the football player at $5,003.11, for the liability insurance, making the player ineligible to compete.

In the aforementioned press release, UMHB admitted the player had been allowed to use the car for about two years.

A second player was allowed to use the vehicle, but it broke down within an hour and had to be towed in the February 2018.

"I have a passion for helping youngsters," Fredenburg said at Thursday's press conference. "And in this case, he was in desparate need of help."

The press release and COI report both state UMHB self-reported all violations to the NCAA.

RELATED: UMHB suspends Pete Fredenburg for major infractions

“The case was reviewed through the NCAA Summary Disposition process, a collaborative effort in which the university, Fredenburg, and NCAA enforcement staff agreed upon the facts of the violations. The lack of dispute allowed the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions (COI) to proceed without a formal hearing.”

RELATED: UMHB suspends football players ahead of season opener

“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,” O'Rear said. “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.” However, the COI declined to remove the added penalty, and UMHB has elected to file an appeal to the NCAA’s Infractions Appeal Committee (IAC).

"Mary Hardin-Baylor is committed to a culture of compliance, and the actions we took reflect that commitment," O’Rear said. “The record shows we responded quickly, investigated vigorously, immediately self-reported the violations, and independently took decisive corrective steps.”

“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,” O’Rear added.

UMHB will be required during the probationary period to notify all football prospects that the school is on probation, but will not suffer any postseason or recruiting bans.

It must also file a letter from the president at the end of the probation period affirming that athletics policies and procedures conform to NCAA regulations.

Fredenburg and O’Rear held a news conference to address the penalties. It, and the entire conversation between weekend sports anchor Kurtis Quillin and former UMHB QB Blake Jackson, can be viewed below.

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